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SPRINGFIELD — The first of the legislative maps drawn by Democrats was unveiled Thursday, creating a wave of nervousness among most Republicans.

By Andrew Thomason

SPRINGFIELD — The first of the legislative maps drawn by Democrats was unveiled Thursday, creating a wave of nervousness among most Republicans.

The new Senate legislative map shows major shifts in most of the downstate Republican senators’ districts, possibly pitting incumbent against incumbent in the 2012 election.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, was drawn out of his district in the southwest part of the state.

“It takes out the central portion of Decatur, and it doesn’t have my home in it. So the area of my home is the 54th District, and it has Senator (Dave) Luechtefeld and I in the same district,” said the first-term senator.

Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, was also drawn out of his district, which he had been in since the previous redistricting in 2000, and into the 54th District.

“All southern Republican legislators were drawn out of their districts. I think that tells you something,” Luechtefeld said.

Luechtefeld’s and McCarter’s stories shared a common narrative with most other Republican senators in this round of redistricting, from Dave Syverson, in the northern city of Rockford, to Sam McCann, in southeastern Carlinville.

Chris Mooney, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois in Springfield, said part of the reason for the changes is population growth in the Chicago suburbs, but the majority of the fresh ink is political gamesmanship.

“Whatever party controls the process, they can manipulate the lines to some extent to give themselves an advantage, and one way to do that is to put two incumbents of the same party together,” Mooney said.

The political lines in states have to be redrawn each decade to reflect population changes highlighted by the U.S. census. Data from the Census Bureau’s 2010 canvass of residents is being used to draw the legislative lines.

The Democrats in Illinois control the map because they control the House, Senate and governor’s office. As long as Democrats can agree on a map, Republicans have little recourse, Mooney said.

The GOP’s best bet to change the map is to challenge it in court, he said.

Senate President John Cullerton offered GOP members another way to alter their political futures.

“This is a fair map. We’re following the law. If (Senate GOP Leader Christine) Radogno wants to offer any suggestions for change, she can do so now or in the next week,” the Chicago Democrat said.

Cullerton did not say whether he would let those changes come up for a vote on the floor.

Still, many predict that Thursday’s map isn’t the final version.

“I think this is a shocker map,” state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said.

Bomke, who was one of the few downstate Republicans who said they liked their new district, said he expected another, less dramatic map, to come out soon.

One reason for a “shocker map” could be to get some GOP votes on tough issues. It’s a lot easier for a Republican to make an uncomfortable vote and keep his or her old district than to make the easy vote and have to start again somewhere else, Mooney said.

Republicans will need to figure out who will run where once a new map has been adopted. Senators like McCarter and Luechtefeld might end up running against one another — neither said they are considering retirement.

But there is another option.

The Illinois Constitution allows legislators to run in any part of their previous district in the election after redistricting. Normally, a person needs to live in their district for two years prior to an election.

Both Luechtefeld and McCarter said they were still talking about what action would be best.

Editor’s note: The new map leaves the boundaries of the 9th District, represented by Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston, largely unchanged, although it appears to lop off the portion of Rodgers Park that’s currently in the District. See the new map and the current 9th District map.

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