Redistricting possibilities in Kentucky have some eyeing moves, future races

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The usually contentious process of redrawing legislative boundaries began Monday, and some in the House are already eyeing future races before next year’s elections with either open seats, Senate races or primaries on the horizon.

House Bill 1, the redistricting legislation, would pit two pairs of Democrats and two pairs of Republicans in competitive districts.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, would face Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, in the 100th House District encompassing most of Boyd County under the proposed redistricting map.

Adkins said he is considering a move to the would-be vacant 99th House District that includes Elliott and Rowan counties, which he currently represents. Adkins now lives in Boyd County and said he would make a decision “in the very near future” after consulting with his family.

The Elliott County native discussed the open 99th district seat at length Monday, mentioning Rowan County as his “second home” because he played high school basketball there and based on his current representation of voters there.

“I’ll just tell you that that is an option that I have, and it’s an option that I’m seriously considering,” Adkins said.

For his part, Sinnette has no plans to back out of the race against the House Democrats’ second in command. He and Adkins have briefly talked about the potential primary challenge.

“Rocky’s a good friend of mine, and we’ll just have to see how it all turns out in the future,” Sinnette said. “… I am not exploring any other options.”

Another pairing would pit Rep. C.B. Embry, R-Morgantown, against Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, in the 17th House District. Embry said the map is “probably fair,” but he disliked the redistricting plan because he lost Grayson County and western Hardin County, areas he has represented for 11 years. 

“Personally I don’t particularly like it, but as for being fair overall, it probably is the fairest one that been presented by majority leadership,” he said.

The Senate’s redistricting plan would include Butler County in the 6th Senate District, currently represented by Democratic Minority Whip Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville.

Embry said he would decide by Friday whether to challenge for that Senate seat.

Still, there could be a possible legal challenge to the House plan. Embry said attorneys he has spoken to are “split” on the legality of the map, which must go before a federal three-judge panel due to an ongoing lawsuit claiming improper representation in the General Assembly.

“They didn’t really go into the technical part of it,” Embry said when asked about specific parts of the plan questioned by attorneys. “There’s some districts that’s fairly gerrymandered pretty bad, but they’re in the range population-wise to be constitutional, so I don’t know if that’s big enough bearing or not.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he had heard nothing of a possible legal challenge to the House proposal. He said the plan would pass constitutional muster.

House Democrats caucused on the redistricting map after the chamber adjourned Monday. The House State Government Committee was scheduled to consider the bill Tuesday.

The ongoing federal case could make an emergency clause in HB 1 necessary, which would require the bill to pass by a constitutional majority, or 51 votes in the House.

Stumbo predicted much wider support, at least 60 votes in favor of the bill and possibly as many as 80.

The House could still alter the plan slightly before it votes this week, Stumbo said.

Another potential Democratic primary features Rep. John Will Stacy of West Liberty and Rep. Hubert Collins of Wittensville. Both said Monday they will seek the Democratic nomination in the redrawn 97th House District in Wolfe, Morgan and Johnson counties next May.

“I didn’t like it too much, but we’re going to accept it the way it is, and I’ll be running,” Collins said. “… He’s going to be running also. We’re going to run a good race. Nothing negative.”

Stacy predicted he would prevail in the primary given his popularity in Morgan County. He said the two discussed the matter and agreed to run a positive campaign leading to the May primary.

“I like Hubie Collins. He’s a good man,” Stacy said. “I don’t have anything against him. It’s just the way it turns out sometimes.”

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