Showdown coming over boundaries of Kentucky's congressional districts

FRANKFORT — The Republican-led state Senate approved its plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky's six congressional districts late Wednesday, setting up a fight with the Democratic-led House in coming days over the contentious political issue.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the House will not accept the Senate's plan, which means leaders from both chambers will have to hash out their differences in a conference committee. Stumbo said he is hopeful the two sides can strike a deal on House Bill 2, which includes the congressional map, by the end of Friday.

Time is running out to reach an agreement. The filing deadline for candidates to seek state and federal offices is Jan. 31. If an agreement is not worked out by the end of this week, the legislature may have to push back the filing deadline.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said the Senate's congressional map does not differ greatly from the current congressional map.

That means Owensboro would remain in the 2nd District and Ashland would remain in the 4th District. Taylor County would move into the 1st District from the 2nd District.

In Central Kentucky's 6th District, Powell, Estill and part of Montgomery county would move to the 5th District.

The 6th District would gain all of Scott County and part of Harrison County.

The plan does not "provide political advantage to either party," he said.

However, the 6th District, represented by Democrat Ben Chandler, would gain Republican-leaning territory in Scott and Harrison counties.

Chandler will likely face Republican Andy Barr this November, after barely defeating Barr in 2010.

Barr said he favors the Senate's congressional plan.

"I am hopeful legislative leaders will now agree to keep the Bluegrass Region intact and oppose Ben Chandler's plan to protect himself by breaking up Central Kentucky into multiple congressional districts," Barr said late Wednesday.

Chandler could not be reached for comment.

The full Senate approved the measure 21-15, with Republicans voting for the measure and Democrats voting against it.

The House plan, approved last week, would make substantial changes to the current map. Among other things, it would split the home county of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset into two districts, keeping the eastern half of Pulaski County in the 5th District and moving the western part into the 2nd District, represented by Republican Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green.

It also moves Boyle and Garrard counties and part of Jessamine from the 6th District to the 2nd District.

Two of the state's largest cities would also get new congressmen under the House plan.

Owensboro would move from the 2nd District to the 1st District, represented by Republican Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville.

Ashland would move from the 4th District, currently represented by Republican Congressman Geoff Davis, to the 5th District.

Davis has said he will not run for re-election.

House Democrats said their congressional plan better aligns geographic areas that have common economic interests. But House Republicans said the plan favors Democratic incumbents Chandler and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville.

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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