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Judge rules in favor of new congressional redistricting map

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 5, 2012 - A Cole County judge has ruled in favor of the new congressional map drawing boundary lines for the eight remaining districts, setting the stage for another likely last-ditch appeal by critics to the Missouri Supreme Court.

In a 7-page ruling, Judge Daniel Green agreed that the map was not perfect when it came to "compactness" -- the mandate of the state constitution that each district be as compact as possible, and that all have similar-size populations.

But  Green wrote that he saw no reason "to engage in a never-ending game of one-upmanship in a constant search for the ultimate map."

Gerald Greiman, the lawyer for the group of Democrats challenging the map, says they will appeal.

Green's decision has the biggest impact on the political fortunes of U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, who has supported the suit as his best hope for restoring the guts of his current 3rd District, which was in effect dismantled in the map.

Carnahan's residence was tossed into the 1st District, now represented by Rep William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis. The rest of his district was split among other several other districts, including the 8th and the 2nd Districts.

The new 3rd District is largely parts of the current 9th, represented by Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau -- who represents the 8th District -- said in a brief interview that she is pleased with Green's decision and that she hopes that the state Supreme Court does as well.

Candidate filing is set to begin Feb. 28.

The Republican-dominated General Assembly drew up the map last spring, with the acknowledged intent of protecting the six Republican incumbents in Congress. Also somewhat were protected were the two African-American Democrats, Clay and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City.

Carnahan became the odd man out, since Missouri is losing one of its current nine congressional districts.  The 2010 census determined that Missouri did not grow as much as some other states.

State Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, was one of the architects of the new map. He tweeted this afternoon that Green's decision was a victory "for the separation of powers."

Solicitor General James R. Layton, a member of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's executive staff, handled the case in defense of the map.

Koster said in a statement, "The case involving the constitutionality of the new Missouri Congressional map presented difficult and novel legal issues.  While we have received a favorable ruling from the Circuit Court, we recognize that this is just the latest step in the process and the issue will likely return to the Missouri Supreme Court in the coming days for a final decision."

House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, alluded to his disappointment at the ruling.

"Today's ruling marks just another step in the process," Talboy said. "When the Supreme Court reversed Judge Green the last time, it expressed serious concerns about the legitimacy of the Third and Fifth Districts and specifically instructed him to examine their compactness. Surprisingly, the judge ignored any mention of those districts in his ruling, and the Supreme Court may have something to say about that."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.