Thursday, May 31, 2012

Democrats accuse Brownback of interfering in redistricting; governor says he has a special interest

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Democratic legislative leaders Wednesday called on Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, to stop interfering with the redistricting fight that is now before a federal judicial panel.

"He might not like it, but Gov. Brownback can only control one branch of government," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. "He needs to get back to his job and let the court fix the mess he created," Davis said.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, had similar thoughts, saying that Brownback, a conservative, is using redistricting to try to oust moderate members of the GOP.

"His involvement has poisoned the process, making a difficult task impossible to complete," Hensley said.

Legislators and Brownback failed during the legislative session to approve new maps for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts.

Every 10 years, the Legislature must draw new maps to accommodate changes and shifts in population so that districts are nearly equal.

But political warfare erupted between conservative Republicans and a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, with each side accusing the other of trying to gain the upper hand in getting their candidates elected.

The issue is now before three federal judges who heard testimony Tuesday and Wednesday from several legislators.

Brownback a conservative, has denied he is trying to oust moderate state Senators, but his staff members have been pushing maps that benefit conservative candidates and his allies have been funding campaigns against those moderates.

On Tuesday, Brownback filed a legal brief urging the judges to throw out all state legislative maps that had been considered by the Legislature because, he said, the districts varied too greatly in population from ideal size districts.

Brownback noted one proposal, which had been worked on by a conservative state senator, had a low enough deviation for the judges to consider.

Davis and Hensley criticized Brownback for interfering by submitting the legal brief.

In that brief, Brownback said he has a special interest in the case because he is "the state officer who would have been required to either approve or veto any reapportionment plan that successfully passed both the Kansas Senate and the Kansas House."