Every ten years, Missouri’s lawmakers redraw the state’s congressional map in order to address population changes as reflected by the annual census. While the process is always highly politically charged, the state’s loss of one of its nine congressional seats this year added to the political sharpness of the process. The new map was debated over a three-month period, and adopted plan was proposed by Republican State Representative John Diehl.
Congressional redistricting in Missouri is controlled by the state legislature, with the governor’s approval required. If the governor vetoes the bill passed by the legislature, the legislature can override that with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses. Currently, the 34-member Senate and the 163-member House of Representatives are both controlled by Republicans. The governor is Democrat Jay Nixon. Governor Nixon vetoed legislature’s proposed plan, stating “I do not believe this map reflects a fair representation of the interests for all regions of our state.” On May 4th the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto, and the new plan is now final.
Each of Missouri’s eight new congressional districts must contain748,616 people. Currently, the state’s congressional delegation has three Democrats and six Republicans. As expected, Democrat Russ Carnahan’s third district was eliminated in the new plan, while the districts currently held by Republicans were strengthened. The 3rd district was split into several pieces, with the southern counties going to the 8th district, and the northern ones split between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts. Carnahan is currently weighing his options and could run in either the new 1st or the new 2nd. The 2nd seems the stronger choice, as Republican incumbent Todd Akin is leaving to run for the U.S. Senate and the 1st is currently held by the popular William Lacy Clay, Jr. Republican attorney Ed Martin is running in the new 2nd.
Missouri’s first district includes Northern St. Louis City and most of St. Louis County. It has been held by Democrats for more than sixty years. Representative Clay who has been in office since 2001. The heavily African-American first district is protected under the Voting Rights Act. The district picked up some parts of the eliminated third but it remains largely the same in its political orientation. Representative Clay looks safe for re-election in 2012.
Missouri’s other Democratic congressional seat is the 5th, represented by Emanuel Cleaver since 2005 and centered on Kansas City in the west of the state. It expands significantly in the new plan, stretching to include the suburban Ray, Lafayette and Saline Counties to the east. This makes the district it more conservative, and thus tougher for Cleaver to win in 2012. It is not, however, as conservative as it could have been, with the more Republican Cass County going to the 4th and Republican parts of Jackson County going to 6th. In addition, the rural counties added will make up only eleven percent of the new district’s total population.
While Republican districts saw change as well, the changes tended to not be as extreme or as potentially dangerous to incumbents as those in Democratic districts. In the southeast, Republican Jo Ann Emerson’s 8th districts gave up some of its westernmost counties to the 7thdistrict and gained Crawford County from the old 9th. It also took in the southern parts of Carnahan’s old 3rd district. The seat remains solidly conservative. Billy Long’s 7th district also remains very conservative, as does Republican Vicky Hartzler’s 4th, although the 4th did see the addition of Democratic-leaning Columbia City and Boone County.
Of all the Republican districts, the 2nd, 6th and 9th saw the most change. The 2nd took in part of the eliminated 3rd and generally moved to the south. As the incumbent, Todd Akin, has announced he will be running for Senate in 2012, the seat will be open in the election next year. The new 2nd includes the suburbs of St. Louis and parts of St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson Counties.
The redrawn 6th district encompasses those areas of Clay and Jackson counties not falling within the 5th district, in addition to 30 rural counties from the Nebraska border to the Illinois border. It is represented by Republican Sam Graves.
The old 9th district has been shifted to the south and in added counties closer to St. Louis, becoming the new 3rd congressional seat. Currently it is represented by Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer. While both the 6th and 9th look different, they still remain fairly safe for their respective Republican incumbents.
While things could still change between now and the 2012 elections, it seems clear that the new congressional map in Missouri will benefit the Republicans more than the Democrats, as was expected given the control Republicans of the state legislature.