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A senator potentially without a district, Cunningham weighs her options

11:15 am on Mon, 02.27.12

With her 7th state Senate district redrawn, and moved across the state to Kansas City, Sen. Jane Cunningham says she is keeping her options open.

The Chesterfield Republican says she will “probably” run for office in 2012 -– even it means running against fellow GOP lawmakers.

“I’ve still got a lot to give this state, and I’m not ready to hang it up yet,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham was the lawmaker most affected by a map released last week by a bipartisan commission. The latest redistricting plan left Cunningham with limited options if she wants to stay in the state Senate. Not only was her district moved to Kansas City, but her home was placed in state Sen. Brian Nieves’ 26th District.

Jane Cunningham
Jane Cunningham

If she wanted to remain in the legislature after the 2012 election, Cunningham would have to jump into a primary against state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale. Or she could run against Nieves during the 2014 election cycle in a district that lumps western St. Louis County with Franklin County.

Cunningham said her preference would be for the commission to change course during a 15-day waiting period -- and to adopt the most recent Appellate Apportionment Commission map that moved the 27th District from southeast Missouri to an area combining western St. Louis County and northern Jefferson County.

Cunningham has already been campaigning in Jefferson County. On Sunday afternoon, she said, she had just left an event supporting state representative candidates there.

If the latest map ends up being finalized, Cunningham said she’ll keep her options open.

“I’m not focused on that yet, although it is on the back burner,” Cunningham said. “Obviously, there are primaries I can choose to run in with my colleagues. I don’t want to do that, but that’s an option. Also, there are statewide offices, even federal. So, I would not at this point take anything off the table.”

Cunningham wasn’t the only St. Louis lawmaker affected by the new map. State Sen. Jim Lembke’s residence was placed in a more Democratic district. State Sen. John Lamping’s 24th District became more Republican, while state Sen. Joe Keaveny’s 4th District has fewer black residents.

In the end, Cunningham said the dizzying dance from map to map shows that the redistricting process for the state legislature “doesn’t work very well.” Not only is it confusing for officeholders and potential candidates, she said, but also for voters. Filing starts tomorrow, even though the boundaries for many state and federal districts up for grabs aren’t finalized.

And Cunningham said it’s possible that the new map will spark more litigation -– and cost.

“There are some definite partisan, fairness and numbers questions with regard to the present map that may not be constitutional,” Cunningham said. “So you’ve got several problems out there that could cause continuous litigation and cost and delay that weren’t really necessary.”

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