Politics & Government

Kentucky House Democrats present redistricting plan pairing 8 incumbents in 4 districts

FRANKFORT — Kentucky House Democratic leaders presented a map of redrawn House districts Friday that pits eight incumbents — four Democrats and four Republicans — against each other in four districts.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said at a Capitol news conference with other House Democratic leaders that the new redistricting plan is fair politically and meets all legal requirements.

State lawmakers are to begin a special session at noon Monday to tackle their third attempt to redraw legislative districts to conform to population changes recorded in the last U.S. Census. The session is expected to last five days at a daily cost to taxpayers of more than $60,000.

If the lawmakers don't do their jobs, a panel of three federal judges is ready to redraw the districts in response to lawsuits filed by a group of Northern Kentucky citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

The Democrats' plan, which is expected to win approval, splits 24 counties into multiple districts, 22 of which are too large in population to have a single House district. The other two counties with multiple districts are Trigg and Harlan counties.

The plan also creates four new open districts: the 36th in Jefferson County, the 49th in Bullitt County, the 53rd in Anderson, Spencer and Bullitt counties and the 99th in Elliott, Rowan and Lewis counties.

In Lexington, the new House plan tweaks the boundaries of several districts. Six of the 10 lawmakers representing portions of Lexington will live in the county.

"It was my hope that we would have a seventh legislator because we have the population for a seventh legislator, but when you create partial districts ... that takes away the population that would have given us a seventh legislator," said Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington.

Democratic incumbents pitted against each other in the new plan are House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and Kevin Sinnette in northeastern Kentucky's 100th District and John Will Stacy and Hubie Collins in Eastern Kentucky's 97th District.

Republican incumbents paired are Myron Dossett and Ben Waide in Western Kentucky's 9th District and C.B. Embry and Jim DeCesare in Western Kentucky's 17th District.

Stumbo said none of the paired incumbents have told him they would not be running for re-election next year.

Adkins said that both he and Sinnette support the new map and that they will discuss their political futures.

Sinnette could not be reached for comment.

Stacy predicted he would prevail if challenged in the new district.

Collins could not be reached for comment.

"There ain't no combination of counties that you could put me in with Morgan County that I can't win," Stacy said.

Embry is considering a possible run for a state Senate next year. DeCesare, Dossett and Waide could not be reached for comment.

The upcoming special session will mark the third time lawmakers have tried to redraw their districts. A plan passed the General Assembly last year but was declared unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the two chambers could not agree on when to perform the task.

Senate President Robert Stivers of Manchester and other Senate GOP leaders presented their redistricting plan Thursday.

Republicans control the 38-member Senate, and Democrats are the majority in the 100-member House.

House Republicans released a plan last week that Stumbo dismissed a day later.

"I'm pleased that Speaker Stumbo is, at least on its face, moving toward a fairer plan for redistricting," House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Friday.

Hoover said Republicans would review details of the Democrats' plan before the special session starts Monday.

Stumbo acknowledged that the court's oversight of redistricting played a large role in how Senate and House leaders drew their new maps.

"What the court really told us to do is draw a plan and prove that this system is functional," Stumbo said. "It is, and I think Senator Sti vers' actions yesterday and our actions today show that the system's functional."

In Fayette County, the boundaries of most districts shifted slightly.

The 56th District, now represented by freshman Democrat James Kay of Versailles, covers a smaller portion of western Fayette County. The 45th District represented by Republican Stan Lee in southern Lexington claims some of the territory previously in the 56th District.

The 72nd District represented by Democrat Sannie Overly of Bourbon County moves further west into the northern part of the county. She, rather than Republican Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown, will represent the Kentucky Horse Park.

Quarles, in the 62nd District, will represent a smaller portion of Fayette County.

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