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Abdication of duty

Published on -5/13/2012, 8:52 AM

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Redistricting in Kansas, and across America, has long been a contentious and political process. In 2012, the process has degenerated into a political free-for-all that endangers the credibility of our state Legislature and government as a whole. There is plenty of blame to go around, but I'm not in the business of assigning blame. I'll leave that to the pundits. I'm here to lay out the case for why the Legislature needs to keep the 36th Senate District intact.

The consequences of eliminating the 36th District in western Kansas are devastating. Under the current proposal, the 40th District in northwest Kansas now represented by Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, expands from 17 to 21 counties, or approximately the same size as the Second Congressional District. No single senator effectively can represent an area of this size. In 2002 redistricting, northwestern Kansas lost a Senate district to Johnson and Wyandotte counties. The current proposal would repeat this move. Do we really deserve to lose 144,000 citizens worth of representation since the 2000 elections? Obviously, the answer is no.

Rural Kansas has long had a strong voice in the Kansas Legislature. Under this proposal, the rural voice in the Legislature would be diluted in favor of strengthening representation in Johnson County. The number of rural districts west of Highway 81/Interstate 135 would drop to four. Rural areas have long been the backbone of Kansas's economy. The 36th District boasts 20 percent of the oil and gas production and 12 percent of Kansas's agricultural production. These facts alone justify a Senate district and effective representation.

These last few days of the legislative session, the Legislature has a fundamental choice. Either continue to keep western Kansas strong in the Legislature or allow nearly all political power to be concentrated in Kansas City and Wichita. To abandon rural voters and their issues is an abdication of duty and an insult to us who care about the political process.

I'm not making this argument for Sen. Allen Schmidt or myself, but for the people of the 36th District who deserve better than our current situation.

Kyle Abbott, Smith Center, Republican candidate for Kansas Senate, 36th District

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