A Missouri House committee on congressional redistricting wants public input Tuesday morning from residents in the sprawling Eighth Congressional District, which covers 30 southern and southeast Missouri counties. The district has about 20,000 square miles.
“And what we’re looking for is just information on what makes the 8th District good, what makes it bad. Good things, you know, characteristics of the district, what’s worked for it being the district it is,” Shaul says.
The district goes from 20 miles south of St. Louis to ten miles east of Branson. The massive district includes Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Poplar Bluff, Kennett, Farmington, West Plains, Rolla and Ava.
One of the biggest challenges the district has faced involves health care. The rural district has seen five hospital closing since 2016:
** Parkland Health Center in Farmington (2016)
** Southeast Health Center of Reynolds County in Ellington (2016)
** Southeast Health Center of Ripley County in Doniphan (2018)
** Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center in Kennett (2018)
** Black River Medical Center in Poplar Bluff (2019)
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem), who has represented the 8th District since 2013, calls the closings unacceptable, saying people die when hospitals close.
Transportation is another issue in the district, which includes both I-55 and I-44. Chairman Shaul says agriculture is another common denominator in the district.
“Agriculture is a huge part of the state of Missouri, huge part of that district,” says Shaul. “It’s just good people working hard, and that’s what I like so much about the 8th District.”
The district hasn’t sent a Democrat to Washington since the late Congressman Bill Burlison (D-Wardell), who served from 1969 to 1981. When U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson (R-Cape Girardeau) unseated Burlison in 1980, every state senator and all but one of the district’s state representatives were Democrats. Today, every state lawmaker in the 8th District is a Republican.
Congressman Smith faced Democratic challenger Kathy Ellis, a social worker, in November. Smith won with about 77 percent of the vote. Smith received 253,811 votes, while Ellis received 70,561 votes.
State Rep. Hannah Kelly (R-Mountain Grove) serves as vice chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting. State Rep. Jerome Barnes (D-Raytown) is the ranking Democrat.
The Missouri Legislature won’t redraw the state’s congressional districts until later this year, when they receive numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and House Special Committee on Redistricting Chairman Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial), which was recorded on March 26, 2021:
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