Politics & Government

Plan would put Hal Rogers' home county in two congressional districts

FRANKFORT — A state House committee redrawing the boundaries of Kentucky's six congressional districts voted along party lines Thursday to split the home county of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset into two districts.

The plan in House Bill 2 also moves Boyle and Garrard counties and part of Jessamine from Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District to south-central Kentucky's 2nd District.

It also makes Northern Kentucky's 4th District a more urban district and moves Daviess County from the 2nd District to the 1st District.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, acknowledged after the House State Government Committee approved the bill that it was likely to change before becoming law.

"I assume it will go through some vigorous debate and likely transformation," he said.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration.

All Democrats on the panel voted for the bill; nine unhappy Republicans voted no or did not vote.

Rep. Danny Ford, R-Mount Vernon, asked Stumbo whether he had contacted Rogers about splitting his home county of Pulaski.

The bill keeps most of the eastern half of Pulaski County in the 5th District but moves the western part into the 2nd District, now represented by Republican Brett Guthrie.

Stumbo said that he had not contacted Rogers but that Rogers is his congressman and "a dear friend of mine."

"Right now," Ford quipped.

Rogers was not immediately available for comment, district spokeswoman Danielle Smoot said.

Stumbo said the House plan was not designed to hurt Rogers politically.

"If we wanted to try to do something to him politically, we would have challenged him a long time ago," Stumbo said.

Asked if Boyle and Garrard counties and part of Jessamine were moved out of the 6th District to benefit Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles, Stumbo said he tried to balance the wishes of the congressional delegation with other considerations.

"I tried to keep the core concepts of the map with the intent to make the congressional delegation at least somewhat satisfied without fully ceding our authority to redistrict to them," he said.

Andy Barr, a Republican who narrowly lost to Chandler in 2010 and is challenging him again this year, was critical of the proposal.

"It's a sad state of affairs when Chandler is trying to get rid of voters in order to avoid responsibility for his bad votes in Washington," Barr said.

Chandler said in a statement that "it's important that we let the legislative process in Frankfort take its course."

Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, said Garrard County "feels more compatible with the Bluegrass region" of the 6th District. "The county line is only 16 miles from Lexington," he said.

He also said the portion of Jessamine County the bill moves out of the 6th District votes overwhelmingly Republican.

Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, R-Fort Wright, said she had been contacted by constituents concerned about moving some counties in the eastern part of the 4th District to the 5th District.

Webb-Edgington is running to replace Republican Geoff Davis in the 4th District. He has decided not to seek re-election.

Stumbo said he was trying to create a more urban 4th District centered on Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties.

He said the House plan makes the 1st District, represented by Republican Ed Whitfield, more compact by moving Owensboro in Daviess County from the 2nd District to the 1st.

Stumbo said he expected redistricting plans for the 100 state House districts to be unveiled Monday.

Some lawmakers have said the plan splits Madison County into five House districts. Stumbo would not say whether that was true but acknowledged Madison County would have to be split.

The House committee also heard Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton present in House Bill 1 a plan to redraw the seven Supreme Court and Court of Appeals districts.

Under the plan, Jessamine County, where 5th District Justice Mary Ann Noble lives, would be moved to the 3rd District. Noble's term expires at the end of 2016.

If the redistricting plan holds, she would have to decide then whether to retire, run from the 3rd District or move to the 5th.

Noble was not available for comment, but Minton said all Supreme Court justices signed off on the plan.

The state Senate has not presented its plans to redraw congressional and Senate districts.

The state legislature is required to redraw political district boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes in the U.S. Census.

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