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‘Courts are not our friends’: Onder, Shaul congressional redistricting debate sets stage for next week

Republican lawmakers set the stage for what is expected to be a contentious congressional redistricting debate next week as Sen. Bob Onder and Rep. Dan Shaul traded barbs over the House’s proposed map Thursday night.

Onder has been vocal on social media and on the Senate floor about his disproval of the House map which would favor Republicans with six of the eight congressional districts. The Conservative Caucus member has argued lawmakers should draw a 7-1 map, essentially eliminating Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s seat.

During Thursday night’s event hosted by the St. Louis Young Republicans, Shaul defended his work as the chairman of the House Special Committee on Redistricting. He argued removing Cleaver’s seat could be considered racially-based gerrymandering. 

Onder said this week in the Missouri Legislature was “one of the worst weeks in Missouri history,” decrying what he says were lies told about the redistricting process and a 7-1 map that failed on the House floor. He said another “failure” of the map was not redrawing the 1st congressional district to be more favorable to a “less insane Democrat than Cori Bush.” 

“It comes down to one thing: Missouri is a red state that voted for Donald Trump by 15 points. Number two: We have Republican supermajorities in … the Senate and the House. And number three: We have a Republican governor,” Onder said. “Do we want to send more liberal Democrats who will support Nancy Pelosi’s anti-gun, anti-life, anti-election integrity, pro-socialist radical agenda, or do we want to send more pro-life Republicans, pro-gun Republicans, Republicans who will support Donald J. Trump’s ‘make America great again’ agenda?” 

The House’s proposed congressional redistricting map passed out of the lower chamber in an 86-67 vote on Jan. 19.

Onder said he’s been critical of “rank and file Republicans” who voted for the House bill. On the floor earlier this week, he said the map was supported by “lemmings ready to run over the side of the cliff to their own destruction.” 

But Shaul maintained the 6-2 map is “fair” and ensured Kansas City will elect more moderate Democrats. A 7-1 map, especially one that could be considered to have gerrymandered based on race, would most likely end up in court — and Missouri could be left with a map even less favorable to Republicans. 

“I along with the General Assembly would be forfeiting and surrendering our responsibility to draw a map. As a conservative, I’m not willing to take that chance,” Shaul said. 

Onder and Shaul went back-and-forth over the legal prowess of House and Senate attorneys who have been consulted during the redistricting process. 

“I’m not here to argue with you. I’m here to tell you the process in the House. I wish you all the luck with the process in the Senate. I’m not going to tell you how to do your business in the Senate. I never have and I never will,” Shaul said. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden has indicated his support for a 6-2 map. On social media Thursday, he criticized former Gov. Eric Greitens, who is running for U.S. Senate, after he said the legislature needed to pass a 7-1 map. 

Greitens “could have had an actual role in this process as governor, but he quit on the people of Missouri. Missouri needs fighters … not quitters,” Rowden said. 

But at least Thursday’s debate in St. Louis ended with a bit of levity: Rep. Jim Murphy, who sat in the middle of the panel, was presented with a birthday cake.