By Travis Mounts
That was the reaction of Sen. Dick Kelsey to the new Kansas Senate and House district maps put together by a three-judge federal panel. The responsibility for drawing the maps – required every 10 years after the Census to reflect shifts in population – fell to the federal court after the House and Senate could not agree new maps during the Legislative session.
The maps became one of the session’s key battles between conservative Republicans who control the House along with Gov. Sam Brownback, and moderate Republicans who control the Senate.
The court rejected all maps drawn by the House and by the Senate, as well as one from the Governor’s office.
“The House thought they would get to keep their map and the Senate would be altered, and the opposite happened. The House map was decimated,” Kelsey said.
Forty House Republicans will now face primary challenges against each other because of the way the new districts were drawn. Locally, Rep. Dan Kerschen (R-Garden Plain) has been moved from the 93rd House District to the 101st District, which is represented by Joe Seiwert (R-Pretty Prairie).
Garden Plain and Goddard are part of an east-west strip of western Sedgwick County that will become part of the 101st District. Clearwater, which has been part of the 81st District represented by Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane), is now part of the 93rd District.
No one knows who will represent the 93rd District. It is one of 25 House Districts where there is no incumbent following redistricting. In the Senate, four incumbents will now face each other in redrawn districts, and four Senate seats are open for the same reason.
“The Republicans got hurt the most,” Kelsey said. “I said this all along – the House should have accepted the Senate’s map we passed."
Kelsey did not vote for that map, but said Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal erred in trying to influence the Senate’s map. Kelsey put the blame for the current situation on O’Neal, who is retiring from the Legislature.
“The House rejected our Senate map, and by doing so threw this whole thing into this mess,” he said.
Kelsey said the court didn’t consider any maps and “just drew lines and didn’t consider who (incumbents) lived where,” he said.
Kerschen was not available for comment Friday morning, although he was headed to a meeting with other officials to discuss what to do next. Any candidate who has filed can re-file by Monday. That’s the same deadline anyone to file for any of the open seats in the House or Senate.
The open House seats when combined with already-announced retirements mean there will be at least 30 new members in the House of Representatives next spring. That’s nearly one-quarter of the 125-member body. The turnover will be less in the Senate, with a guaranteed change of only 10 percent. Kelsey said with retirements it is common to see as much as 20 percent turnover in the Senate during a regular election year.
That much uncertainly means no one knows whether conservatives or moderates will control the Legislature next year.
“It could totally change government because the conservatives may not end up with the kind of majority they had in the House, let along taking over the Senate,” Kelsey said.