Boundary shifts bring big changes

By Susanna Ray

Herald Writer

The dominoes began to wobble Sunday as two Snohomish County lawmakers were drawn out of their districts in a new map of political boundaries that could be challenged in court since it was agreed to after the legal deadline.

The state’s Redistricting Commission approved new legislative district boundaries at 4:25 a.m. Sunday — well after the midnight Saturday deadline —but deadlocked over how to carve Washington into nine congressional districts.

Since the bipartisan, four-member commission missed the deadline, it’s not clear whether the courts could judge the new legislative map invalid. Barring an unexpected turn of events, the task of drawing congressional districts will shift to the state Supreme Court.

If the legislative boundaries stand, big changes are underway on Snohomish County’s political scene.

As expected, state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, was drawn out of the 39th District and into the 44th District. He said he won’t move to stay in his district, and he’s not sure yet if he’ll run against Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, in the 44th.

But he might not have to.

Schmidt is now a wild card in the situation. His wife is filing for divorce, so Schmidt moved out of the family home, which is still in the 44th District, and now lives near Martha Lake, which was redrawn into the 1st District.

"I’m in a position where I can move back into the 44th or I can stay in the 1st, so I don’t know," Schmidt said. "I won’t be making a decision until the (2002 legislative) session is over."

The new district boundaries don’t go into effect until next year’s elections.

At that point, Snohomish County will have a new legislative district to watch. The 32nd District now juts up into the southwest corner to include Woodway.

Three Democrats represent the 32nd District: Sen. Darlene Fairley and Reps. Carolyn Edmonds and Ruth Kagi. That won’t go over well with Woodway residents, who tend to vote Republican, said Snohomish County Democratic Chairman Kent Hanson.

But the Tulalip Tribes confederation is satisfied with its new district, said John McCoy, the tribes’ executive director of government affairs. The reservation moved from the 10th District to the 38th District, which includes Marysville and Everett — two cities the tribes already work closely with. "It basically puts us in with who we do business with," McCoy said.

No district changed more in geographic terms than the 39th.

"Holy Moses," was Hanson’s response when told Sunday that the district would balloon in size to run all the way from the Canadian border to almost as far south as Snoqualmie Pass. Right now it sticks to Snohomish County east of I-5 and a little chunk of northeastern King County.

The 2000 Census showed that the 39th District was the second-fastest growing district in the state over the past decade, so the commissioners had to cut about 21,000 people out of it to get it back down to an equal number with the state’s other 48 districts. They did that by removing constituents in the Snohomish and Lake Stevens area from the district, and adding a large swath of rural land in Skagit and Whatcom counties.

The huge increase in the district’s size will make it hard for legislators to get to know their constituents, organize their supporters or go to Olympia with a cohesive message, Hanson said. There are also no major highways to connect the district.

"The 39th will be a lot of driving now," Dunshee said. "Kirk Pearson is going to put a lot of miles on his car."

Pearson, a Monroe Republican, is Dunshee’s seatmate. His home was on the border and at risk of being drawn out of the 39th District, but was left in.

"Where I live now, the 44th, that’s doable," Dunshee added, laughing. "There’ll be a lot more neighborhoods with sidewalks that I didn’t have before."

One of the country’s leading redistricting experts, University of Washington geography professor Richard Morrill, said the legislative maps probably won’t be changed by the Supreme Court. For the new congressional district boundaries, Morrill predicted that the justices will simply pick one of the two parties’ maps, probably the one that most closely meets the criteria listed in the constitution with the simplest, least disruptive lines.

Snohomish County’s 2nd Congressional District was a key sticking point in negotiations. It needs to shrink, so Republicans wanted to put Everett in the 1st District, whereas Democrats wanted to lop off a bottom strip of Snohomish County and add it to the 1st instead.

Republican Commissioner Dick Derham said Democrats were "packing" GOP voters into heavily Democratic districts, which would negate the Republicans’ voice. Democrats, in turn, said the GOP plan was too radical and that current districts in central Puget Sound should be left largely the same.

Before conceding defeat Sunday morning, the Republicans produced a new draft that kept Everett in the 2nd District and Olympia in the 3rd, two of the Democrats’ main objectives. Democrats still didn’t like the plan and suggested that the commission continue working on the congressional plan, but Republicans nixed it.

"Extending the deadline would simply prolong the agony," Derham said. "We’ve known for months that Dec. 15 was the deadline. … It seems to me that the deadline is past."

The commission’s executive director, Ethan Moreno, said Sunday afternoon the group was in uncharted territory and no one was really sure what would happen now.

"We’re going to come back to work Monday morning and see what the commissioners have in mind for us," Moreno said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can call Herald Writer Susanna Ray at 425-339-3439 or send e-mail to

ray@heraldnet.com.

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