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Missouri GOP officials rally to eliminate a Democratic congressional seat in Kansas City

 Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft speaks to demonstrators who support a 7-1 Congressional map in the Missouri Capitol on Feb. 7, 2022.
Tessa Weinberg
Missouri Independent
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft speaks to demonstrators who support a 7-1 Congressional map in the Missouri Capitol on Feb. 7, 2022.

Members of the Senate conservative caucus, and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, hope GOP leaders will agree to target a safe Democratic congressional seat in Kansas City and create a 7-1 map in favor of Republicans.

Ahead of an anticipated Senate debate on the proposed Missouri Congressional map, several GOP officials urged over 100 supporters gathered Monday in the Capitol to continue to press for a redrawn map that would add an additional seat in Republicans’ favor.

The House quickly sent the proposed Congressional map to the Senate in the first two weeks of the legislative session. That version, which was passed out of the Senate Redistricting Committee late last month, maintains the current partisan balance of the state’s Congressional delegation — six Republican seats and two Democratic seats.

Yet while the Senate has been mired in disagreement over the map, it has yet to be formally brought to the Senate floor for discussion.

Senators said they expect that to change Monday, with Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, telling supporters holding signs that read “7:1” and “Missouri is a red state” to prepare for an “extended debate” come Monday afternoon.

Conservative senators implored those in attendance Monday to continue to press for a 7-1 map and oppose the proposed map that they have argued would eventually cede an extra seat to Democrats and instead be a “5-3” map.

“It is the Pelosi map. It is the RINO map,” Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, told demonstrators, referring to the acronym Republican In Name Only. “It is the sellout map. It is the bought and paid for map. It is the insider Jeff City swamp map intent on giving away one to two congressional seats to Nancy Pelosi and the congressional Democrats.”

Late last month, Senate Republican leaders said the debate had shifted from doing away with a safe Democratic seat based in Kansas City to how to make the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep Ann Wagner, more secure.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said he is “trying to keep all my options open right now” and would have to see what a 6-2 map with Wagner’s district shored up would like. Ultimately, a 7-1 map that keeps both Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood in one district to gain a seat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services is ideal, he said.

In an interview, Onder promised a fight on the Senate floor if supporters of the House map were not willing to budge.

“We’d like a 7-1 map, at very least a strong 6-2,” Onder said, “but unfortunately Senate and House leadership has not been willing to budge.”

Republican leaders have raised concerns that a 7-1 map may be challenged in the courts, and that even if it did remain intact, a seat may swing in Democrats’ favor in a competitive election year.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who has lobbied for a 7-1 map, called those legal concerns “balderdash” Monday.

Missouri is required to maintain a minority-majority district in the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses St. Louis, under the Voting Rights Act, Ashcroft noted.

But he argued a majority-minority district didn’t exist across the state in Kansas City and Jackson County, and thus cracking that district to bring in more Republican voters would not be in danger of being tossed by the courts.

Linda Rantz, a Linn resident who attended Monday’s rally along with her husband Craig, said they recently moved to Missouri from Washington, in part, because of the draw of the state’s conservative values. Rantz said she believes lawmakers should not compromise so early in the redistricting process and that if a map must go through the courts, so be it.

“We feel strongly that this is a very red state,” Rantz said. “And that rather than compromise down to a 6-2 based on the fear that it might go to a court that we do it the way we believe that it should be set up, which is a 7-1.”

To make clear her position, Rantz added to a sticker she wore on her shirt Monday, “7:1 is the compromise.”

The redistricting process has also become a talking point of the U.S. Senate race, with candidates like former Gov. Eric Greitens wading into the debate and drawing attention to conservative lawmakers’ clashes with Senate Republican leadership.

At Monday’s rally, U.S. Senate candidate and attorney Mark McCloskey was in attendance. In an interview, McCloskey said a 7-1 map accurately reflects the makeup of Missouri and its values.

“The Democrats would never give us a break. If they had super majorities in both houses, they would carve up Republican districts like there’s no tomorrow,” McCloskey said. “Time for the Republicans to show some spine.”

Conservative activists have been urging people to make their voices heard, and senators have said they’ve been inundated with calls.

Eigel questioned why Republican leadership wasn’t in favor of a 7-1 map, when he’s received visits and calls from conservative residents who want just that.

“Because they don’t have a governor leading them,” an attendee shouted.

Gov. Mike Parson will ultimately have the power to approve or veto any map that lawmakers pass. Last month, Parson told KCMO Talk Radio that he’s ultimately looking for a map that reflects Missouri’s Republican majority.

“Whatever gets to my desk — whether it’s a 7-1 or 6-2 — as long as it’s a good, solid Republican map, that’s the way this state lines up and that’s the kind of map I’m looking for,” he said. “I’m not looking for a watered down version of anything. It needs to be rock solid and it should be.”

Monday’s rally also follows a protest last week in which over a hundred anti-vaccine mandate demonstrators came to the Capitol to oppose former state health director Don Kauerauf’s confirmation. Republican lawmakers were ultimately successful in shooting down Kauerauf’s confirmation — banning him from the position for life. He later resigned.

“Because when you’re here in-person, and letting your voice be heard, as we found out last week,” Eigel said to cheers, “it’s a lot more difficult to ignore the people in Missouri when they’re standing right in front of you.”

This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.

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