Leading Senate conversatives lose in new round of redistricting
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Leading Senate conversatives lose in new round of redistricting

Date: February 23, 2012
By: Jordan Shapiro
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Two of the legislature's leading conservative voices are the losers in the new state Senate map released early Thursday morning.

The maps released by a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon moved Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, whose term expires this year, into a district where she could not run for reelection.

"I am not drawn anywhere. I am in nowhere land," Cunningham said.  

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, would still live within his current district, but would be facing a more Democratic leaning electorate. Like Cunningham, Lembke's term expires this year.

"I am very surprised and disappointed," Lembke said.

Senators are elected for four-year terms with half up every two years. This year, odd-numbered districts are up for election and Cunningham currently represents the 7th Senate district.

Under the new map, Cunningham would find herself living in Sen. Brian Nieves', R-Washington, even-numbered district that will not be up for election until 2014. Nieves said he was happy with his district.

"I came out smelling like a rose," Nieves said.

The map becomes final after a 15-day period for public comment and possible revisions. The waiting period means the map will not be finalized by the start of candidate filing on Feb. 28. The House and Senate are debating whether or not to push filing back into March.

Cunningham has been a conservative voice on education issues. First elected to the House in 2000, Cunningham served as chair of the Education Committee from 2003 to 2008. She was elected to the Senate in 2008.

She is currently sponsoring a bill that would create a tax credit scholarship program for students living in failing school districts to go to private schools and currently chairs the Senate General Laws Committee.

Lembke was elected to the House in 2002 and to the Senate in 2008. He has led the fight in the Senate against accepting federal stimulus money for programs.

Cunningham said she was "disappointed and surprised" by the commission's map. The commission is composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, though Cunningham said you "could hardly call it bipartisan." 

She said the commission should have adopted a map drawn by a panel of appeals court judges, which the Supreme Court threw out on procedural grounds.

"It seems like the obvious answer was thrown in the trash," Cunningham said.

Cunningham currently represents western St. Louis county, while Nieves represents most of Warren and Franklin counties with a small portion of west St. Louis county. Nieves' new district would push further west.

Lembke's district now includes a portion of south St. Louis city and a large area of south St. Louis county.

After the first citizen's commission failed to reach an agreement on a new Senate map, the task shifted to a group of appeals court judges. The judges then drew a map that ignored the constitutional guideline of unnecessarily splitting counties into various districts. The panel tried again with a second map, but the Missouri Supreme Court said the judges had no authority to revise their previous decision.

Cunningham said she is keeping all options open including a possible run in a Republican primary in the 15th district, currently held by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County. She also did not rule out a possible statewide office bid or a legal challenge to the new map.

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