TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – A recent video that shows Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle talking about redistricting has spurred controversy online. Critics said it is a prime example of gerrymandering.
In a clip taken from a video posted on Sept. 25, Wagle speaks to the Wichita Pachyderm Club about redistricting around 19 minutes in. She discussed the need for a Republican majority to redraw district maps, and to make it harder for Congresswoman Sharice Davids to keep her seat.
Democrats across Kansas are slamming Wagle for putting party over Kansans. Some users reacted to the video on Twitter, calling the GOP leader’s statement “blatant partisanship” and accusing leaders of using redistricting to “sway elections.” It gained traction after being put on Twitter by Davis Hammet here.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley expressed disdain for Wagle’s comments and said he hopes more power is given to the people.
“The people should pick the voice in who represents them, as opposed to legislators picking their own voters,” Hensley said.
Gov. Laura Kelly has called for the creation of a non-partisan commission to draw new legislative and congressional districts.
Redistricting currently happens every 10 years and is done by lawmakers. If Republicans can keep their supermajority in the state legislature this year, they may be able to override the governor if she doesn’t like how districts are drawn in 2022.
Republicans hold a three seat advantage for a supermajority in the Senate and just one seat in the House. If Republicans lose those seats, Democrats could side with the governor to make sure Republicans don’t get there way.
“Then they can uphold Governor Kelly’s veto of any gerrymander, and force a compromise,” said University of Kansas Political Science Professor Patrick Miller. “Our legislative elections this year will have huge implications for this.”
Wagle said the video is being taken out of context. The governor is trying to get Democrats elected and to turn districts blue, and that she’s within reason to push for her party’s candidates.
“I’m the Senate President. I’m a Republican, and I’m working very hard to get Republicans elected all throughout Kansas,” Wagle said.
A statement obtained from the Kansas Republican Party in response to Wagle’s remarks follows.
“We are a majority Republican state. If Kansans want fair maps that reflect the will of that majority, they should and will vote Republican on November 3rd. Those who want maps drawn specifically to protect Sharice Davids and Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are the ones pushing for partisan gerrymandering. The voters will decide who should make these decisions, and any suggestion that a duly-elected supermajority could somehow undermine the will of the people is laughable,” said GOP Spokesperson CJ Grover.
The Kansas Democratic Party response follows.
“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 Democratic Party Chair Vicki Hiatt. “This video is a cynical and extremely disappointing display of the extremist, obstructionist politics that have marked Republican leadership in the Kansas Legislature, but it crystallizes the truth: Kansans can no longer trust them to fight for our best interests.”
Wagle, though the current head of the Senate, will not have a role in redistricting in future years as she is not seeking re-election.