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Senate’s redistricting fight begins with conservative rally

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Fresh off a victory defeating the confirmation of Missouri’s health director, conservative senators and their allies rallied in the Capitol Monday ahead of what is expected to be a contentious redistricting debate in the upper chamber

Conservatives have launched a crusade against a proposed congressional redistricting map that has already passed out of the House and a Senate committee. 

Supporters of that map say it favors Republicans with six of the eight congressional seats. Detractors aren’t that confident — and are fiercely advocating for a proposal that would give Republicans seven seats. 

“Are we fighting fire with fire here in Missouri? We should be, but no,” said Sen. Bob Onder, a Conservative Caucus member, pointing to Democrats’ efforts in bluer states to cut out GOP-held seats. 

“A few weeks ago, the House passed out what I call the ‘Pelosi map,’” Onder continued, referencing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Some of my Republican colleagues don’t like me saying that, and I promised them over the weekend I wouldn’t say it, but I’m saying it today. This is the Pelosi map, it is the RINO map, it is the sellout map. It is the bought-and-paid-for map. It is the insider, Jefferson City swamp map. We cannot give away 1-2 congressional seats to Nancy Pelosi and the congressional Democrats.” 

RINO is a pejorative that means “Republican in name only.” 

A protestor holds a sign in favor of a congressional redistricting map that would favor Republicans with seven out of the eight seats. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

About 100 people gathered in the Capitol Monday morning outside of Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office, hoisting signs and donning burgundy stickers that said 7-1. 

Ashcroft, too, addressed the demonstrators Monday morning to encourage them in their efforts. 

Several rallygoers decried Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, alleging they were not conservative leaders, and celebrated the defeat of the governor’s pick to lead the health department. 

Last week, many of the same conservative senators and activists protested against Donald Kauerauf, who has a lengthy career in public health and safety in neighboring Illinois and had been leading the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) since September. Ultimately, senators declined to confirm him, and Kauerauf resigned

Sen. Mike Moon, who led a filibuster in opposition to Kauerauf, received thunderous applause from those gathered for a 7-1 map. 

The Senate was scheduled to convene at noon Monday, but as of 3:30 p.m., Republican members were still caucusing. 

“What’s at stake today is not territory. What’s at stake today is not some far-off foreign land. What’s at stake today is your freedoms,” Sen. Bill Eigel said. “What’s at stake today is whether or not Missouri is going to join the rest of the country in pushing back against Joe Biden and all of the other crazies in Washington, D.C.” 

Although most of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates have publicly come out in support of a 7-1 map — including Congressman Billy Long and former Gov. Eric Greitens — it was attorney Mark McCloskey who attended Monday’s rally. He shook hands with demonstrators and sat front and center during the speeches. 

“I think [a 7-1 map] reflects the true nature of Missouri,” McCloskey told The Missouri Times. “The left, in places where it can, is gerrymandering Republicans out of office.” 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft speaks to demonstrators in support of a 7-1 map. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

A compromise is said to be in the works that would “strengthen” the 2nd congressional district for Republicans and tweak the 1st congressional district which Congresswoman Cori Bush, a progressive, represents. 

St. Charles Republicans, including Eigel and Onder, have wanted that county to be in one congressional district as opposed to splitting it between two as it is now. 

The only changes that have been made to the original proposal were keeping Ray County intact and using the Missouri River as a natural boundary to put Carroll and Chariton counties in the 6th congressional district.