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Deciphering the political jumble of new maps

Published on -6/14/2012, 7:49 AM

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The whole family is still getting over jet lag from our amazing trip to Africa. I'll share more about the trip in coming columns, but I am still processing what a different world we lived in for a week.

I firmly believe that world travel opens the eyes like no other experience, and, even at my age, you can have your mind blown on such a trip.

But politics is afoot here in northwest Kansas, thanks to the district court's doing what the Legislature was supposed to and didn't -- finalize maps for new state legislative districts.

On Friday, the maps were released, and Monday at noon was the deadline to file. Some candidates found themselves in new districts, others actually moved to be in the right place. And some had to change course entirely.

Ellis County is now in the 40th District, meaning current 36th District Sen. Allen Schmidt will face either incumbent Ralph Ostmeyer or challenger John Miller in November.

State Reps. Rick Billinger and Ward Cassidy have been drawn into the same 120th district and will face each other in a primary. Sue Boldra will face Eber Phelps in the 111th House race, too, which looks to be one of the more intriguing races of the year.

Travis-Couture Lovelady and Larry Reichert will contest a Republican primary to meet Phil Martin in Rep. Dan Collins' old seat in the 110th.

And the 109th district will feature a three-way battle between Trey Joy, Larry Lambert and Troy Waymaster for a Republican nomination with no Democrat on the ballot.

Some candidates will move to make the ballot, which just invites opponents to use the word "carpetbagger" in their promotional materials. It's unfortunate that candidates often feel the need to move, and they shouldn't do it. But even more importantly: Isn't there a better way to redraw districts and make sure people get represented?

I wrote a recent Insight Kansas column about Washington's citizen redistricting commission -- considering how both the Legislature and district court seemed to have an agenda in their plans, wouldn't a plan that had more citizen input be superior to the mess we're now going to use?

Chapman Rackaway is an associate professor of political science at Fort Hays State University.

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