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Mo. lawmakers override Nixon veto of redistricting

Chris Blank And Wes Duplantier

Missouri's Republican-led Legislature enacted a new congressional redistricting plan Wednesday, acting quickly to override a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Senators voted 28-6 to override Nixon's veto. A few hours earlier, four House Democrats joined the entire 105-member Republican House caucus to provide the minimum two-thirds majority required to overcome Nixon's objections. The House approved the override 109-44.

Missouri's redistricting plan merges two Democratic congressmen into the same St. Louis district to help consolidate Missouri's nine current congressional districts into eight. Missouri lost a U.S. House seat after the 2010 census because the state's 7 percent population growth failed to keep pace with the rest of the nation. The new map also had to account for population shifts within the state, including an exodus from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.

Republicans leaders said the map's new districts are compact and contiguous _ two standards they had sought to achieve.

"We're happy with the result," said House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville. "We think it's a fair map. We think it's representative of the state."

But Democratic critics argued the map was partisan and raised concerns about congressional borders cutting through their home counties.

Nixon renewed his objections Wednesday to the new congressional map.

"I do not believe this map reflects a fair representation of the interests for all regions of our state," he said. "Now that the map is finalized, we expect a robust electoral process in these significantly altered districts."

Although the House debate on whether to override Nixon's veto fell largely along partisan lines, regional issues played a greater role in the Senate, where there was no debate before overriding Nixon's veto. Three Kansas City-area Senate Democrats joined nearly all the Republicans in overriding Nixon's veto. Sen. Bill Stouffer of Napton, whose rural area will be folded into a Kansas City district, was the lone Republican to support Nixon's veto.

Among the House Democratic lawmakers to cross party lines and support the veto override was Rep. Jonas Hughes, who had voted against the congressional redistricting map when it originally passed the House last week.

Shedding tears during the override vote Wednesday that he wiped away with a navy blue handkerchief, Hughes said he feared the courts could end up drawing new congressional districts if the veto were not overridden. He said people he spoke with in the Democratic Party at the federal level supported the redistricting map.

"It was a tough decision," said Hughes, D-Kansas City. "Sometimes it hurts to stand up for what you think is right."

House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, who praised Nixon's veto, said congressional redistricting should be handled by a nonpartisan commission in future years.

"There really needs to be some looking out for the citizens of this state and not just looking out for the political advantages that one may have," said Talboy, D-Kansas City. "We need take a hard long look at that so we don't have the same thing happen in 10 years, regardless of who's in charge."

The legislative maneuvering on congressional redistricting started last week when lawmakers gave their map final approval. Nixon vetoed it this past Saturday and urged lawmakers to come up with a new plan that better represents "all regions of the state" before the end of the legislative session May 13.

Instead the Republican-led Legislature overrode Nixon's veto.

Under the congressional redistricting proposal, the city of St. Louis is put entirely into the 1st Congressional District now represented by Democrat William Lacy Clay. The city currently is split with the 3rd District represented by Democrat Russ Carnahan.

Carnahan's district is divided among Clay's district; the suburban St. Louis district held by Republican Todd Akin; an overhauled district held by Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer of central Missouri; and the southeastern Missouri seat held by Republican Jo Ann Emerson.

Jefferson County, near St. Louis, is split into the districts of Akin, Emerson and Luetkemeyer.

Carnahan spokeswoman Sara Howard criticized the redistricting plan enacted Wednesday.

"Families and businesses across this state are facing the prospect of weaker representation and divided communities, all in the name of a partisan power-grab," Howard said in a statement.

In the Kansas City-area, Cleaver's district would be extended farther east to pick up several rural counties while a swath of Jackson County would be carved out and added to the district of Republican Sam Graves, whose district would spread across the northern half of the state.

West-central Missouri's 4th District, represented by freshman Republican Vicky Hartzler, would lose Cole County, which is home to Jefferson City, and instead gain Boone County, where Columbia is located.

Southwest Missouri, currently represented by freshman Republican Billy Long, would see the least change, because its population grew faster than most regions of the state.


Redistricting is HB193.




The Associated Press