Monday, June 11, 2012
The Kansas political landscape was drastically changed this weekend and it's resulting in a never before-seen election cycle where incumbents are going to have to run against others who are already in office.
In Topeka, the House and Senate couldn't agree on redrawing the state's districts as required by population shifts. Therefore, a three judge panel stepped in and did it for them. The result is creating a firestorm.
"It's like starting over," explained Rep. Phil Hermanson, Republican incumbent for district 96. "You have, in my case, 70% of the people are new to me."
Hermanson has represented the 96th district in the House for the last four years. He was expecting to continue representing the people he came to know. But as of this past weekend, he was surprised to find his property is now in the 98th district. That means he'll have to run against longtime Democratic incumbent Geraldine Flaharty.
"I think it's been redrawn without regard to politics and without regard to incumbency and I think the people come out a winner in that case," Flaharty said Monday.
Hermanson, however, somewhat disagrees.
"It's not only hurting the politicians, but it hurts the people, too," Hermanson said. "We have worked hard to get to know our constituents and to be the go-to person for those people. Now the people have to find and make relationships with other go-to people."
The boundary shuffle has also had the opposite effect by leaving some districts without any representation if nobody runs.
"Never before has a court drawn all the district lines of state senate, house, board of education," said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. "And never before have we seen so many open seats created. In other words, seats drawn where there is no incumbent living in the district."
Other familiar incumbents who will now have to run against each other include Rep. Jim Ward, who will face Rep. Judy Loganbill in district 86. Nile Dillmore is forced to run against Brenda Landwehr in district 92. And Rep. Dan Kerschen wasn't expecting to have a challenge when he filed to switch from the House to the Senate. Instead, he will be facing longtime Republican Senator Dick Kelsey.
The Kansas primary election is slated for August 7. One thing you can be sure of is that the district boundary shuffle will result in many new faces in Topeka.