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Grant keeps Thayer, Linder

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By Bryan Marshall

Grant County came away unscathed in the redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly in the recently ended special session.

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Residents in Grant County will continue to be represented by Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge and Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown in the plan signed by Gov. Steve Beshear.

However, the total area which the legislators will represent has changed.

In the 61st district, Linder will no longer be representing Owen and Gallatin counties.
His constituents will include all of Grant County, along with parts of Scott, Kenton and Boone counties.

“The district changed from kind of a east-west district to a north-south district,” Linder said. “Grant County really is the anchor of the district. It’s the most populated. This district will have 10,000 people in Kenton County, 1,600 in Boone and 8,000 in Scott County and then 24,000 in Grant County. This pretty much assures that the state representative from the 61st district will probably be from Grant County over the next eight years. That’s the good news out of this.”

In the 17th district, Thayer will also lose Owen County, along with four precincts in Kenton County.
He will representing all of Scott and Grant County, as well as part of southern Kenton County.

“I was very pleased with the Senate plan,” Thayer said.
“It was non-partisan. We didn’t play any political games. We didn’t put any incumbents together. I had to leave Owen County because my district has grown so much that I had to shed about 13,000 people. Ten thousand people live in Owen County.”

Linder was one of 17 representatives who voted against the House redistricting plan in its first vote.
Eighteen legislators voted against the plan in the second vote after the Senate’s redistricting plan was added.
Linder said it is still possible the courts could throw out the House map.

“If you look, the six top populated districts are all in northern Kentucky, including the 61st district,” he said. “There is a magic number that’s 43,000 (residents) and some change. The court has said you can be plus or minus 5 percent over the magic number. Not only did they slice up the 61st district to keep another district from coming into northern Kentucky, they squeezed as many Republicans into those six districts as possible. If you look at my district based on 2010 Census numbers, those five districts are all at 4.98 or 4.99 percent of the deviation.”

After looking at population estimates from 2012 Census data, Linder said his district has already grown to almost 6 percent over the magic 43,000 constituent number.
“My concern is that over the next eight years before we do redistricting again these northern Kentucky districts are going to be way out of whack,” he said. “They’re going to be around the 50,000 mark. Redistricting is based on an American principle of equal representation. If you’ve got a district that has a whole lot more constituents in it than another district, that’s not equal representation. It dilutes their voice.”

Thayer agrees that the House plan was more interested in politics than equal representation.
“I did vote for the (Senate) plan, but I did it under the objection to the House plan,” he said. “I thought many of the decisions the House Democrats made were overtly partisan and just flat-out wrong. They divided Georgetown in three districts within a block of each other. They did that in six or seven places throughout the state where they kept high-growth, Republican areas and split them up into multiple districts. I think the plan was overtly partisan and I hope they pay a price for it in the election next year.”

The best solution would have been to come up with a forward thinking plan, said Linder.
His plan would have been to put fast-growing districts under the 43,000-citizen mark so they grow into the number while putting more people in districts that have seen a population decrease.
“That would be smart to do, but often time in Frankfort, commonsense is checked at the door and we let politics get in the way,” Linder said.

Unlike other counties and cities across the state, Thayer said Grant County residents were fortunate that they were not divided up into multiple districts in the House plan.
In the end, Thayer said Grant County is in a strong position with its legislative leaders.

“Rep. Linder is a rising star in the Republican party,” Thayer said. “He’s extremely well thought of in the Capitol. He’s earned a great deal of respect in a short time. I hope Grant County is pleased that I’ll continue to represent them in Frankfort. I’m the Majority Floor Leader now and I think that’s a really good thing for Grant County. I don’t know if Grant County has ever been represented by a member of leadership in the Senate or the House.”