GOP Leaders Push Redistricting Plan On Coast

On Thursday, state lawmakers will meet to redraw the congressional lines from five US House districts to four, because Mississippi grew more slowly than many other states. Wednesday afternoon, a group of Republican officials visited Gulfport and other cities around the state, urging Mississippians to support the plan drawn by former state Senator Henry Kirksey.

They say the Kirksey plan splits only one county in the state, while the Democratic proposal, called the "Tornado Plan," divides 16 counties. It's called the Tornado Plan because one district looks like a funnel running through the middle of the state.

The GOP leaders also say the Tornado map would put the Meridian Naval Air Station in Lauderdale County, in the same district as the Coast military installations. They say such a move could put those bases in jeopardy.

Mississippi GOP Chairman James Herring says each congressional district gets so much funding from Congress, because they like to spread the money around. If all the military bases are put together in one congressional district, that's an open-ended invitation to cut out one of those installations altogether.

Biloxi Rep. Michael Janus says the Tornado Plan also combines universities into one congressional district, and it splits 16 counties, so this is not in the best interest of all Mississippians. The officials say the Tornado Plan is supported by Congressman Ronnie Shows, because Shows wants to get re-elected and it's a way for Democrats to get Congressman Dick Gephardt elected as Speaker of the House.

State lawmakers will convene in Jackson Thursday at noon. They are considering at least a dozen plans. Several lawmakers say the session could last several days. Once the legislature passes a final plan and the governor signs it into law, the US Justice Department must still approve it.