Kentucky Republicans Reveal Their House Redistricting Map That Could Change Louisville Politics

Republican leadership from the Kentucky House of Representatives released its proposed map for redrawing state legislative house districts on Thursday.

The plan from the GOP supermajority — which has power to effectively control the process and outcome of the current redistricting cycle — was presented by House Speaker David Osborne at a press conference.

Osborne said the focus of the presented map — which covers the state’s 100 House legislative districts — was on accounting for population shifts and staying within the legal bounds of the process, while also making districts more “compact.”

“I think that, by any objective, if you look at the compactness of these districts, the continuity of these districts, clearly we did not move any legislator to another part of the state,” he said. “But, I think that also, by any objective, you will see a map that is much more reflective of Kentucky, and the needs of Kentucky and equal representation of Kentucky.”

But Kentucky’s House Minority Leader, Democrat Joni Jenkins, called the situation “an attempt at fake transparency,”  saying the Republicans should not have released the plan on a state holiday. She also said the available information lacks the “detailed information the public needs,” since digital maps aren’t expected to be online until next week.

“Citizens and candidates alike won’t have that information online until late Tuesday, less than two days before the entire House votes,” Jenkins said in a statement. “That gives them precious little time to absorb the many changes and then offer input, something that goes against the very hallmark of the legislative process.”

The proposed map would force four incumbents to face off against one another — two pairs of Democrats from Louisville, and two pairs of rural Republicans. Osborne also said the new map would increase the number of majority-minority districts — where most of the voters are members of a racial or ethnic minority — from two to four. 

The Republicans that would meet in a primary would be Reps. Norma Kirk-McCormick and Bobby McCool, who represent districts 93 and 97; and Reps. Lynn Bechler and Jim Gooch Jr. who represent districts 4 and 12. 

The Democrats are Reps. Mary Lou Marzian and Josie Raymond, who represent districts 34 and 31; and Reps. McKenzie Cantrell and Lisa Willner, who represent districts 38 and 35.

Jefferson County’s current state House district’s, compared to the Republican’s proposed map.

The new proposed majority-minority districts would be 40 and 44 in Jefferson County, which are represented by Democratic Reps. Nima Kulkarni and Jenkins, respectively. 

On Thursday, Osborne said that filing deadlines for candidates will likely move from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25.

Virginia Woodward, chair of the Louisville Jefferson County Democratic Party, said in a statement that the redistricting plan puts an unnecessary burden on the state’s biggest city:

“Interesting, that the GOP’s proposed redistricting plan for Jefferson County for the Kentucky House of Representatives provides maps and precinct lists that appear to be discriminatory at best, as they propose to pit already filed candidates in two other minority held districts against the incumbent Representative Pamela Stevenson and four of the most outspoken women legislative leaders, Representatives Mary Lou Marzian, Lisa Willner, McKenzie Cantrell and Josie Raymond against one another. Why? What are they afraid of? The Louisville Jefferson County Democratic Party (LJCDP) is appalled by this raw abuse of power and calls up the Kentucky State Legislation to pass a bipartisan proposal to repair the damage of the proposed GOP redistricting plan.”

When the Kentucky General Assembly convenes for its 2022 session on Tuesday, Jan. 4, it’s likely that redistricting is one of the first topics addressed. 

Redistricting takes place every 10 years, following the U.S. census. The law requires that districts must have close to equal populations and can not be drawn on a discriminatory basis. While the prospective map released on Thursday covered the House of Representatives, the state Senate has yet to release a plan for its 38 districts. 

Osborne also said that the Kentucky Senate is working on the U.S. Congressional maps. 

There was talk circulating a few months ago that the GOP was working to break up Louisville into multiple U.S. Congressional districts, instead of the city being surrounded by the clean circle that currently is the 3rd District, but Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders have been wary of the idea, warning it might lead to court battles and be a burden on area business. When Congressman John Yarmuth, who currently represents the 3rd District, landed at the Muhammed Ali International Airport the day after his retirement announcement in October, he told a press core that he thinks that the district will stay in tact. 

“I’ve heard from my Republican colleagues in the House, all of whom I have a good relationships with, and they have been very honest with me, that they decided not to do that — that the numbers are such that the 3rd District has to pick up a few voters, maybe four precincts or something, but that they are not going to make any other changes to the district, and that’s kind of been verified by the leadership in the Kentucky General Assembly as well — they said they’re not going to split Louisville up,” Yarmuth said.  

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