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Redistricting keeps Columbia rural, changes representation

Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 7:29 p.m. CDT; updated 11:18 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — The state General Assembly passed a redistricting map Wednesday that would pull Columbia from a cluster of counties in northeast Missouri and align it with counties to the south and west. The bill awaits Gov. Jay Nixon's approval or veto before May 13.

If the bill passes, Columbia would move from the 9th District to the 4th, going from one largely rural area to another, Chris Kelly, Rep. D-Columbia, said.

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Kelly voted against the redistricting map, saying it shows an "egregious example of gerrymandering" in favor of incumbents. It makes the 5th District more Democratic and 6th more Republican, "which satisfies Graves and Cleaver," he said, referring to Republican Sam Graves of the 6th District and Emanuel Cleaverof the 5th District.

"Gerrymandering is not a Republican sin," Kelly added. "It's a political sin. Both parties do it; it just happens that the Republicans are in the majority here."

In an earlier conversation, he said districts should be "compact, contiguous and equal."

The main change for Columbia, he said, would be the switch from U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, to U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, though both would have to seek re-election to represent the new districts because the changes won't take effect until 2013.

Luetkemeyer has served the 9th District, which is being dissolved because of low population growth in Missouri, since 2008. His district under the new plan would become the 3rd District.

Hartzler was elected to serve the 4th District in November. She noted that she previously lived in Columbia for four years while going to college. She, her husband, parents and sisters all graduated from MU.

"I'm looking forward to getting to know the people and leaders more in Columbia," she said.

"I'm a very one-on-one, relationship-based representative in that I like to go meet the people I represent on a regular basis," Hartzler said. She attended eight town hall meetings this week.

Hartzler said her main of concern now is federal spending.

"I think right now we have to bring in our federal spending and get our debt and deficit down so we can create jobs."

Hartzler hopes to "reduce gas prices by increasing the use of our own natural (resources), gas, petroleum, oil, nuclear and renewable fuels — all of the resources available to us here in America."

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, also voted against the redistricting plan.

"The real problem with the map is it's pretty gerrymandered in a way that protects Republican districts mostly," she said. "And so, in a state which is mostly 50-50 Republican or Democratic, you're going to have a congressional representation that has six Republican and two Democratic representatives."

"I hope it is vetoed by the governor or ruled unconstitutional by the court," she said.


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