JEFFERSON CITY - A leading St. Louis County conservative in the Missouri Senate has filed for office in the heart of Kansas City, after the new state Senate map moved her district across the state.
Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, filed for the 2012 election in her current Senate seat Tuesday, despite her district being moved across the state. The new seventh district includes the urban core of Kansas City and is currently represented by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City.
As candidate filing began Tuesday, Cunningham said she may launch a legal challenge to the new Senate map, but filed in her old district anyway. Her only opponent so far is Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.
"I think I will do whatever is necessary to make sure it is constitutional," Cunningham said about the map.
The new Senate map was released by a bi-partisan commission appointed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. The map does not become final until March 12, when the commission has to take another vote for its adoption.
Cunningham's term expires in 2012 and can only run in an odd-numbered district. Her house has been drawn into Sen. Brian Nieves', R-Washington, district, but Nieves is not up for reelection until 2014.
"I am not drawn anywhere. I am in nowhere land," Cunningham said.
Uncertainty surrounding the map has affected other Senate races as well.
Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, has yet to file for her primary challenge in an urban St. Louis City district against Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, because of the map. The commission's map drew Nasheed's house one block outside of the fifth district, currently held by Wright-Jones.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, also saw his district become more Democratic-leaning under the commission's map and has yet to file in the new district.
"There are still a lot of uncertainties, as for whether this is a final version of the map that we will be running in and I will keep all my options open," Lembke said.
Cunningham and Lembke led the fight in the Senate to maintain Tuesday's start to candidate filing in hopes that if state Senate candidates had to file in uncertain districts, the bi-partisan commission may reconsider their map. The General Assembly had attempted to push filing back to the end of March to provide time to settle the maps. The U.S. and Missouri House maps are currently pending before the Missouri Supreme Court.
Earlier this month the Missouri Supreme Court threw out the Senate maps drawn by a panel of appellate court judges after the first commission failed to reach an agreement. The appellate commission submitted two maps, which were both thrown out by the Supreme Court restarting the process.
Cunningham has been a leading conservative voice for education and health care. She was first elected to Missouri's House in 2000 and chaired the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee from 2003-2008. She was elected to the Senate in 2008.
She is currently pushing for an education bill, which would create a tax credit for students living in a failing school district to attend a private school. She was also the sponsor of a 2010 ballot proposition attempting to block the federal health care law's implementation in Missouri.
Lembke was elected to the state House in 2002 and then again to the Senate in 2008. Lembke has been the leader in an effort to return federal stimulus dollars.
The Missouri primary is August 7.
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