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Time to go west in force

The area’s role in a new First District

By The Mercury

The three-judge federal panel has decided to move the Manhattan area, including Riley and Pottawatomie Counties, from the Second Congressional District into the First District. This decision, which flows from the legislature’s inability to meet its statutory responsibility to draw new boundaries, was not entirely unexpected. While this newspaper championed in a heartfelt way the local desire to remain in the Second, it was not surprising that a judicial panel would opt for a map that was more geographically concise if, in our judgment less satisfactory in other aspects.

If the area is to be moved into the First, it should jump in with both feet. This means, among other things, an extensive effort to persuade the representative of the First Congressional District, presently Republican Tim Huelskamp of Fowler, to site a district office here.

District offices are a matter of prestige but also a matter of convenience. They serve the needs of district residences, and their presence is especially vital in wide-ranging districts, which the new First — stretching more than 300 miles east to west — plainly will be.

The existing First District has three such offices: One in Dodge City, a second in Hutchinson – heretofore the district’s largest city – and a third in Salina. That constituted a logical geographic spread in the old district, but it is far less satisfactory in a district containing almost as many people living east of U.S. 81 as west of it. That shift in numbers, if nothing else, argues for replacement of one of the existing offices with one in the Manhattan-Emporia nexus.

Chamber and business officials also want to make sure that their annual lobbying trip to Washington, which takes place later this month, is an impressive one. That means extensive and pointed meetings with Huelskamp and his staff at which the importance of the Manhattan area’s agenda to the representative of the “Big First” is put front and center. There have been too many rumors that the incumbent is not an effective liaison with his own party’s leadership to take for granted his ability to carry the area’s freight on matters such as the care and feeding of Fort Riley, and whatever shepherding is necessary to make the NBAF happen.

When Manhattan enters the First District, we hope and expect it to do so as a full and participating partner.

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