Parson signs new congressional districts into effect

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson answers questions during a press conference Wednesday, May 18, 2022, following a brief ceremony in which he signed the redistricting bill that was passed during the legislative session that ended May 13. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson answers questions during a press conference Wednesday, May 18, 2022, following a brief ceremony in which he signed the redistricting bill that was passed during the legislative session that ended May 13. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)

Gov. Mike Parson was frustrated with the Legislature's long, drawn out process for congressional redistricting and said it likely killed other legislative priorities this session.

Parson signed Missouri's new congressional map Wednesday afternoon after venting his frustrations with the General Assembly's handling of the once-in-a-decade process.

After hours of filibuster and months of negotiations, the state Legislature passed the new congressional map in the final days of the legislative session, which concluded last week. The map maintains Missouri's representation of six Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Progress on the map was stalled for weeks as members of the Senate's Conservative Caucus pushed for a map that would swing a district to Republicans, giving Missouri a 7-1 representation. Lawmakers blew past the candidate filing deadline in March without a map and eventually passed it with the use of procedural techniques in the Senate.

"It's unfortunate that it probably took as long as it did," Parson said. "I do also think that probably caused some of the other major priorities that we had to not make it across the finish line, but needless to say it was a good day to get it done."

With the new map in effect, county election clerks around the state are preparing to notify voters about changes to their districts.

"Yeah, they would've liked to have this 30 days ago or 60 days ago because, again, I think the end result is the same today as it would have been in January," Parson said.

There are about nine counties that are split between congressional districts, Parson said, so it's important to ensure the county clerks in those areas have as much time as possible to inform voters if they are in a different congressional district.

Boone County is split between the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts. The passage of the new map forced Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, to end her campaign for congress in the 4th Congressional District.

Walsh and the district she represents in the statehouse were moved out of the 4th and into the 3rd Congressional District, and Walsh said she isn't interested in running against Republican Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, a 13-year incumbent running for re-election in the 3rd District.

Walsh, who voted for the map, said she made a decision to terminate her campaign after reviewing the new district lines.

Anchored in the center of the state, the new 3rd Congressional District reaches into the suburbs of St. Louis to include parts of St. Charles and Jefferson counties without picking up Franklin County or large swaths of St. Louis and Warren counties. As the western border ends after Cooper County, the northern edge of the district cuts Boone County in half and the southern border extends to include Crawford and Washington counties.

Parson said he doesn't see anything wrong with splitting counties and there are a comparable number of counties split under the new map as there were under the previous one.

Following a weekend meeting with some clerks, Parson said he's confident they will be prepared for the August and November elections.

Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, chaired the redistricting process in the House and said he was happy to find a solution that a majority could agree with in each chamber.

"We're happy we got it done, and we didn't concede to the courts," he said.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, oversaw the process in the Senate and said it was a piece of legislation every lawmaker had a stake in.

"I thank the governor for signing it because I didn't want to be the chairman of the committee next year," Bernskoetter said.

Throughout the session, lawmakers repeatedly said they would have preferred Parson to have called a special session to address congressional redistricting so it wasn't a major hurdle competing with other priorities.

Parson said Wednesday he doesn't believe it would've changed anything.

"I don't think it would have made a difference whatsoever," Parson said. "You've seen what's happened over the last five or six months -- calling a special session doesn't take the people involved away differently, so, no, I don't think a special session would've worked at all."

Parson said he was expecting a 6-2 map throughout the process and that he believes it's a fair map to represent the state. He said he believes it's constitutional and will survive any court challenges.

Much of the time lawmakers spent debating congressional maps should've been spent on other legislative priorities, Parson said.

While legislators passed priority workforce development and infrastructure funding, Parson said they left the parents bill of rights, transgender issues and critical race theory on the table.

"I think those are some things we should have got done," he said.

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