To the editor:
Having served our district since 2013, I have weathered numerous attacks over the course of several elections.
Never have I felt it necessary to respond to claims made by opponents through local news outlets. However, the new borders of our district have brought in many new constituents I have not yet had the pleasure of getting to know, so I hope this letter answers any questions readers might have.
The first matter I’d like to take up is redistricting. Every 10 years, the House and Senate are charged with drawing their own districts, as well as the district boundaries for the State Board of Education and our state’s seats in Congress.
My opponent has indicated he was drawn out of the district. When I first filed to run in 2012, I filed in the 68th District, knowing the district could change. It did indeed change, as redistricting then put me in the 70th District. I chose to continue living in my longtime home in the new 70th District rather than picking up and moving just to run for the 68th District.
While I am a member of the House Redistricting Committee, the changes to the 70th District favor a challenger rather than giving me an advantage. About 20% of the district is new to me.
Redistricting comes down to numbers. Because of population shifts, western Kansas lost two districts, which had to be shifted to Johnson County. The 70th District lost about 2,500 people in the past decade, and our surrounding districts were in the same boat. Because of these population shifts, the 70th District lost a handful of townships in Dickinson County and another in Clay County, while gaining significant new territory to the south.
The changes to the 70th District are the norm, not the exception. In fact, the map that became law resulted in 124 of the 125 House districts in the state changing. After passage, the maps went to the courts for review, and the Kansas Supreme Court found that the maps met the various legal requirements and approved them as they were passed.
Now I would like to move on to the topic of the Value Them Both constitutional amendment. In 2016, my colleagues and I passed a law banning gruesome dismemberment abortions. That law went to the courts, where it was declared unconstitutional under the Kansas Constitution. That ruling put every reasonable regulation on abortion in serious danger and made Value Them Both essential.
I assisted with drafting the amendment and introduced the resolution in the House through the Fed and State Committee, which I chair. It now will go before the voters for ratification.
For the last decade, nearly every pro-life bill has gone through the committee I chair. I have never heard from my opponent on pro-life issues. I hope he is the advocate for life that he says he is.
Rep. John Barker, Abilene
Last modified June 23, 2022