Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


March 1, 2012

A big difference

Court ruling brings major changes to legislative races

ASHLAND — The Kentucky Supreme Court decision that upheld a lower court ruling declaring unconstitutional the legislative redistricting map approved by the 2012 General Assembly has given new life to at least two area legislators. In declaring the new boundaries unconstitutional, the court returned the 38 State Senate Districts and 100 House of Representatives’ districts to the same boundaries they have had for the last decade.

Meanwhile, while we earlier expressed disappointment that the new boundaries in state’s six congressional districts split Boyd County into the 4th and 5th District, at least those of us who remain in the 4th District  — and that includes Ashland and Westwood — will have no shortage of choices to make in the May primary. With U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis not seeking re-election, seven candidates have filed for the Republican nomination for the seat Davis is surrendering, and while the 4th is generally regarded as a heavily Republican district, two Democrats have filed for the seat, giving Democrats a choice in the May primary.

The Senate redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear so changed the 27th District that Sen. Walter “Doc” Blevins, one of the longest serving members of the General Assembly, opted not to seek re-election in a district that extended from Rowan County to the Tennessee borders and also included State Sen. Robert Stivers. But with the court ruling returning the district to its old boundaries, Blevins filed for the seat and will face Republican Tony Downey of Ashland in November.

The House redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly placed Republican Rep. Jill York in the same district as House majority leader Rocky Adkins. However, by returning the districts to their old boundaries, York and Adkins are both running unopposed. That’s particularly fortunate for York, who faced an uphill battle in her race against Adkins. Now she is assured of representing Carter and Lewis counties for two more years.

In fact, the only area legislative contest  this year will be in the Democratic primary in the 98th District, which is Greenup County. State Rep. Tanya Pullin is being challenged by Tyler Murphy, the former chairperson of the Greenup County Democratic Party. Adkins, York and 100th District Rep. Kevin Sinnette all are running unopposed. While we think democracy is strengthened when voters are given a choice and are disappointed when incumbents are given a free pass to another term, the lack of opposition this year certainly says much that is positive about the House incumbents who, for the most part, represent this region well in Frankfort.

In the 4th District congressional race, Lewis County Judge-Executive Thomas Massie, state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore, Crestwood teacher Brian Oerther, Fort Mitchell business consultant Tom Wurtz, Sparta lawyer Marc Carey and Crestwood building contractor Walter Christian Schumm are all seeking the Republican nomination to replace Davis. The winner of the May GOP primary will face either Williamstown attorney Bill Adkins or Corinth military veteran Greg Frank, who are seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat.

With so many candidates for an open seat, some may even bother to come to Ashland to campaign, which would be a welcomed change in a district in which Ashland has largely been ignored. If not, they are sure to campaign in Greenup County, which remains in the 4th District.

 Meanwhile Democratic voters in the 5th District, which includes Catlettsburg and most of the unincorporated portions of Boyd County and all of Carter, Elliott and Rowan counties, will have a  choice between Michael Ackerman of Morehead and Kenneth Stepp of Manchester in the May primary.  While neither is expected to have much of a chance of unseating Rogers, the dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, at least voters will have a choice.

Voters can be excused if they have become confused by the multiple redistricting plans proposed by the General Assembly, and legislators should be ashamed for approving a legislative redistricting plan that they should have known would not stand a court challenge.  And voters should know that the court ruling that returns  the legislative districts to their old boundaries is only a temporary solution.

The General Assembly was required to approve a redistricting plan because of the results of the 2010 census which had the old districts violating the U.S. Supreme Court’s one-man, one-vote ruling. The old districts remain in violation of that ruling, meaning the General Assembly must approve another redistricting plan. One hopes that the new plan will not be so blatantly political that it also will be declared unconstitutional.

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