Lembke disappointed with tentative map for state Senate districts

Lembke says map ‘not fair’ to St. Louis County citizens

Jim Lembke

Jim Lembke

By Kari Williams

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, is “very disappointed” with the tentative map of new districts approved by the Senate redistricting commission last week.

“I think that St. Louis County got really, really treated wrongly in the commission’s first map,” Lembke told the Call.

The bipartisan commission approved a tentative Senate redistricting map Feb. 28 with an 8-2 vote.

Doug Harpool, Senate redistricting commission chairman and a former Democratic member of the Missouri House, said the metropolitan area lost one Senate district — the 7th District of Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield.

In the tentative map, the 7th District is in Sen. Brian Nieves’, R-Washington, 26th District.

“…We were able to limit it to only one district in which two incumbents were placed in the same district,” Harpool told the Call.

One Republican commission member and one Democratic commission member voted against the tentative map, he said.

“There’ll be disappointed Republicans and Democrats, (which) will be true with virtually any compromise,” Harpool said. “Those people who only see part of the plan they don’t like will be unhappy … but when objective people look at the plan as a whole, I think it’s fair and moves the state forward.”

But Lembke said he hopes the map is changed.

“We lost representation in Sen. Cunningham being moved to Kansas City,” he said. “… That is not fair to the people of St. Louis County. Now, whether it’s a Republican senator or Democratic (senator), we still lose a Senate seat, which is not positive for our area.”

The tentative plan was filed with the Missouri secretary of state’s office, and the public will have a 15-day period to submit written comments regarding the proposed map.

After the 15-day period, the commission will reconvene “and vote whether to confirm the plan, or we are able to make some minor changes and alterations to it,” Harpool said.

Though changes could be made, he said no significant changes should be expected.

“… It’s just too much of a delicate political balance for (reopening) any significant issue,” Harpool said, “and once we vote on it, we send the final plan to the secretary of state.”

A deviation of less than 10 percent from the largest to smallest district was met, along with four districts being majority minority — more than 50 percent of residents are members of racial minority.

“In Missouri, all four districts have racial minority of particularly black residents in excess of 55 percent,” Harpool said.

Population loss caused challenges in redistricting St. Louis County, according to Harpool.

“As city districts had to creep further into the county, that required county districts to move further out …,” he said.

Candidate filing, which was scheduled to begin Feb. 28, is beyond the commission’s authority, according to Harpool.

“I’m told the House has the bill to extend filing on the calendar today (Feb. 23), and is prepared to vote on it … if they’ll do that we’ll then just open filing a little later, and proceed,” Harpool said. “If they don’t do it, our tentative plan cannot go into effect before the start of filing.”

Senate Bill 733, which would change candidate filing dates to March 27 through April 24, was approved by the Senate two weeks ago.

The Missouri House approved an amended version of SB 733 on Feb. 23, which changed filing dates to March 19 through April 30, but tabled the bill for further consideration. Filing was scheduled to start Tuesday — after the Call went to press — and continue through March 27.

Rep. Gary Fuhr, R-Concord, whose 97th District also is being restructured, said everything with the House and Senate is “up in the air” because of the inability to make a decision in a timely fashion.

“It’s been difficult for every candidate to make a logical decision (about) should they run. If they run, what district (is it) going to be …,” Fuhr said.

Due to how the redistricting has fallen, Fuhr resides in the 90th District of Rep. John McCaherty, R-High Ridge. Fuhr said he will not run against McCaherty.

“With redistricting the way they did and putting five incumbents into four new districts … I didn’t think it would be the right thing to do to have two incumbents running in a primary, which would have to be done,” he said.