Dec 28 2011

WA plans drop: The congressional

Published by at 3:00 pm under Washington

wa congressional

The deadline was New Year’s, and the Washington Redistricting Commission seems to have hit the end line just barely before it. Today (as was promised yesterday), they unveiled their new remaps for congressional and legislative districts.

A look at the congressional first.

This was complicated a bit by the need to add a tenth district, which meant a little more shifting of boundaries than usual, and inevitably some district in which none of the nine current U.S. House members reside. That district will be centered, as was most widely speculated, on the Olympia area.

At first blush, these look like five Democratic and four Republican districts

Let’s move from east to west as we consider what’s changed and what the implications may be.

District 5, which has been roughly the easternmost fourth of the state from Canada to Oregon, is smaller and is now more like the easternmost fifth – it loses Okanogan, Adams and southwestern Walla Walla (but not that city itself) to the 4th district. These are all very Republican areas, and should move the district a little closer to competitiveness. It will clearly remain Republican overall, however; incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers should have no trouble with it.

District 4, which has taken in the rural country north of Wenatchee south to the Oregon line, and including both the Tri-Cities and the Yakima area, gains Adams, Okanogan and the slice of Walla Walla, but loses Chelan (Wenatchee), Kittias (Ellensburg) and, facing the Columbia River to the south, Klickitat County. It becomes a more ungainly district, its population centered more directly on the two big urban centers with the substantial Okanogan population left far to the north. It should not change much as a partisan district; it has been very Republican, but the swaps are of Republican territory. Not much change there; and again, Republican Doc Hastings should be untroubled.

District 3, the southwestern district focused on Clark County, will be comparable to what it has been, with one small and one larger difference. Republican (mostly) Klickitat county (Goldendale) will be added along the Columbia River. In the last decade and before, this district included the Democratic Olympia area, but – though some southern precincts of Thurston County will remain – the Olympia metro area was cut off to go to the new district. Overall, this seems to move what has been a competitive district closer into the Republican column. But not by much, the specific race at hand depending. Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler likely will be more happy than not with it.

The new district, 10, will take over the whole of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater area, plus a few precincts in Mason County to the northwest, and a large slice of Pierce County – up toward Tacoma – to the northeast. This area has been in District 9 and is politically variable but mostly Democratic. Considering how strongly Democratic the Olympia area is, this logically will be a Democratic district. If Democrat Denny Heck, who lost in the 3rd district in 2010, runs here, his chances ought to be good.

The new District 9, which has included some of the urban areas of Pierce County (Tacoma) and southwestern King, looks as if it has lost its southern tail in central Pierce, and, smaller in size, is crawling a little northeastward into King, roughly south and east of Seattle proper – and into the hotly contested near east side of King, around Renton, Auburn and Bellevue. As in the other districts to this point, Democrat Adam Smith should see no political damage from this, and it may even make him a little more secure.

District 7, which will continue to be the central Seattle district, changes only at the periphery and not by a lot, though it will now reach lightly across the Snohomish County line. It is likely to stay as overwhelmingly Democratic as it has been, changing the calculus for Democrat Jim McDermott hardly at all.

To the west, across the Puget Sound and on the Olympic Peninsula, District 6 is mostly similar to what it has been the last decade, except that this district will include only a smaller slice of Pierce County. Democrat Norm Dicks once had Tacoma as his base; this new remap will still keep him in a significant slice of the city. It will also give Dicks all, rather than just the southern part, of Kitsap County. But it will remain Democratic.

One of the most dramatic changes is in the current district 8, which has been over the last decade Washington’s most competitive, including in King and Pierce counties the newly Democratic areas just east of Seattle and Tacoma, and the more Republican areas up toward the Cascades. The remap chops off many of those more Democratic communities in King and Pierce, and appends to the district, across the Cascades, Republican Chelan and Kittitas counties. This logically turns into a clearly Republican district, and Republican incumbent Dave Reichert should be very happy with this development, even if it does mean a lot of additional trips across the mountains.

The remaining two districts in the northwest have, in a sense, flipped numbers, though the boundaries of each have been adjusted. District 1 is inland, running from northeast King County north to Canada, across farm country and scattered communities and mostly not reaching as far west as the Puget shoreline. District 2 will include the island counties of San Juan and Island, and many of the urban areas from Everett north toward Bellingham. The incumbent in the old district 1, Democrat Jay Inslee, is running for governor instead; the district 2 incumbent, Democrat Rick Larsen, is resident in the border area between the two new districts, at Arlington; he could conceivably run in either. But the new water-oriented District 2 should be much more Democratic than the new District 1, which initially looks competitive.

How does this break out politically? Republicans should have clear advantages in Districts 4, 5 and 8. Democrats should have clear advantages in 2, 6, 7, 9 and 10. District 3 should lean Republican, but gently, and 1 should be competitive with possibly a small Republican tilt.

The two leading negotiators, Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Tim Ceis, are known as hard-nosed people who don’t roll over in the face of competition. This map actually looks close to what you might expect from a state with a Democratic edge, but not by enormous numbers. Neither side got rolled here.

UPDATED No Republican state commentary on it yet, but some from the state Democrats, who seem generally okay with it. From their statement about three especially notable districts:

1st Congressional District
“Washington’s newly drawn 1st District is ugly but lovable. Stretching from King County to Canada, the First will be a Democratic leaning district.
“We are fortunate that the 1st District has already drawn a slate of exciting, high profile Democratic candidates who will sharpen their skills, message and campaign organizations in advance of the general election. There is talk that the Republicans will trot out John Koster once again, but voters in the new 1st District are sure to reject his extreme, Tea Party policies in 2012.

10th Congressional District
“The newly drawn 10th District provides Democrats our best opportunity to send a true middle class champion to Congress. We are already on our way with Denny Heck, who will stand up and fight for families, fairness and economic opportunity.”

3rd Congressional District
“A redrawn district will not help Congresswoman Herrera Beutler hide from her record of serving as a rubber stamp for Speaker John Boehner’s partisan gamesmanship and Tea Party politics. Democrats will fight to ensure that Washington’s 3rd District is represented by a true champion of Washington’s middle class, not a politician who has abandoned her promise of creating jobs in favor of advancing an extreme, out-of-touch agenda.”

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