Senate leaders discuss redistricting, political landscape ahead of 2022 session

Redistricting was a hot topic between Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer and Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, who spoke to Kentucky’s political landscape heading into 2022 at the Kentucky Chamber’s Legislative Preview Conference, in a panel moderated by Kentucky Chamber Vice President of Communications Jacqueline Pitts.

While the two leaders on opposite sides regularly trade blows on the Senate floor and in political forum discussions such as the one Friday in Lexington, the two are well-known friends and make for an entertaining conversation each time they take the stage together.

The discussion started with a nonpartisan tone when Pitts kicked off the conversation by mentioning the deadly tornadoes that ravished through the western part of the state one week prior.

“No matter how much you try to prepare for something like this you can’t. There was just so much devastation,” McGarvey said. “A lot of people are paying attention to this right now. These communities won’t be rebuilt in a couple of months. This will take a continued response from caring Kentuckians and the government to help these people who are suffering.”

Thayer echoed McGarvey’s sentiment, adding that “politics should stop at the water’s edge.”

On the subject of redistricting, the majority leader said the Senate was “pretty much done” with its map.

“We’ve reached out to Morgan (McGarvey) for his input on a number of districts,” Thayer said. “I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. We’re not going to put anybody together. Some people will have major changes to their districts in areas where population has declined. People are moving between interstates, which means overhauls to some of the districts. We’ll look to tackle this in the first week of the 2022 session.”

McGarvey added that redistricting is a difficult process that will “upset people on both sides.”

Thayer, a Republican, spoke to the prospectus of a “red wave” at the Congressional level, which he hoped would translate down to the state level in Kentucky House and Senate districts.

“We feel pretty good going into this cycle; Everyone knows the first mid-term the President’s party does poorly,” Thayer said. “Four years ago was a really tough cycle for us; we probably should’ve lost some seats then but we didn’t.”

Thayer also pointed to the fact that voter registration numbers in Kentucky have been trending Republican for a number of years, while McGarvey suggested that no one really knows what the political landscape could look like in November of 2022.

“What you’re going to see in legislature is not a lot of change in the Senate,” McGarvey said. “But I think Dems could gain a few seats in the state house, depending on what the maps look like.”

While McGarvey and Thayer are known for trading jabs over politics, the mood in the room softened further in the end when the two discussed the potential of McGarvey leaving the state senate at the end of the year. The minority leader has filed to run for Congress in Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District.

“I’m gonna miss you man,” Thayer sincerely told his counterpart.

“No offense Damon, but I really hope I leave,” McGarvey responded with a laugh, adding he is “running to win” in his congressional race.

“We have a good relationship because we both try not take things personally,” McGarvey added. “While we disagree on a lot of issues, I know Damon’s beliefs are sincere, and he knows mine are as well.”

The two leaders will serve at least one more legislative session together in the Senate, which begins on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.

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Manager of Public Affairs, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

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