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Top Stories 2012: Changing districts means changing faces in '13

12/18/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It's likely the panel of federal judges taking over a task the Legislature couldn't finish didn't fully intend to throw the baby out with the bath water.

But when all the votes were cast in November, that's very nearly what happened, not just in northwest Kansas but across the state as well.

By the time the dust settled, the Legislature remained strongly Republican and markedly more conservative, but with new faces in both the Senate and the House.

Redistricting, however, was just part of the mix.

The redistricting challenge grew after it became apparent the Legislature couldn't accomplish a once-every-10-years-task, and a panel of three federal judges was asked to do the job.

They did in relatively short order, juggling boundaries across the entire state, but perhaps nowhere more so than in northwest Kansas.

During the legislative session, Sens. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, and Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, fought Republicans and Democrats alike to save the 36th Senate District, Schmidt's turf.

The judges saved the district, but tossed Ellis County into Ostmeyer's 40th Senate District, pitting the two sitting senators against each other.

The strongly Republican district stuck with Ostmeyer.

But the changes didn't stop there.

When it became clear Ostmeyer would chase re-election, Hays Republican Sue Boldra moved her candidacy over to the House, challenging sitting Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays.

She sailed to an easy victory in the race for the 111th District.

In the 110th District, Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, easily beat out Phillip Martin, D-Ellis. Couture-Lovelady was the heir-apparent to first-term Rep. Dan Collins, R-Plainville, who decided the Legislature wasn't the place for him.

Also in the mix, Troy L. Waymaster, R-Luray, was the lone candidate for the reconfigured 109th House District.

With three Senate districts now covering northwest Kansas, two new faces will be in the Legislature.

Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, stepped from the House to the Senate's 33rd district in the election, which includes Rush and Ness counties. Elaine S. Bowers, R-Concordia, picked up the 36th District, which includes Rooks, Smith, Osborne and Russell counties, along with half of Phillips County.

The Legislature convenes at 2 p.m. Jan. 14.