By Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent
A new Congressional map won the approval of a Missouri Senate committee on Tuesday, setting the stage for a debate that promises to be among the most contentious of the 2022 legislative session.
After two hours of public testimony, a pair of Democrats joined with seven Republicans Tuesday to advance a map that keeps the partisan makeup of the state’s congressional delegation unchanged.
Voting against the map were two Democrats and three Republican members of the Senate’s conservative caucus.
The proposed map now heads to the full Senate, where disagreement among Republicans over whether to reconfigured a Democratic seat in Kansas City in order to tip it to the GOP’s favor have already caused tensions to run high.
The chamber’s conservative caucus, which has been in open war with Senate leadership for months, is calling for a map that would split Kansas City into two districts in order to ensure Republicans hold seven of the state’s eight congressional seats — leaving St. Louis’ Cori Bush as the sole Democrat.
Republican leaders have balked at the plan, arguing a 7-1 map may not survive a court challenge. Even if it did, by trying to do away with a Democratic seat, a 7-1 map could end up packing enough Democrats into other districts to put GOP seats in danger.
“We’ve been in sweep elections the last 10 or 12 years where the numbers are just crazy,” said state Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit. “Some day, we’ll return to the norm. And if that happens in 2024, 2026, with a seven to one map, we could easily lose three seats.”
The conservative caucus, and the parade of opponents of a 6-2 map that showed up to testify at the public hearing Tuesday, argue that Missouri must do everything it can to send more Republicans to Washington, D.C.
Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, pointed to states like Illinois, where Democrats engaged in gerrymandering to target two Republicans seats.
But Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial and chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting, said he purposefully ignored partisan data when crafting a map.
“We drew a map that was compact, contiguous and constitutional,” he said Tuesday, adding: “I don’t see how Branson has any connection with downtown Kansas City.”
While Republicans have faced criticism of the map from their conservative base, Democrats have also expressed concerns.
In the House, Democratic opposition meant an emergency clause was not approved that would have ensured the new map was in place before the August primary.