Gov. Laura Kelly said Friday she will ask the Kansas Legislature to create an independent redistricting commission.
It comes after a video surfaced Friday morning of Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, allegedly telling donors that the state GOP needed a supermajority after this election.
"During redistricting, I need to give her (Renee Erickson) some more Republican neighborhoods in order to make sure she stays elected," Wagle said in the video.
Rep. Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, is currently running for Wagle’s Senate seat.
"So redistricting is right around the corner, and if Gov. Kelly can veto a Republican bill, that gives us four Republican congressmen, that takes out Sharice Davids up in the 3rd (Congressional District), we can do that. I guarantee you, we can draw four Republican congressional maps, but we can't do it unless we have a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House," Wagle said in the video.
Political experts have said that the district of Davids, a Democrat, is a prime target of a GOP supermajority, which is needed to override the veto of Kelly, a Democrat, on any maps that are drawn by the Kansas Legislature elected this November based on 2020 census results.
Democrats need to gain one more seat in the Kansas House, or three in the Kansas Senate, to break a two-thirds Republican supermajority.
Wagle’s comments drew backlash from Democrats and others on social media.
"Susan Wagle just said the quiet part of Republicans’ strategy to manipulate our districts out loud. By promising to gerrymander districts in the Kansas Legislature and write Rep. Sharice Davids out of office, Republican leadership just made it clear they intend to undermine the voices of hardworking Kansans," said Kansas Democratic Party chair Vicki Hiatt in a statement.
Republicans had previously told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the party creating unfair maps was "baseless redistricting allegations" and that Democrats themselves would create maps "drawn specifically to protect Gov. Kelly’s friends like Sharice Davids in Congress and others in the Legislature."
Wagle’s office, when asked to respond, told The Capital-Journal the same thing.
"It makes great headlines to clip and distort the message and the truth. Everyone knows, as I stated, Governor Kelly will demand a Democrat map that will elect her liberal friends if a Republican legislature can’t put a check on her power to fairly represent Kansans," Wagle said in an email.
Her spokesperson told The Capital-Journal in a call that Wagle’s comment in the video were made in the context of her saying that Kelly would do everything in her power, such as vetoing, to draw Democratic seats. As a result, the spokesperson said, Republicans need to do everything they can to fight back.
But Kelly’s proposal of asking the Legislature to approve an independent redistricting commission, first reported by the Kansas City Star, is unlikely to go anywhere in a GOP-majority Legislature.
Rep. Brett Parker, D-Overland Park, told The Capital-Journal previously he was planning on filing legislation to establish such a commission next session but wasn’t too optimistic about it chances. His previous two attempts in past years were bills that all died in committee.