Politics & Government

Senate GOP redistricting plan alters Central Kentucky districts but pairs no incumbents

FRANKFORT — Senate Republican leaders unveiled a redistricting plan for the state's 38 Senate districts Thursday that does not pit any incumbents against each other, splits no precincts and divides only three counties into multiple districts — Fayette, Jefferson and Kenton.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said in a news conference with other Senate GOP leaders that the plan is "constitutionally defensible" and should help provide a smooth special legislative session scheduled to begin Monday.

Senate Minority Leader R. J. Palmer of Winchester called the new boundaries "very fair."

Senate Republicans released a statewide map of their plan but said detailed maps of the three largest counties that were split will not be available until Friday.

Leaders said Fayette County will be divided into five districts. Two districts in Fayette now represented by Democrat Kathy Stein and Republican Alice Forgy Kerr will remain entirely within the county, although their boundaries have changed.

Kerr said she understands her 12th District "will shift slightly."

"It always changes some, but I feel like I represent all of Fayette County anyway," she said.

Stein was not immediately available for comment.

Three other districts that will cover a portion of Fayette and extend into surrounding counties are now represented by Palmer, Republican Tom Buford of Nicholasville and Republican Jared Carpenter of Berea.

"There's no way to draw this to make everyone happy, but I'm pleased President Stivers has attempted to draw this so no incumbents are pitted against each other," Palmer said.

Palmer said he and Stivers began working on drawing new boundaries in February.

"This new map is driven more by mathematics and the court ruling than politics, and that is a good thing," he said.

The upcoming special session will mark the third time legislators have tried to redraw their district boundaries. A plan that was passed in 2012 was rejected by the courts. Earlier this year, the House and Senate could not agree on how redistricting should occur.

The latest Senate plan vastly differs from the map the chamber offered in 2012, which created a furor in Fayette County by moving Stein's district to northeastern Kentucky.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the proposed districts in the 2012 House and Senate plans weren't balanced by population and didn't comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate. A lawsuit is pending in federal court to force legislators to redraw their district boundaries.

Two Democratic senators whose districts are significantly changed under the new plan are Julian Carroll of Frankfort and Walter Blevins of Morehead.

Under the current map, Carroll's 7th District includes Franklin, Anderson, Woodford and much of the northern half of Fayette County. Under the new plan, it would include Franklin, Anderson, Woodford, Owen and Gallatin.

Carroll, a former governor who has been in the Senate since 2005, said he is "pleased" to have Gallatin and Owen counties in his district.

"The president kept his word by not putting any incumbents together," Carroll said. "He didn't play any games with this plan, and I appreciate that."

Blevins' 27th District now includes Boyd, Elliott, Fleming, Lawrence and Rowan. Under the new plan, counties in it would be Lewis, Rowan, Fleming, Mason, Robertson, Nicholas, Harrison and Bourbon.

Stivers said several districts — Democratic and Republican — were changed to comply with population changes recorded in the last U.S. Census. He noted that his 25th District is losing two counties — Magoffin and Morgan — and picking up one new one, Whitley.

Stivers said the session will begin Monday with the House working on its plan. The Senate will also start Monday but will not consider its plan until Wednesday, when it is to be attached to the House bill as an amendment.

Both chambers plan to give final passage to the bill Aug. 23 to end the planned five-day session. Each day of the session costs taxpayers more than $60,000.

House Democrats plan to reveal their redistricting plan at 1 p.m. Friday. Democrats control the House and Republicans are the majority in the Senate.

"I anticipate each chamber will pass the other's map and the session will not last more than five days," Stumbo said. "We're on target to meet that commitment."

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said the unveiling of the redistricting plan in the Senate "proves, just like the proposal we released last week, that the job of redistricting can be done in a way that is fair and equitable to Democrats and Republicans, and to current members of both chambers.

"It is my sincere hope that Speaker Stumbo and House Democrats will follow the example set by us and the Senate."

Hoover and other House GOP leaders presented a House redistricting plan last week, but Stumbo dismissed it a day later.

The House GOP plan pitted eight incumbent state representatives against each other in four districts — one with two Republicans, one with two Democrats and two districts with incumbents from each party.

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