SULTAN — Residents of Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index loom as the solution to the state’s redistricting math problems.
But it means their future state representatives could hail from Chelan, Dryden and East Wenatchee.
And some of those Snohomish County residents also could wind up with a congresswoman from Sammamish instead of the one they have now, from Medina.
One requirement for the state Redistricting Commission was to redraw boundaries of Washington’s 49 legislative and 10 congressional districts in a way that creates districts nearly equal in population.
That proved challenging. Since the last redistricting in 2011, a lot more people moved in west of the Cascades than east. To achieve numeric equity for legislative districts, the commission’s four voting members — two Democrats and two Republicans — found themselves needing to somehow shift roughly 60,000 people into districts east of the Cascades.
Commissioners settled on moving Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index out of the 39th Legislative District and into a reconfigured 12th District that would straddle the mountains. Those communities would be united with ones along Highway 2 in Chelan County, including Leavenworth, Cashmere, Dryden and Wenatchee. Today, the 12th District legislators are Reps. Mike Steele of Chelan and Keith Goehner of Dryden, and Sen. Brad Hawkins of East Wenatchee. All three are Republicans.
“If the maps are adopted it is going to be an exciting shift for us,” Sultan Mayor Russell Wiita said Wednesday. “Our biggest issue is Highway 2. The last couple years we’ve worked to get support from (lawmakers on) the other side of the mountain for our bottleneck problems in Sultan. This proposed 12th District is actually going to help us with that.”
The operative word is “if,” because the commission, in a well-chronicled meltdown, failed to adopt final legislative and congressional maps by a Nov. 15 deadline. The state Supreme Court is now responsible for completing the once-a-decade process by April 30.
Once new boundaries are approved, they will be in force for a decade, starting with next year’s elections.
Though tardy, commissioners did finish their work. They sent their maps to the court Nov. 16 and urged their adoption by the nine justices, saying the political cartography is the product of a historic level of public involvement. Commissioners received thousands of comments and emails regarding draft proposals they released in September. And a dozen groups formally submitted their own maps.
The commission’s final legislative districts map contains another notable change in Snohomish County. It would remove Lake Stevens from the 44th District and place it in the 39th. Mill Creek and Snohomish would remain in the 44th.
That might have posed a problem for Steve Hobbs, the Lake Stevens Democrat who, until recently, was the district’s state senator and faced re-election in 2022. Hobbs was sworn in Monday as Washington’s new secretary of state.
It adds a wrinkle to the selection of his successor. If Democrats nominate and the Snohomish County Council appoints a Lake Stevens resident, that person might not be able to run for the office next year if the city is moved into a new legislative district. Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, is seeking the senate seat. If he gets it, the same dilemma faces Democrats in filling his House seat.
Meanwhile, under the commission’s final congressional map, Snohomish County would continue to be divided among three congressional districts. But not the same trio as today.
It moves the 7th Congressional District out of Snohomish County while bringing the 8th District in. Darrington, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index, which are now in the 1st District and served by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, of Medina, would land in the 8th District, a seat held by Rep. Kim Schrier of Sammamish. Both women are Democrats.
The commission redrew the 2nd Congressional District to extend south to the King County line and, in the north, absorb all of Whatcom and Skagit counties from the 1st District. Cities along I-5 in Snohomish County would stay in the 2nd District. The 1st District becomes more compact as it gains more populated urban areas in the county to offset lost turf.
“It is a sensible solution and it may not be the only sensible solution,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who’s represented the 2nd District for two decades. “Bellingham and Everett-Mukilteo will continue to be the anchors of the 2nd District, as they have been.”
Continuing, he said the proposed map reflects the reality of the population growth in the state. He said he plans to run in 2022 “no matter what shape the district takes in the end.”
Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson isn’t concerned his city could be moved out of the 7th District and into the 2nd District. They have strong ties with both Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, their current representative in the 7th, and Larsen.
“We would expect to continue to have a good working relationship with both of them,” he said.
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring had a similar reaction upon seeing that his city would land in DelBene’s district. It is now in Larsen’s.
“I am sure we will be fine either way,” he said. “We’re really happy with Congressman Larsen. I am confident we can slide right into the same relationship with Congresswoman DelBene.”