After the 2010 election, Madison County lost two veteran legislators to retirement. It could lose another senior legislator after the 2012 election, if the draft of a redistricting plan for the House of Representatives is adopted.
State Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, retired at the end of 2010 after 30 years of service. State Sen. Ed Worley, D-Richmond, also retired then after 12 years.
He has no plans to retire, but new district lines based on the 2010 census could deprive Madison County of the services of Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster.
Although a member of the House minority, Napier is one of the chamber’s longest-serving Republicans. He sits on the Appropriations and Revenue as well as the Transportation committees, which help determine budget and road priorities, and other legislative panels.
In office since 1985, Napier’s district includes all of Garrard and most of Madison County in an arc that begins east of College Hill, sweeps south to Berea and then up to Valley View.
In a preliminary redistricting plan drawn for leaders of the House of Representative, Napier would keep his Garrard County constituents, but exchange the Madison County portion of his district for Lincoln County.
Most of the Madison County precincts in Napier’s current district would be assigned to that now represented by Rep. Bill Farmer, R-Lexington.
Because counties in eastern and southern Kentucky lost population as counties in central Kentucky grew, legislative districts in east and south are taking in more territory. In the preliminary redistricting plan, two districts would reach into Madison County for precincts, taking some now represented by Napier.
Some precincts in eastern Madison County would become part of a district that includes Estill, Lee and Breathitt counties. It is represented by Rep. Teddy Edmonds, D-Jackson.
Precincts in southern Madison County would be added to the district of Rep. Danny Ford, R-Mt. Vernon, who now represents Rockcastle, Lincoln and part of Pulaski counties.
At a joint meeting of the Madison Fiscal Court with the governing bodies of Richmond and Berea on Nov. 16, Judge/Executive Kent Clark, who said he had seen the plan, expressed his concern about the potential loss of Napier and fragmentation of the county into multiple districts.
After losing two other senior lawmakers, to lose Napier and have some precincts parceled out to two other districts would further diminish Madison County’s influence in the legislature, Clark said. He asked the municipal leaders to use their influence to keep most of Madison County in Napier’s district.
Because Madison County fared so well when represented by Moberly and Worley, some observers have speculated the county would now be made to pay for those gains with diminished influence.
That is not the case, according to Rep. Bob Damon, D-Nicholasville, named by the House leadership to draft a redistricting plan.
Because of its population growth, new district lines could facilitate the election of a second legislator who lives in Madison County, he said. And, having House members associated with the county could strengthen its legislative influence.
Whatever the outcome, the plan is very much in flux, Damon said, because proposals from the eastern Kentucky caucus have yet to be received.
Joining Garrard with Lincoln County to form a legislative district is attractive because their combined population fits the ideal size for the state’s 100 districts, he said. And, one goal of the redistricting effort is to avoid splitting counties.
Also, US 27 runs north-south through Garrard and Lincoln, linking their economies, Damon said.
Napier said he would not be harmed politically if associated with Lincoln County, but he would like to keep his association with Madison County.
“I know the people of Madison County, and they know me,” he said. “We trust each other, and we have unfinished business.”
Among his accomplishments as a legislator, Napier said, was helping get the first phase of the Berea Bypass constructed and funds appropriated for widening of Berea Road from the Eastern Bypass to the US 25/421 junction. He also has helped get funding for rural water and sewer projects in the county.
“We got those projects funded as a team,” he said, being careful to give credit them to Madison County’s legislative delegation.
Napier said he would like to retain his association with Madison County to help get the second phase of the Berea Bypass funded and as well as widening of US 25 from its junction with US 421 to the Berea Bypass. Also, the second phase of Eastern Kentucky University’s new science building remains unfunded.
Although they were elected from different parties, Napier said he was happy to join Moberly, Worley and former Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester, in getting state projects funded for Madison County.
Since the 2010 election, which saw state Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, and Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, come to office, the Madison County delegation has only one Democrat.
The delegation continues to put party affiliation aside and works for the county’s interest, Napier said.
“People are sick and tired of partisan bickering,” he said, adding that he has always had cordial relations with Democratic governors and House leaders.
The draft redistricting plan was drawn to accommodate population shifts and not aimed at either him or Madison County, Napier said. Still, it could have the effect of diminishing the county’s influence.
Clark agreed, saying the plan was only a preliminary draft and likely would change after consultation with the Senate. The other chamber is controlled by the Republicans.
Smart said her district has grown in population and would have to shrink geographically. About 2,000 of her current constituents would have to be given to another district.
Under the preliminary redistricting plan, Smart’s district would retain three Berea precincts that traditionally vote Democratic.
Smart said she liked representing both municipalities because like Napier and Moberly before her, she thinks of herself as representing the interests of the entire county and not just portions of it.
The House of Representative leadership did not ask the governor to convene a special session of the legislature to redraw legislative and congressional district lines, Damon said, because Republicans in the House opposed it.
That will put pressure on the legislature, which convenes Jan. 4, to act before the candidate filing deadline Jan. 31.
Damon said he expected congressional redistricting to be a more difficult issue.
Constituents may call a toll-free number, 1-800-372-7181, to express opinions about the pending legislation, including the redistricting plan, Napier said.