Congressional Redistricting Splits Jefferson County Three Ways
The current and former county executives weigh in on the effect of the county being part of three congressional districts.
Jefferson County was sliced and diced and doled out piecemeal to make up population goals for three different congressional districts as Missouri lawmakers approved a redistricting map to take effect in Jan. 2013.
The situation is either a disaster for Jefferson County interests or a potential boon in the long run, depending on whom you ask.
Former Jefferson County Executive Chuck Banks, a Democrat, blames the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
"It's pretty clear it was their intention to dismantle Jefferson County," Banks said. "It's very unfortunate and we have to wait 10 years to change it."
Current Jefferson County Executive Ken Waller, a Republican, says it may be challenging at first, but says the county could benefit from having three congressmen representing its interests.
"From my perspective, initially I was disappointed since I believe Jefferson County could be well represented by one person," Waller said. "With three, we'll just have to get ahead of the game and make our voices heard."
U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, a Democrat, is the current 3rd District congressman. But the district was swallowed up in the redistricting effort as the lack of significant population gains cost Missouri a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. And when the new lines were drawn, reducing Missouri's congressional districts from nine to eight, Carnahan became the odd man out.
And to some extent, so did Jefferson County, parts of which are in the 2nd, 3rd and 8th Congressional districts. The breakdown:
- The City of Arnold and the Jefferson County areas of Murphy and Fenton, are in the new 2nd District, which includes all of South County and West County to the city limits, and parts of St. Charles County.
- The new 3rd District includes High Ridge, Imperial, Hillsboro, Pevely, Herculaneum and Crystal City, but not Festus. The Twin Cities have been split into separate districts. The sprawling 3rd District also includes most of St. Charles County, all of Franklin County and extends through 10 counties west to the middle of the state.
- Festus and DeSoto ended up in the new 8th District, that includes 31 counties in the Southwest corner of the state, including Cape Girardeau.
The result is Jefferson County will be served by three congressmen, which may sound like a good thing at first blush. However, the county becomes only a small piece of each of the new congressman's constituency.
"I think having three people could be huge in the long run," Waller said."In the short run it'll take some time to tell Jefferson County's story."
The problem is who to tell it to.
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican, currently is the congressman from the 9th District, is the odds-0n favorite choice to be elected to the new 3rd District. He was elected to Congress in 2008.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, also a Republican, is the current congressman of the 8th District, to which part of Jefferson County was added. Her base is in Cape Girardeau. She was first elected to Congress in 1996.
The new 2nd District is wide open, with the announcement last week by Rep. Todd Akin that he is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat.
South St. Louis attorney Ed Martin, a Republican, who narrowly lost to Carnahan in the 2010 race for the 3rd Congressional District seat, has decided to make a run at the seat in the new 2nd District. Ann Wagner, of West County and the former Republican National Committee co-chair also has entered the race. State Sen. Jane Cunningham, R- Chesterfield, also is weighing whether to run. Carnahan has yet to make a decision on the 2012 election.
As the current congressman, Carnahan may be the one most familiar with Jefferson County, but the new 2nd District is typically Republican territory. And that doesn't bode well for Democrats like Banks who see Jefferson County's influence slipping as it becomes a smaller part of three large areas.
"I truly believe (Jefferson County) should have been kept together," Banks said. "Now we have divided loyalties by party and geography. And until we have peace and prosperity that's the way it's going to be. Redistricting has hurt the area tremendously."