Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Liberals' Map Reveals Their Fears

In the ongoing dust-up over maps in the Kansas Legislature that is now headed to the courts, one of the most controversial points has been the attempts by liberal Republicans to carve out their opponents -- most particularly in three key races:

In Senate District 8, incumbent Senator Tim Owens has an opponent -- Rep. Greg Smith.

In Senate District 25, incumbent Senator Jean Schodorf has an opponent -- Rep. Brenda Landwehr

In Senate District 31, incumbent Senator Carolyn McGinn has an opponent -- Gary Mason.

In all three cases, the "Buffalo 30" map -- favored by liberals -- draws out their opponents.

It's been fairly easy for liberals to attempt to draw out their conservative challengers simply because their opponents have been campaigning for months. 

The other side of the story, uncovered by the media, is the possibility that the Buffalo 30 map -- which radically draws many districts to the point that half or more of some districts are new territory -- might attempt to draw "in" some candidates in an attempt to perhaps steal a seat or two.  

However, unlike their courageous conservative counterparts, these folks have yet to declare their intentions -- perhaps because waiting for a magical map to appear so they can run in a friendlier district.

Also, a key element to keep in mind is this:

Even if no changes were made to any Senators in the CURRENT Senate, there is no guarantee that the liberal power coalition would remain in power.  After all, in the Republican Caucus, 18 of the 32 Republicans have consistently been voting conservative on maps, taxes, life, and other issues that often define whether one is conservative or moderate -- so one wonders if perhaps conservatives are on the cusp of power, even with zero changes.

The moderate/liberal coalition needs to win 2-3 seats and prevent any conservative takeovers in order to be assured of having their leadership retained.

This gives a possible clue as to why they, on the same Buffalo 30 map, rather than trying to avoid controversy, they are drawing two conservatives -- Steve Abrams (current District 32) and Ty Masterson (current District 16) -- into the bizarrely drawn vertical district (District 16):

An odd, vertically drawn district -- stretching the entire north-south length of one county and halfway through another -- can only be drawn so as to perhaps reduce the # of conservatives.   So where did District 32 go?

Way up into Johnson County, where it encompasses the largely moderate Lenexa:

See, for years, Lenexa has been split up largely into two Senate Districts -- Senate District 10, occupied by Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, has northern Lenexa -- and Senate District 9, occupied by Senator Julia Lynn, has the remainder.

In this map, though technically four Senate districts would include parts of Lenexa (one precinct in 10, Four in 8, and a couple in 9), the bulk of it --is drawn into Senate District 32. 

See, in the 2008 general election, both Julia Lynn (District 9) and Mary Pilcher-Cook (District 10) won by a 55% - 45% against their opponents.  Now with four years under their belt, they are unlikely to be defeated in what is largely viewed as a much friendlier year for Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, particularly in Johnson County.

So, what to do?

Draw a new district wedged in between Lynn and Pilcher-Cook (who as you can tell by the map live just outside the new district), despite the fact both have represented significant portions of that district for the last four years, and for a new Senator on folks where one is not needed.

The thinking by moderates and liberals is that by including the bulk of Lenexa (which is viewed as more moderate than Shawnee or Olathe) into this district, they can perhaps make it possible that a moderate (like Rep. Worley) might win.

Now, one might say "well, but doesn't Johnson County  need a new Senate district?".  Yes, it does.  But one can be drawn without the ridiculous and dramatic changes seen in Buffalo 30:

1. In the case of District 9, represented by Senator Lynn, they remove nearly all of Lenexa, which has been represented by District 9 for two decades.  Now, District 9 needed to lose population so some of this was expected -- but they did so in a way that actually gives western Shawnee -- stretching up to Bonner Springs -- to District 9. (More on that in a minute) That portion of Shawnee is currently and has been with Senate District 10 for decades. 

2. In the case of Senate District 10, which needed barely any changes population wise and thus should have largely remained intact as is -- it not only lost western Shawnee, it nearly lost all of Shawnee south of SM Pkwy -- and picks up northern Overland Park, much of Merriam, and even a precinct in Mission...all areas with more Democrats.

But unnecessarily dramatically changing lines doesn't happen unless there is some mischief at work.   Let's take a look further at the Buffalo 30 map:

In District 9, in a district that needed to LOSE population, not only were areas well known to Senator Lynn taken away (Lenexa), it was also noteworthy that some were ADDED:

- In Olathe, areas between 135th and 143rd Street between K-7 and I-35 were added to District 9.  Precincts with 28-30% Democratic representation -- significantly higher than the 15-22% in some of the northern Olathe precincts she loses.

- Several precincts were also added in western Shawnee.  The key thing to know about these precincts is that they are in the De Soto school district.

Now, let's put those two clues together -- De Soto school district and more Democrats.

What Democrat ran against Julia Lynn, fell 5% short, and was the Superintendent of both the Olathe and the De Soto school districts (from 2009 to 2010)?

If you guessed Ron Wimmer, you are correct -- the same Ron Wimmer who is intervening in the current lawsuit over maps that currently resides in federal court!

Ron Wimmer is thinking -- if I can add areas of western Shawnee where they know me from being Superintendent and don't know Julia, and if I an add a few Democrats to my numbers in Olathe in precincts that also don't know Julia, perhaps I can close that gap between 45 and 50%.

Here is a map illustrating this (again, the top and bottom circles are areas Lynn does not currently represent):

To be clear, we think Wimmer would still fail -- Julia is a tremendous campaigner with a ton of cash -- but one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the mods/Dems' thinking here -- they want to try to beat Julia Lynn.

In District 10, the situation is even more blatant.  District 10 has represented all of Shawnee for decades.  Also, remember, per the census District 10 only needed to lose a slight amount of population -- meaning it shouldn't need hardly any tweaking, and one could certainly keep all of Shawnee (nearly the size of a Senate district itself) in the boundaries.  In Buffalo 30, however, it would be split up into three areas.

1) Senate District 9 (to accommodate Wimmer) would take up western Shawnee.
2) Senate Distirct 32 (a new district for moderates) would take up parts of southern Shawnee
3) Senate District 10 (where Mary Pilcher Cook lives).

In addition, it would lose several precincts to District 32 in northern Lenexa.

Because of the losses to 9 and 32, District 10 would go grab several precincts in northern Overland Park, several precincts in Merriam, and a precinct in Mission.  Now, a fair minded person might ask:

"Why wouldn't the new Senate 32, in an effort to be more moderate, go grab those northern OP precincts and allow District 10 to at least keep southern Shawnee, which has been with District 10, again, for decades?"

The key to this answer is simple:

1. The areas that District 10 acquires don't know Senator Pilcher-Cook.

2. The areas that District 10 acquires, when combined with the areas it loses, make it much more Democratic.

3. Lisa Benlon, a former State Representative, a Democrat, who was previously a Republican, who ran in District 10 in 2004 (when she lived in Shawnee) and got 42%; now lives in the area of northern Overland Park that Buffalo 30 would give to District 10.

Here's a map that illustrates this:

So, in this case, while gutlessly drawing out Greg Smith out of District 8 and challenging Tim Owens, they are simultaneously quite likely trying to draw in Lisa Benlon along with a whole bunch of new Democrats.  They want to try to beat Mary Pilcher-Cook.

Much like in District 9, we do not believe they would be successful -- Mary Pilcher-Cook is perhaps the best grassroots campaigner this county has ever seen since Kay O'Connor.

However, the attempts to defeat both Lynn and Pilcher-Cook, and replace either Masterson or Abrams with a new Johnson County moderate like Ron Worley -- provide clues that not only is the left wing coalition trying to play defense by drawing out conservative challengers -- they are also trying to radically and creatively redraw districts into nothing like they were before -- all in an attempt to oust three conservatives who currently make the difference between a moderate GOP caucus and a conservative GOP caucus.

As we pointed out in our last column, what shouldn't be lost on folks is the fact that the current maps -- which are most closely reflected in the conservatives "For the people" map as drafted by Senator Abrams -- elected 40 Senators who put the moderates into power.

However, in Kansas, things have changed the last 10 years and they are afraid that similar districts - would turn out a different result in 2012.  So out the door goes the ideals of similar representation, fairness, and respect to the voters -- those don't matter anymore.  

What matters now is Steve Morris, Anthony Hensley, Tim Owens, John Vratil and company attempting to gerrymander a liberal Senate on a state that doesn't want one.

These maps are the signs of a desperate group of politicians attempting to cling on to power. 
They violate every basic principle of redistricting and are an affront to common sense and fairness.  As such, to use a term coined by Senator Owens, they should be tossed in the garbage and rejected by the Federal District Court.