U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins walked the halls of the statehouse this week, trying to sell a redistricting map that puts Wyandotte County into the sprawling and largely rural 1st Congressional District.
Jenkins, a Republican who represents the 2nd District, met with at least three state senators as she touted a new set of congressional boundaries that would move Wyandotte County out of the 3rd District now represented by U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, a fellow Republican.
Jenkins met with state Sens. Tim Owens, John Vratil and Dwayne Umbarger about a new redistricting plan that the Legislature is working on. All three said she advocated a new map that would move Wyandotte County into the 1st District, which extends to the Colorado state line.
However, senators are expected to vote Monday on a plan that would keep Johnson and Wyandotte counties together in the 3rd District.
Owens, who chairs the Senate redistricting committee, already has said that putting Wyandotte County in a district that reaches western Kansas would be a form of gerrymandering.
Vratil echoed that sentiment after visiting with Jenkins.
“It’s probably not something I’m interested in,” said Vratil, a Leawood Republican. “It’s obviously a gerrymandered map. It’s ugly.”
Jenkins’ spokesman on Friday issued a statement, but it did not directly address whether she was pushing a particular set of congressional districts.
“The congresswoman does not have a vote in the process,” spokesman Sean Fitzpatrick said. “The redistricting of the congressional districts is a matter for the state legislature …Congresswoman Jenkins trusts their good judgment on this important job, and is sure they will make the best decision for Kansas as a whole.”Jenkins’ idea is not new. For months, Kansas Democrats have feared that Republicans would try to move Wyandotte County, which is heavily Democratic, into the congressional district that includes western Kansas.
Wyandotte County’s Unified Government has implored the Legislature not to regroup the county with the 1st District. Officials called the idea “ridiculous,” arguing it would cheat residents in eastern and western Kansas out of effective representation.
Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal said Friday that nothing is off the table.
Owens has been pushing a redistricting plan that would keep Johnson and Wyandotte counties together in the 3rd District.
He also wants to put a sliver of Leavenworth County — the Basehor/Linwood area — in the 3rd District.
But eventually, Owens’ plan will likely encounter opposition from lawmakers who don’t like his idea of moving Manhattan and Fort Riley into the 1st District. O’Neal said those areas prefer to remain in Jenkins’ 2nd District because they have an attachment to eastern Kansas.