The Kentucky House has approved a plan that would drastically alter the state’s current congressional districts. The plan passed 54-42, almost entirely along party lines. Only two Democrats—state Representative Ben Nelson and former House Speaker Jody Richards—voted against the new map. The proposal would cut out the eastern edge of the 4th Congressional District and extend it south to Nelson County, even picking up some of Jefferson County in the process. The 6th District is pulled in multiple directions across Central Kentucky. And the 2nd District shoots north into Central and Eastern Kentucky.
The plan does have bright spots for critics. The 1st and 5th Districts become more compact and geographically efficient. And the plan moves Owensboro to the 1st District and Ashland to the 5th District.
But House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover says the bill is pure politics, with the Democratic-controlled House making life much easier for Democratic congressmen.
And Democrats in the chamber disagreed with that notion, giving a loud “No!” in response.
“This is simply a bill in an effort to have some negotiating power,” said Hoover before the vote. “So that down the road the Congressman from the Third District can be protected even more and the Congressman from the Sixth District can minimize his opposition. All of us recognize that.”
Those lawmakers are 3rd District Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville and Ben Chandler of Central Kentucky’s 6th District.
One of Kentucky’s four Republican congressmen won’t fare so well, say House Republicans. Congressman Hal Rogers of Somerset, who represents the 5th District will be given several Democratic counties in the Northeast and his home county of Pulaski will be split in two.
“For those of us who know him, who have worked with him, and for those of us that he is our sitting congressman, how in the world can you support this?” Hoover said on the House floor. “I would be embarrassed to vote for a plan that divides the home county of a sitting congressman.”
The Republican-controlled state Senate has signaled it will not go along with the House’s approved map. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says too many changes will throw the entire process off course for at least a year.
The House is hoping to approve new state House districts and Supreme Court districts by the end of the week.