5 things to watch as state’s political lines are redrawn

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
  • Sunday, September 11, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

Tuesday is a big day for Washington’s political class.

That’s when the four not-so-ordinary citizens serving on the state’s Redistricting Commission will divulge how they want to redraw all the lines on Washington’s political map.

One-by-one, Republicans Slade Gorton and Tom Huff and Democrats Tim Ceis and Dean Foster will present their ideas for reshaping the state’s 49 legislative districts and 10 congressional districts.

Expect a few hoots and howls from those who see their political futures brightened or dimmed in what’s revealed.

Though Tuesday is not the end of the process — that will come in November after the quartet settles on final maps — it will provide a good look at where the commission is going.

Here are five things to watch for:

Same Koster, different race: Republican John Koster is vying for Congress in 2012 and Tuesday may clear up exactly which seat he’ll seek — and maybe improve his chances of winning, too.

Right now, Koster, a Snohomish County councilman, faces a third campaign against U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., in the 2nd Congressional District. But he may land in a realigned 1st Congressional District where no incumbent is running, which could enhance his odds of success next year.

Opening the Cascade Curtain: One of Washington’s Republican members of Congress is likely to find he or she is in a district encompassing parts of the state’s east and west flanks. The question is who.

There’s been talk of moving U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s district eastward along I-90 into the Wenatchee Valley and Cle Elum regions. There have been arguments made to draw U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s district to run along the Columbia River toward Kennewick. Either step provides a safer seat for its Republican occupant.

New district, new seat: Washington’s prize for population growth this past decade is another seat in Congress. Where each commissioner wants to carve out a new 10th district with its roughly 670,000 residents is of intense interest with Republicans and Democrats intending to battle hard next year to snag this seat.

Early on all the guessing had it being centered in Olympia. There’s been chatter about squeezing it out of east Snohomish and King counties. And commissioners have been pressed to plop it down in a portion of King County where a minority candidate stands a better-than-average chance of capturing the seat. This decision is the domino that determines the direction other dominoes will fall in this process.

Uniting Marysville: City leaders will be watching to see if commissioners heard their appeal for help.

Today, Marysville sits in four legislative districts and the City Council would like to be in only one. In July, Mayor Jon Nehring put the request in writing to the commission. He also included a map showing how the entire city could be placed in the 44th Legislative District and what changes that might precipitate.

Lean to the left or lean to the right: Speaking of the 44th District, it’s in for big change of some fashion and may very well see its political balance shift from Democrat to Republican.

This district, which now includes parts of Marysville and Everett as well as Snohomish, Lake Stevens and Mill Creek, is too big and needs to shed population. To its west sit two other districts — the 21st (Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Edmonds) and the 38th (Everett, Tulalip and part of Marysville) — in need of population.

Either one or both are going to absorb chunks of their neighbor district. Commissioners have lots of options of what to feed those district and it seems any choices will move areas laden with Democrats out of the 44th thus leaving behind a more conservative constituency.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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