Washington’s political map may be redrawn for the first time to include a congressional district where racial minorities outnumber whites.
Three of the four draft maps revealed Tuesday by the four voting members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission include a minority-dominated congressional district in south Seattle and south King County – stretching as far south as Tacoma in one proposal.
The plans drew immediate praise from black and immigrant activists.
“What you are doing here today is providing hope for people who have been left out – to people who have not had the opportunity to participate in the government of this state,” said Wallace Webster, a black man who told the commission he has lived in the state for 49 years. “Please let the final map reflect what we have heard here today.’’
Thanks to strong population growth in the past decade, Washington will have a 10th District in next year’s elections – meaning an extra seat in the U.S. House, where five of the nine Washington members are Democrats.
Three of the four proposed maps place that new district in the Tacoma-Olympia area – with the fourth map putting it along the Canadian border from Bellingham to Okanogan and Chelan.
In Democrats’ plans, their party might be favored in as many as six of 10 districts, including the new 10th. Republicans could be poised to win five seats under GOP plans.
All versions would likely leave Republican Reps. Dave Reichert of Auburn and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas in safer districts – in terms of winning re-election.
The proposals are open for public comment for a month, and the commissioners plan to merge their work into a single plan agreeable to at least three of four members by early November.
Although the Legislature draws the lines in most states, a constitutional amendment in Washington has given the job of redistricting to two Democrats and two Republicans appointed by lawmakers. The work was taken away from lawmakers after the traditional approach landed in court in the early 1980s.
The Legislature still gets the last word in January, but is allowed to make only minor changes to whatever is agreed to by a commission supermajority.
Of the four, only House Democrats’ representative, Dean Foster of Olympia, did not propose a majority-minority congressional district.
The two Republicans and one Democrat who did call for such districts said they would better ensure minorities would be represented. Foster said he drew districts so that two had minority populations of more than 42 percent, rather than one that topped 50 percent.
A majority-minority district would be a gamble for Democrats, who tend to do better winning the votes of racial minorities. Republicans stand to gain in other districts by shifting minorities into a single, solidly Democratic district.
Marianne Lincoln, a Bethel School Board member who said she was speaking only for herself, told the board there is a danger of diluting liberal or progressive voters’ clout. She warned minorities could end up shooting themselves in the foot.
Webster, a 49-year resident of the state, took note of that remark and said that because of a lack of blacks’ representation: “We have not had a foot to shoot, in our time here.’’
The new maps have big implications for both legislative and congressional politics in the South Sound area:
• Foster’s congressional plan stretching the new 10th District from the coast to Puyallup through Olympia might help his bridge-playing partner, Denny Heck, an announced Democratic candidate for whatever district covers the Olympia area.
• Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks would no longer represent Tacoma and Gig Harbor under the plan by Gig Harbor Republican Tom Huff. Dicks would pick up Olympia instead and leave Pierce County with just two members of Congress, Reichert and Democratic Rep. Adam Smith or their successors.
• Alternatively, Pierce County might end up with a whopping four members of Congress. Under three of the four plans, Dicks, Smith and Reichert would keep pieces of the county and a fourth seat would be added – either Herrera Beutler’s or a new seat that could pit Heck against Republican Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri of Steilacoom, who has also announced his run.
• Democrats want to grab just enough of Tacoma to include Smith in a district that stretches up into Bellevue. Under Seattle Democrat Tim Ceis’ plan, that would be a minority-dominated district.
• Republican Slade Gorton’s congressional plan runs the new 10th District along the Canadian border from Puget Sound to Okanogan. He brings Smith’s 9th District further south to include all of Thurston County and portions of Pierce County along Interstate 5 up to Federal Way.
The commission’s maps also must redraw the state’s 49 legislative districts. The four draft maps show many lawmakers squeezed out of their existing districts. Among those who would leave their districts under one or more of the proposals would be Democratic Rep. Troy Kelley of Tacoma, Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide of Redondo and Republican Rep. Jim McCune of Graham.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826
For draft maps of state redistricting, see Page A8.