Redistricting could pose challenges to some House GOP lawmakers

Some Indiana House Republican incumbents could go head-to-head with their GOP colleagues next election cycle based on shifts in the proposed redistricting maps.

A shift in Indianapolis Republican Rep. John Jacob’s district could lead to former GOP Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, of Beech Grove, challenging him for reelection in spring 2022, if the proposed maps are approved without changes.

Jacob’s district, House District 93, would be shifted out of traditionally Republican-held Johnson County and further north into Marion County, taking over most of Beech Grove, where Kirchhofer lives.

Kirchhofer told IBJ she saw the proposed maps for the first time Tuesday afternoon. She is still thinking about whether she will run for the House seat against Jacob if the maps are approved.

Kirchhofer lost reelection in her District 89 race last fall to Democrat Rep. Mitch Gore of Indianapolis. She had previously held the seat since 2010.

“I had thought I would not run again because (District 89) has changed so much. I will contemplate it. For now, I’m not going to say yes, but I’m not saying no,” Kirchhofer said.

Kirchhofer added that no one in House GOP leadership has asked her to run for Jacob’s seat.

Jacob told the Indianapolis Business Journal in July he thought he was in the line of fire to be ousted through redistricting because he is not well-liked by many of his Republican colleagues.

He has called himself a “disruptor” in the Republican Party and has said many of his House colleagues don’t like him because of the conservative legislation he wants to pass, including bills he authored to end abortion and eliminate state income taxes.

Jacob said Wednesday he thinks House GOP leadership gerrymandered his district in the map drafts to give him a disadvantage.

“The GOP kept me in a butchered form of District 93. They took my entire conservative base and cut all of Johnson County out,” Jacob told IBJ.

The same redistricting process also puts six House Republican incumbents into the same districts in the proposed maps, House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, told reporters Wednesday. A few lawmakers being drawn into the same districts is common in the once-in-a-decade redistricting cycle because of population shifts.

No Democrat incumbents were put into the same district, and no proposed district includes a Republican and Democrat incumbent. That differs from the maps redrawn in 2011 that, for example, shifted former Democrat Rep. Scott Reske out of his district in Pendleton into Republican Rep. Bob Cherry’s district.

Incumbent lawmakers drawn together in the central Indiana area include Huston and Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero; Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. John Young, R-Franklin; and Rep. Beau Baird, R-Greencastle, and Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

Brown announced his retirement Tuesday following the release of the maps and said he had been thinking about retiring prior to knowing about the proposed changes in his district. House District 41 was shifted mostly out of Montgomery County, where Brown lives, into Boone and Clinton counties. That would be one of six seats open in the Indiana House under the proposed maps.

House seats that would be open in 2022, if the proposed maps pass, include districts 25, 32, 41, 57, 73 and 82.

Huston’s district in Fishers gained much of northern Hamilton County in the proposed maps, placing Cook inside his district. Cook’s district, District 32, was moved to the northern suburbs of Indianapolis.

Huston faced a closer-than-expected election last fall, winning 56% of the vote against Democratic candidate Aimee Rivera Cole. His proposed district in the new drafted House map stretches his district into areas that traditionally lean more Republican.

Huston was asked by reporters Wednesday if the shift was an attempt to keep his seat safe. He said population was the biggest factor in drawing all the districts, including in Hamilton County, which saw a roughly 20% population increase. Lawmakers tried to keep townships and school districts intact in the area when redrawing the districts, he said.

“There were a whole host of issues … districts have population changes,” Huston said.

It is unclear if Cook will choose to run for reelection against Huston in 2022 if the House maps are passed. Cook did not respond to a request for comment.

Eberhart’s district moved west to Johnson, Morgan and Hendricks counties in the proposed maps, losing Shelby County entirely. Eberhart and Young did not respond to calls from IBJ to discuss their plans for the next election.

Other incumbents drawn into the same districts were Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, and Rep. Craig Snow, R-Warsaw; Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem, and Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour; and Rep. Douglas Gutwein, R-Francesville, and Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston.

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