Redistricting creates open Senate seat, shifts House boundaries

Friday, December 2, 2011

The map of redrawn Missouri House and Senate districts has upended area campaign plans with the creation of an open Senate seat and caused uncertainty in other House races with major boundary shifts.

Area legislators and political candidates were still trying to make sense Thursday of the statewide maps that were released earlier this week by a panel of Missouri appeals court judges based on the 2010 census and will take effect with the 2012 elections.

Perhaps the biggest change on the map locally was Cape Girardeau County's shift from the 27th Senate District to the 3rd Senate District. The existing map shows the district, represented by Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, including Ste. Genevieve County, Washington County, Iron County and southern parts of Jefferson County.

On the new map, the 3rd District is made up of the counties of Cape Girardeau, Perry, Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois. The 27th District, currently represented by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, will include southern St. Charles County and northern Jefferson County.

Crowell said the race for the 3rd District seat will be wide open and that he is interested to see how candidates will respond to the redrawn district.

The only 3rd District candidate to register for the 2012 election with the Missouri Ethics Commission is Gary Romine of Farmington, Mo., owner of the rental company Show Me Rent to Own.

"I had no idea the map would change this drastically," said Romine, who is member of Mineral Area College's board of trustees.

Romine said he is unaware of any other 3rd District candidates filing with the ethics commission, but he has kept tabs on potential opponents.

One opponent Romine will not face is Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville. Tilley has reached his term limit in the House of Representatives and said he needs a break from politics and would like to spend more time with his family. Tilley filed to run for lieutenant governor but withdrew last month.

Although not seeking a Senate seat, Tilley said Thursday he is confident the Republicans will field a worthy candidate.

While candidates for the 3rd District seat have not all come forward yet, the race in the redrawn 25th District is heating up. The new 25th District includes Wayne, Stoddard, Dunklin, Bollinger, Scott, Mississippi, New Madrid and Pemiscot counties.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer of Dexter, who currently represents the 25th District, cannot seek re-election due to term limits. Rep. Billy Pat Wright, R-Dexter, and Rep. Terry Swinger, D-Caruthersville, are two of the district's announced candidates. Both cannot seek re-election to the House due to term limits.

Joining them is Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, who had planned to become a candidate to replace Crowell in the 27th District, but now that her part of Scott County is in the 25th District, Brandom has announced that she will run for that seat. Brandom and Wright could not be reached for comment. Brandom originally announced for the 27th District in June before the new map changed her plans.

The various Senate candidates have already gathered some major dollars from fundraisers. Since declaring his candidacy in August 2009, Romine has raised $48,550.84 in campaign contributions, according to a quarterly report filed last month with the ethics commission.

Quarterly fundraising reports filed in October showed that Brandom had $185,117 cash on hand, while Wright had $26,366 and Swinger had $109,136.

On the House side, Reps. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, and Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, saw less radical changes. Both said Thursday they intend to seek re-election next year.

Currently, Lichtenegger represents the 157th District and Wallingford handles the 158th District. Wallingford, if re-elected, will represent a new 147th District, which will basically include Cape Girardeau's city limits. Lichtenegger's new 146th District will include the rest of Cape Girardeau County, but she will lose Perry County, which is being divided into the 145th and 116th districts.

Lichtenegger pointed out that Cape Girardeau County will now only have two representatives instead of four, as the portions that are currently in districts represented by Wright and Brandom are being divided up in Lichtenegger's and Wallingford's new district boundaries. Currently, portions of Cape Girardeau County are included in the 157th, 158th, 159th and 160th districts.

"As much as people liked Billy Pat and Ellen, some people did feel they lived too far away," Lichtenegger said.

Wallingford did pick up the Dalhousie area, which had been represented by Brandom. Wallingford and Lichtenegger will split Gordonville, which had been in Wright's district. East of Highway 25 is in Wallingford's new district, while the western portion is in Lichtenegger's new district. Lichtenegger also will represent portions of Whitewater.

"It is always hard when the new maps come out," she said. "Just as soon as people get used to where the lines are, they change. But I think our map for Cape County is really good. It puts all of Cape County in two districts, and that makes sense."

Wallingford liked this version of the map as opposed to others he'd seen. He said prior versions showed him losing parts of Cape Girardeau and picking up areas toward Scott City, which generally favors Democratic candidates.

"If that did happen, that would not have been good news for me," Wallingford said.

Shake-ups in the south

The map caused more House shake-ups farther south, where Brandom's Southeast Missouri seat looks drastically different. The 160th House District, which included portions of Cape Girardeau, Scott and New Madrid County, will now be in southwest Missouri.

The 148th House District will now include portions of Scott and Mississippi counties and the 149th District will include all of New Madrid County.

Republican Holly Rehder, who had intended to run for the 160th, said she now is in the 149th District, which has a small portion of Scott County and the majority of New Madrid County. She intends to run for that seat, she said.

But Rehder said she was disappointed to see Sikeston be split into two House districts, with the northern part in the 148th District and the southern part in the 149th District.

"A town of this size? It's unusual to see it split," she said.

She acknowledged she could be facing Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, for the 149th District seat, something she wouldn't have had to do under the current map.

Hodges said since he's an incumbent he could run in any district that used to be in his district, which will now include the 148th, 149th and 151st districts. If he opts for the 149th, he would indeed face Rehder for that seat.

In Bollinger County, Rep. Shelly Keeney, R-Marble Hill, currently is the 156th District representative, which includes the counties of Bollinger, Wayne and Madison. The new 145th District includes Bollinger, Madison and the southern half of Perry County.



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