FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — House GOP leaders proposed a legislative redistricting plan Thursday that could potentially force an equal number of Republican and Democratic incumbents to run against each other in next year's elections.
House GOP Leader Jeff Hoover said the proposal would put two Republican and two Democratic incumbents in the same districts, while four of the pairings could force matchups for incumbents of both parties.
"We recognize that no map will make everyone happy, but this map is a much fairer plan to work with than any we have seen previously," Hoover told reporters, just more than a week before lawmakers are to convene in Frankfort for a special session to resolve the always-divisive issue.
Redistricting is undertaken every 10 years to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring reconfiguration of legislative districts in both the House and Senate.
The Kentucky Supreme Court struck down lawmakers' initial redistricting plan last year, finding that the proposed districts weren't balanced by population and didn't comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate. When lawmakers didn't rework and pass a plan earlier this year, Gov. Steve Beshear said he would call them back into special session on Aug. 19 to get it done.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he is continuing to work with lawmakers from both parties on a redistricting proposal that will be introduced in the special session.
"We have not yet received a detailed copy of the House Republican leadership's proposed plan and stand ready to analyze that when it is received," Stumbo said. "We look forward to their cooperation as we move forward in the best interests of the voting public."
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said he will stay out of the House's redistricting efforts.
"The Senate's position remains that the House will work through their process as we will ours," he said in a statement.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year that calls for a three-judge panel to redraw legislative boundaries because of lawmakers' inaction. And in a separate case, a group of northern Kentucky residents also have gone to court in an attempt to force the Legislature to act. They claim rapid growth in northern Kentucky has left them without adequate representation in Frankfort.
Three federal judges assigned to the case are closely watching the Legislature's efforts and are poised to step in if lawmakers fail this time around.
House Democrats, trying to strengthen their majority control of the House, had offered a plan earlier this year that would have pitted 11 House Republicans against each other. In Kentucky, Republicans control the Senate and have been pressing hard to overcome the 55-45 Democratic hold in the House.
Hoover said the latest GOP proposal would put Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Catlettsburg and Democratic Rep. Kevin Sinnette of Ashland in the same district. Republican Reps. Toby Herald of Beattyville and Marie Rader of McKee would share a district.
In the cross-party matchups, Republican Rep. C.B. Embry of Morgantown and Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts of Greenville would be put in the same district, as would Republican Rep. Bart Rowland of Tompkinsville and Democratic Rep. Wilson Stone of Scottsville.
The earlier Democratic proposal could have pitted Republican Reps. Steven Rudy of Paducah and Richard Heath of Mayfield against each other in far western Kentucky.
Republican Reps. Lynn Bechler of Marion and Ben Waide of Madisonville would have been in the same district. And in south-central Kentucky, three GOP representatives — Jim DeCesare of Rockfield, C.B. Embry Jr. of Morgantown and Michael Meredith of Brownsville — could have competed for a single seat if all choose to seek re-election. In central Kentucky, GOP Reps. Mike Harmon of Danville and Jonathan Shell of Lancaster also would have been in the same district.
In eastern Kentucky, Rep. Marie Rader of McKee would have had to run against Herald. And the one Democrat who would have been affected, Adkins, would have taken on Republican Rep. Jill York of Grayson.