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September 12, 2013

Clark County Council districts redrawn, again

Commissioners vote 2-1 to ‘compact’ districts; Perkins calls action ‘purely political’

CLARK COUNTY — The district maps for the 2014 Clark County Council race have changed again, for better or worse. And that depends on who’s asked.

The Clark County Commissioners approved a redesigned council district map Thursday on a 2-1 vote. The Republican commissioners who supported the move said they did it to “compact” the districts, but Democrat Commissioner John Perkins called it a “purely political” move to help Republicans on the council.

“Whatever anybody says, tonight’s decision was purely political, and that’s to keep Brian [Lenfert] and [Danny Yost] from running against one another. That’s my opinion,” Perkins said.

Commissioners President Jack Coffman acknowledged that Lenfert and Yost would be primary opponents in District 2 under the redistricting done by former commissioners Ed Meyer, Les Young and Mike Moore in 2010, and that the new map would keep Yost and Lenfert separated. But he said the move to modify the maps was to correct a mistake made by the prior administration.

“We just determined because they were fragmented and everything, and we wanted to make them more compact, and this was the period of time that we could do it before [the end of] this year, so we went ahead and did it at this point,” Coffman said. “And also, we did it because of what was done previously last year by the previous administration, they did split two council people into the same district.”

The move will provide clarity to voters as to who represents their district, Coffman said.

Clark County Democratic Party Chairman Bob Bottorff said in an email to the News and Tribune that the move was made to benefit Lenfert, who represents Council District 2.

“Apparently, Lenfert was a major contributor to at least one of the commissioners’ campaign finance committee,” Bottorff wrote.

Lenfert acknowledged he had contributed to the campaign of Clark County Commissioner Rick Stephenson, but said he was unsure of the amount and would have to refer to his checkbook and Stephenson’s campaign finance report to confirm how much he gave him.

Stephenson supplied the News and Tribune with a copy of his campaign finance form, which shows Lenfert contributed $200 to his campaign. In the column showing cumulative contributions, the number listed is $2,000, but the total at the bottom of the column is $1,900.

“It’s an extra zero,” Stephenson said. Stephenson joked that he wished someone would have given him $2,000 for his campaign

Though he was not a commissioner in 2010 when the maps were redrawn, Perkins said there was nothing malicious about the previous commissioners’ move to put Yost and Lenfert in the same district.

“The commissioners did not intentionally split anybody’s districts,” Perkins said.

Lenfert acknowledged that he would no longer be in the position of having to run in a primary against a fellow Republican council member, but said the map did him no favors, noting that traditionally Republican precincts in Sellersburg and the north end of Clarksville had been removed from his district, while parts of Jeffersonville were added to his district in the new map.

“Which [district map] looks more gerrymandered?” Lenfert asked. “Which one looks more Republican?”

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