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State Legislative Lines Thrown into Limbo

A state senator elected to represent Creve Coeur could end up representing Southwest Missouri instead.

Editor's Note: This week, Creve Coeur Patch debuts our Political Potpourri column, a look at some of the big stories in electoral politics impacting our community at the state and federal level. We'll put the big stories in perspective and offer up some nuggets about what's coming down the pike. 

One of the more important developments in Missouri’s 2012 election cycle occurred this week through inaction.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Commissions tasked with drawing new state legislative districts had to officially give up to propel the process to the courts.

But a lack of progress on the issue ensures that Missouri’s state House and Senate seats will be drawn by a panel of judges, as opposed to a commission of active politicos. That means potential and incumbent candidates—including some in St. Louis—won’t know the lines on their particular battlefield quite yet.

The deadlock is not particularly surprising. Unlike congressional redistricting—which —state legislative redistricting is conducted by a pair of commissions that respectively draw House and Senate lines. Each commission is equally split between Democrats and Republicans, which means one party would have had to capitulate royally in order for the other side to obtain necessary votes. From the looks of preliminary proposals, compromise or capitulation was highly unlikely.

House commissions featured Democratic and Republican proposals that pitted opposing incumbent state representatives against each other. And while the Republican Senate map kept the map largely static, a Democratic proposal would have markedly changed the St. Louis area’s composition.

That included, but was not limited to, effectively moving the central St. Louis County district of Sen. John Lamping (R-Ladue), which includes Creve Coeur to southwest Missouri.

St. Louis Public Radio reported earlier this week that dissolving Lamping’s area was one of the main reasons the Senate commission deadlocked.

“My senator, whom I worked hard to elect, all of a sudden is going to represent not me, but people in Stone and Barry counties...that is just wrong," Creve Coeur resident and Senate commission member John Maupin told Marshall Griffin of St. Louis Public Radio.

Lamping’s re-election prospects are not going to be easy, even if his district remains the same. The 24th state Senate District he represents includes numerous Democratic-leaning bastions such as Richmond Heights, Olivette and Creve Coeur. Regardless of what his district looks like, he won’t be up for election until 2014. And Lamping told the St. Louis Beacon he will remain in the Senate regardless of what his district looks like.

In any case, the Missouri Constitution stipulates that "a commission of six members appointed from among the judges of the appellate courts of the state of Missouri by the state supreme court" shall be responsible for drawing the districts.

Some Democrats assumed that since Judge Richard Teitelman—a Democratic appointee—is slated to become the next chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, they may have an advantage. But court spokeswoman Beth Riggert told me earlier this year that “who is chief
justice at the time any reapportionment commission is appointed will have no practical bearing on the appointment of members.”

“So as with any other court order, the chief justice will be just one of seven votes for any action of the court as a whole to identify members of the reapportionment commission,” Riggert said.

It should be noted that Democratic appointees will outnumber Republicans on the court by a 4-3 margin by the time a commission is selected.  

GRAVES TO PERRY: I'M WITH YOU

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the presidential race arguably overshadowed the Iowa straw poll, a nonbinding but closely watched pseudo-fundraiser won by U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota).

And at least one notable Missouri political figure is standing in Perry’s proverbial corner. The Beacon reported this week that U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, endorsed Perry’s campaign for president.

While Graves lives as far from the St. Louis area as any lawmaker imaginable, he possesses a well-tested political organization that could assist Perry in wading through the Show Me State.

It’s still early in the process, but it wouldn’t be particularly surprising if Perry and Bachmann compete for the more rural parts of the Show Me State while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tries to capture votes in places such as St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

It’s worth noting that Romney won St. Charles County, Jackson County and Boone County in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. And it’s an open question whether Perry or Bachmann will be able to make inroads in St. Louis County, a development that may determine who conquers the Show Me State next year.

The date of the presidential primary, by the way, is still up in the air. A bill that would move the primary from February to March will be included in a special session of the legislature expected to take place in September.

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