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Senate redistricting commission votes to put new map into effect

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2012 - Missouri's bipartisan state Senate redistricting commission today voted unanimously, 10-0, for a new map of the state’s 34 state Senate districts. The map dramatically affects the St. Louis area.

The panel made some last-minute changes before the final vote, but none of the tweaks involving St. Louis area districts was major, said commission chairman Doug Harpool in an interview after the vote.

The vote puts the new boundaries into effect about two weeks after candidate filing began. The filing deadline is March 27.

The final map can be viewed on the state's Office of Administration website.

State Sens. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, and Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, remain the big losers in the St. Louis area under the new map. Cunningham’s 7th District is moved across the state, while Lembke’s 1st District becomes much more Democratic-leaning.

Several outstate Democrats also are hurt, notably state Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, who is planning to run for the state Senate in the 19th District. The new map is believed to make that district more Republican-leaning.

Harpool, a Democrat, said that Democratic attempts to help out Still and other affected Democrats were pushed back by Republicans on the commission who wanted changes to help certain Republicans.

The last-minute changes approved by the panel included the 4th, 13th and 14th districts that take in parts of St. Louis and of central and north St. Louis County. None of the changes was major, Harpool said. 

Among them:

-- The 4th District, now represented by Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, will now extend into central St. Louis County, including Clayton. Under an earlier version, Clayton -- St. Louis County's seat -- was in Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal's 14th District.

-- A portion of Jennings was removed from the 4th District and added it to the 14th District.

--Small portions of Dellwood and Castle Point  were moved from the 14th District to the 13th District. Sen. Tim Green, a term-limited Democrat from Spanish Lake, currently represents the 13th District.

Outstate, Chariton County was moved into the 18th District, which is currently represented by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, D-Williamstown. Chariton County had been in 21st District under the tentative map, an area currently represented by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton.

St. Clair County was moved from the 31st District to the 28th District. Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, currently represents the 28th District.

Small changes were made to several districts in Jackson County, as well as the two Senate districts in Greene County.

The commission is made up of five Republicans and five Democrats. Today’s vote marks the first time in decades that a bipartisan Senate redistricting commission actually reached an agreement, instead of tossing the matter to state judges.

“This is truly a bipartisan map,’’ Harpool said. “All 10 of us would have drawn up a different map.”

Harpool chaired an earlier commission that failed to reach an agreement last summer. The map subsequently drawn up by a judicial panel was tossed out by the state Supreme Court earlier this year on procedural grounds.

A federal lawsuit was filed by backers of the judicially drawn map, but Harpool did not foresee a major legal fight as a result of today’s unanimous vote.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who appointed the 10-person panel, lauded the commission's action:  “I greatly appreciate the members of the bipartisan apportionment commission for completing their work in a thorough, thoughtful and expedited fashion. The commission has brought certainty to this process and has done so quickly enough to give sufficient time for those considering filing for office to make their decisions. I want to thank the commission members for their service to our state, and for bringing this process to a close.”

Freelance writer Jason Rosenbaum contributed some information to this article.

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.

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