The Lexington council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss a proposed redistricting map that includes moving nearly 50,000 voters into new council districts.
It’s not clear if the council will make changes to the proposed map approved by a committee of 15 people who were appointed by the 15 council members. The group met for several months but started meeting in earnest in mid-August when the U.S. Census Bureau released final population numbers for Lexington.
The council on Thursday voted narrowly 8 to 6 to move the map forward without any changes to the committee’s proposed map, despite grumbling by some council members about some of the proposed changes.
Now, two members of that redistricting committee may be considering a run for council.
Brenda Monarrez, who represented Council District 4 on the committee, has filed paperwork with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to now run in District 4. Incumbent Councilwoman Susan Lamb announced last month that she would not run for re-election. Monarrez filed in mid-November, after the committee had sent its proposed changes to the council for its review in late October.
Under the proposed map, District 4 is one of the districts with the most changes. That district lost precincts between the University of Kentucky Arboretum and New Circle Road and gained precincts south of Man O’ War, making it a suburban district.
Monarrez did not immediately return an email or phone call.
Lamb said she choose Monarrez because of her interest in government. Lamb wanted someone who would be engaged in the process. It was not based on politics.
“I have not been partisan in my seven years,” Lamb said.
Rock Daniels, who represented District 2 on the committee, has not yet filed paperwork but said he is considering running in either District 11 or District 2, depending on the final map. Meadowthorpe, where Daniels lives, was moved from District 2 to District 11 under the committee’s final recommendation.
Daniels said he did not propose moving his neighborhood or precinct from Council District 2 to Council District 11.
“The representative or appointee from Council District 11 made that proposed change,” Daniels said. The thought was to bring the area around the Distillery District into District 11. Part of those precincts, which cover a large geographic area, include part of Meadowthorpe.
Daniels said the changes were driven by math, not politics. The districts have to be within five percent of the optimal district size of 26,881. Because certain council districts needed more population, it created a cascading affect on neighboring districts.
The committee’s proposed changes would move 46 precincts into new council districts and affect 48,803 voters.
The Council Districts with the most changes include Council District 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11. All city races in Lexington are non-partisan.
No prohibition on committee members running for office
Vice Mayor Steve Kay, whose office helps oversee the redistricting process, said council appointees to the committee are not necessarily required to abstain from running.
“There definitely is encouragement to seek people who do not want to run,” Kay said. “But there is no prohibition.”
Don Todd, who was on the redistricting committee and has served on previous redistricting committees, said Monarrez or Daniels did not influence the committee’s efforts to redraw the lines or the final proposal. Todd, who is also a former council member, said he is not aware of a member of prior redistricting committees later running for office after helping to redraw the lines in the past 10 years.
“They really didn’t have any affect on those districts,” Todd said. District 4 had to move south due to population changes in other council districts. That was the only way the map could work and still be within the per council district population goal. The same was true to changes to District 2 and District 11.
“It was really community and group-wide decision. We were trying to follow the guidelines and the seven points the staff gave us,” Todd said.
The group also didn’t want to move a sitting council member out of their current district, which also meant some possible changes to those council boundaries were off the table, Todd said.
“I really think it is an objective process,” Todd said. “ It’s based on the numbers.”
Daniels said the committee was also trying not to dilute minority voting strength. The council currently only has one Black council member -- Councilman James Brown, who represents District 1 but has announced he will run for an at-large seat, which is a city-wide race.
“We hope that we will see more minorities run for office,” Daniels said. Daniels has previously run for council. He ran unsuccessfully in Council District 3 in 2014 and 2012, when he lived in that district. Daniels said he’s still not sure if he will run for office at all.
The council has until April 2022 to approve the boundaries. However, Kay and others have said they would like to have a final map approved this week, before the council goes on its winter break. Many people have filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to begin raising money for council district races. However, to file with the Fayette County Clerk’s office, which would make their candidacy official, candidates need to get 100 signatures of voters in the district. Those candidates can’t do that until they know the council district boundaries.
That’s no small thing.
In prior years, several council candidates have challenged the validity of an opponent’s voter signatures.
Council members who voted to move the redistricting map to the council’s agenda on Thursday: Kay, James Brown, Richard Moloney, Susan Lamb, Kathy Plomin, Liz Sheehan David Kloibert and Hannah LeGris. Those who voted against: Amanda Bledsoe, Jennifer Reynolds, Josh McCurn, Preston Worley, Fred Brown and Chuck Ellinger.
Residents can plug in their address in a map at www.lexingtonky.gov/redistricting-lexington to see if they would be moved to a different council district. To find out more about the redistricting process, go to www.lexingtonky.gov/redistricting-lexington. Residents can verify the name of their current voting precinct at https://fayettecountyclerk.com/web/elections/votingLocations.htm.