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Redistricting changes little for Kentucky

By RAE HODGE Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Despite a contentious lawsuit and dramatic regional population shifts, Kentucky's 2013 congressional and legislative redistricting processes have resulted in political stasis.

Kentucky's congressional districts maintained a 5-1 Republican to Democratic split. The Republican-controlled Senate, whose original redistricting maps were overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court, was still able to reinforce Republican strongholds. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives likewise strengthened party centers.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, floated the first congressional maps in 2011 which were met with stiff opposition by the Republican-controlled state Senate for their strongly Democratic leanings. The proposed maps unseated Republicans in the 2nd District, and dealt damage to Republican strongholds in the 1st and 5th Districts. Republicans then controlled four congressional districts of Kentucky's six. Unlike Stumbo's proposed map, the state Senate's proposed congressional map made marginal changes to district lines. Congressional maps were approved only a day after a lawsuit was filed requesting the Kentucky Supreme Court to redraw the districts.

Steve Voss, a political scientist at the University of Kentucky, said though the process of partisan entrenchment can often contribute to federal gridlock, Kentucky's regional concerns more often override partisan divides.

"Prior to Andy Barr beating Ben Chandler (in 2012), people joked that the 6th District was the Ben Chandler Protection District because clearly he'd picked up places where the Democratic leanings were notable, but the coup that Barr pulled, using the coal issue meant that he was able to beat Chandler much better than expected among this Democratic constituency. And that's one reason why, going into our U.S. Senate election now the coal issue is seen as such a tough one for Grimes and a promising one for McConnell."

With state elections still months away, local party gains and losses remain unclear. Ultimately, the state's legislative redistricting plan created fewer races where incumbents faced each other than in previous years. Currently, only two Democrat and two Republican incumbents are set to run against each other. Counting both the primary and general election, there are currently seven uncontested seats in the state Senate and 38 in the House.

The state legislative maps which passed into law in the same session were contested in the Kentucky Supreme Court and overturned. Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, called the General Assembly into an extraordinary session in the summer of 2013 where new maps were drawn and approved, guided by the majority party in each chamber.

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