By NICK GOSNELL
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Emporia State University political scientist Michael Smith noted the significant wins by Republicans statewide based on Tuesday night's early returns, but it was one race that wasn't close on the other side that caught his attention.
"The big story with Kansas is the bluing of Johnson County," Smith said. "This is a county that Trump won by two in 2016. Last I saw, Biden is winning it by eight and Sharice Davids was reelected to Congress easily. We did not see a similar pattern in Sedgwick County, which voted pretty heavily Republican."
Davids won her race over Amanda Adkins by nine points, and won Johnson County by six points. Smith notes that it would be a challenge to redraw district maps in a way to make the seat more competitive, though Republicans look to have enough control in the state legislature, if they want to try.
"With regards to Sharice Davids, they're going to have a dilemma," Smith said. "It looks like the only way they can gerrymander her out is to crack Johnson County and that's going to meet massive resistance from the county that has the most voters, the most people and the most wealth in the state."
Republicans could take the strategy of packing the district, in other words, acknowledging that Davids will likely be safe and redrawing the second congressional district to make it more safe for Jake LaTurner, who just won his first term over Topeka mayor Michelle De La Isla, despite losing to her by a large margin in Douglas County, which is right next to Johnson County.
In 2012, the Kansas redistricting map coming from the 2010 census ended up in the district court, because the two legislative chambers could not agree on a map.