Escambia senate seat likely to go to GOP

Published 4:06 pm Sunday, May 27, 2012

A legislative redistricting plan approved by the state legislature in the wee hours of Thursday morning drastically changes Senate District 22, which includes Escambia County.

Gov. Robert Bentley has said he will likely sign the redistricting plans passed this week. The legislature is required to redraw district lines after each U.S. Census.

The plan approved this week was sharply criticized by Democrats, like Escambia County’s Sen. Marc Keahey of Grove Hill. The Democrats said the lines were drawn to make it almost impossible for white Democrats to get elected.

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The plan puts most of the district’s population in Baldwin County, which is predominantly white and Republican. Keahey told the state media earlier this week, “I couldn’t imagine it being worse than what it is for … Marc Keahey or for the constituents that I represent now,” Keahey said.

Senate District 22 currently encompasses all or part of eight counties: Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Washington. When Senate District 22 was drawn in 2001, Escambia County accounted for the largest portion of the district’s population, more than 29 percent, and two additional counties contributed more population than did Baldwin, which had 14 percent of the district’s more than 132,000 citizens.

The new plan keeps Keahey’s district in the same eight counties but pushes it well south into Baldwin County, making that county the district’s biggest population base, representing more than 32 percent of the district’s residents. The new plan also changes the racial makeup of the district, with the percentage of black residents dropping from 28.4 percent to 21.5 percent.

The final plan was approved just before dawn on Thursday. Keahey could not be reached for comment on Friday, but said earlier in the week he wasn’t sure whether or not he would run again. He has no plans to switch to the Republican party, he said.

In the redistricting plan for the House, Escambia County will still be part of more than one district.

The eastern-most part of the county falls into the district 92, a seat currently held by Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia. The remaining part of the county is in District 66, currently held by Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton. Baker’s district also includes a portion of Baldwin County.