Over the past couple of years, I've enjoyed reading fantasy House redistricting scenarios from DK users such as GoUBears and Stephen Wolf. That has inspired me to do some fantasy redistricting of my own. Hey, it sure beats the hell out of daily "Boner Watches", right?
I'm starting my redistricting with the state that I called home for over half of my life: Kentucky. Since my current home state of Ohio has already been sliced and diced seven ways to Sunday on this site, there's no need for me to do it. I may revisit Ohio, though, if I decide to do cube-root apportionment scenarios. For now, head below the orange squiggly thing for what I've fantasized in the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky is definitely not an easy state with which to draw up a positive Democratic scenario. In each of the last four presidential elections, the Republican candidate won its 8 electoral votes by double-digit margins. Though this is a red state when it comes to national politics, local politics is a different animal altogether. Only one Republican has been elected governor in the last 40 years. That was the corrupt Ernie Fletcher, who served from 2003-07 before getting trounced in his re-election campaign by current Democratic governor Steve Beshear. Five of the six top government positions are currently occupied by Democrats. The state house is controlled by Democrats. And, of course, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has a pretty good chance of becoming Kentucky's next U.S. Senator, and the first Democratic senator since the great Wendell Ford retired in 1999.
The U.S. House has not been a pretty picture for the Kentucky Democratic Party in almost 20 years. Before the Republican Wave of 1994, there had never been fewer than four Democrats representing the state. Hell... back in 1933, when Kentucky had 9 seats, all of the seats were occupied by Democrats.
Since 1994, there has never been more than two Democrats. Former AG and gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler served 4 1/2 terms as the 6th district (Lexington) representative until he was defeated in 2012 by Republican convicted criminal and pants-on-fire liar Garland "Andy" Barr. This leaves John Yarmuth of the 3d district (Louisville) as the lone Democrat in Kentucky's congressional delegation.
Currently, Republicans control the state senate, so it's impossible right now to get a positive redistricting plan--even with a Democratic governor and a Democratic state house. But if, by some fluke, the Democrats take the state senate this year, then they could pull a Texas and do a little off-year redrawing.
The key to a Kentucky gerrymander is to do the opposite of what Republican legislatures do. In states like North Carolina and Ohio, the Republican trifectas pack as many Democratic voters into as few districts as possible. What we need to do in Kentucky is make three of its six congressional districts as Republican as possible in order to create at least two, possibly three, Democratic-friendly districts. It's tough for a state that went 57.4-41.2 for John McCain in 2008, but it can be done.
Let's start with the 1st district:
This western Kentucky district is currently represented by Republican Wayne "Ed" Whitfield. Under this new plan, all of the blue areas of western Kentucky have been cut out and placed in the new 2d district, which we'll get to later. That hack job starts in Bowling Green (a fairly liberal college city) and runs counterclockwise around the Kentucky border until it reaches Fort Knox, which is a short drive south of Louisville Metro. Those bacon strips reach into the blue and lean-blue cities of Hopkinsville, Princeton, Mayfield, Madisonville, Greenville, and Elizabethtown.
As a result, we have a district that voted 64.9% for McCain, turning a R+14 district into about a R+20 district. Whitfield lives in Hopkinsville, which has mostly been removed from this district. Depending on what part of Hopkinsville he lives in, he may have to move a couple of miles. I don't think he would want to run in the new 2d district for a couple of reasons. We'll deal with that district later.
Let's move on to the 5th district now:
This southern Kentucky district has been held for over 30 years by Republican Harold "Hal" Rogers. This current chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has been a longtime member of worst congresscritters lists, but he is perhaps infamous for getting the Daniel Boone Parkway renamed for him, much to the outrage of Daniel Boone's descendants. Blue precincts in Danville, Richmond, Winchester, and the southeastern part of the state have been baconmandered out of this district and sent to other districts.
This new district is as deep red as it gets. 72.1% of these voters supported McCain in 2008, inflating the PVI from R+16 to around R+28. That would tie it with two Alabama districts and Utah's 3d for the 5th most Republican district in America. Rogers lives in Somerset, which is safely within the districts limits. He can keep running and winning here until he dies (which might be sooner than later because he's in the latter half of his 70s).
Moving up to the 4th district:
This northern Kentucky district is represented by teabagger Thomas Massie and was the old district of senile senator Jim Bunning. I've cut out all of the precincts along the Ohio River between Louisville and Maysville (hometown of former Miss America and political wife Heather French Henry). This includes places such as Covington and Newport, which are heavily populated and heavily blue suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. There's also a wraparound cut out of the middle of the district going from Paris up to Cynthiana and over to Carlisle. To make up for the loss of all that Cincinnati-area population, the new 4th continues along the West Virginia border, picking up all of the red areas of eastern Kentucky.
This new district went 62.9% for McCain, so it goes from a R+15 district to around a R+19 district. Massie lives in Lewis County, that big V-shaped county in the northeastern part of the state. He's only 43 years old, so he'll (unfortunately) be spreading his tea-flavored spooge in this district for the next 30 or 40 years.
With those three Republican vote sinks out of the way, we now have the half of Kentucky's population who voted 50.2% for Barack Obama. This finally gives us some room to work.
Let's start with that new 2d district:
These are all of the bacon strips that I pulled from the old 1st and 2d districts. And just to bring up the population and the Democratic vote, I pulled the southern part of Louisville from Yarmuth's 3d district.
This new 2d district, which rivals North Carolina's 12th for world's most God-awful baconmander, is as politically even as you can get. McCain won this district by only 22 votes out of the 270,000+ cast.
Republican Steven "Brett" Guthrie of Bowling Green represents the current 2d district, which has a PVI of R+15. This new district is all the way down to around R+2. In a red state like Kentucky, a R+2 district would act like a tossup-to-tilt-D district. Since Guthrie is the incumbent, he would be the favorite to win this seat... but he would actually have to work for it. A well-known and well-funded conservative Democrat could give Guthrie real headaches. Whitfield wouldn't dare run in this district against fellow Republican Guthrie. Whitfield would make sure that his Hopkinsville home was within the perimeter of the 1st district.
Yarmuth's new 3d district looks like this:
His district loses southern Louisville to the 2d district and parts of central and eastern Louisville to the new 6th district, but it keeps the all-important northern and western sections of Louisville. Those sections are populous, majority African-American, and dark blue. Plus, this district picks up Maysville and those critical blue Cincinnati suburbs that were taken out of Massie's district. The 3d then runs south of Interstate 64 and grabs the blue cities of Bardstown, Shelbyville (which has recently become an area with a booming Latino population), Versailles (Ben Chandler's hometown), and Danville (site of Centre College, the host to two VP debates).
This new district went 50.7% for Obama, so the PVI drops from D+4 to almost EVEN. The rating goes from safe D to lean D. Yarmuth should be OK as the incumbent, but a Republican wave could knock him out. We could end up with the return of another corrupt congresscritter, Anne Meagher Northup.
We finish with the 6th district, home to that pants-on-fire liar:
All of the blue precincts that were pulled from the 4th and 5th districts have been placed here. This district now spans the girth of the state--from Pikeville at the far eastern tip, around to Morehead (home to Morehead State University), down to Richmond/Berea (home of Eastern Kentucky University and Berea College), and all the way into downtown Louisville.
This is a 50.4% Obama district, so it's another PVI of around EVEN, possibly R+1. The current 6th is R+9. Barr is way too conservative and dishonest for this new district. Incumbency might help him survive in 2014, but if Hillary is at the top of ticket in 2016, he's gone. Although Kentucky is dark red, this state still loves it some Clinton. (After all, the Big Dog won this state twice.)
In just a matter of a couple of hours, I've turned a 5-1 Republican delegation into a possible 3-3 delegation.
Then again, Democrats in Arkansas believed the same thing when they redistricted their state in 2011. They got too confident in too many districts and ended up losing all of them.
To prevent a possible Kentucky dummymander, I've also drawn up an alternate congressional map that gives the Republicans four safe seats and the Democrats two safe seats.
1st district, Whitfield (R):
Looks similar to his current district, except that all of the Ohio River border counties from Louisville to Morganfield are in other districts. This district is R+18, still redder than his current district.
2d district, Guthrie (R):
Instead of going around the western perimeter of Kentucky, Guthrie's district will go around the eastern arm of Whitfield's district (picking up the conservative southeastern section of Louisville Metro) and cut into Rogers' southeastern territory until it reaches the Virginia border. Guthrie's district is now redder than Whitfield's, at R+20.
4th district, Massie (R):
A much more clean-cut R+17 district for the teabagger.
5th district, Rogers (R):
R+20, same level of redness as Guthrie's district.
3d district, Yarmuth (D):
A long Ohio River district running from the Cincinnati suburbs through northern and western Louisville and down to Morganfield. Elizabethtown and Fort Knox are included since they swing blue. This is a 53% Obama district, so Yarmuth can breathe easier.
6th district, Barr (Asspipe):
A linear district that stays pretty much along I-64. Almost all of Fayette County (Lexington Metro), then going west through the capital of Frankfort (a city with a decently sized African-American population as it's home to the historically black college of Kentucky State University) and ending in downtown Louisville. This district is 52.7% Obama. Barr would be out of a job no matter which Democrat runs. Versailles is just outside of this district, so Ben Chandler could move a couple of miles north and get his seat back if he wanted it. But since this is a light blue district rather than the red district it currently is, we would prefer a progressive to run here... and there are definitely a bunch of progressive council members and state reps in Lexington and Louisville who are looking for a promotion. Anthany Beatty could run here in 2016 if he doesn't win the Lexington mayoral race this November. This would make him Kentucky's very first black U.S. House representative.
Next time, I will redistrict... some other state that hasn't been discussed yet.