Redistricting and the peninsulaMay 17th, 2011 by Steven Gardner
During the conversation yesterday with state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, I asked him about other whispers he’s hearing down in Olympia about the impact of redistricting.
By the way, I called Sheldon because he has been through two of these before.
Sheldon mentioned that he thinks Brinnon could become part of the 35th District because the area is part of the Mason County Public Utility District.
In years past there have been conversations about extending the 23rd District into Jefferson County. I don’t think it has been seriously considered by the group of redistricting commissioners, but there is some sentiment that Port Townsend is a good match with Bainbridge Island. Geographically it is a stretch.
What may make more sense to some is linking Bainbridge to a district in Seattle. Still, not very likely, and one commenter on the story thought the notion ridiculous.
I read our stories from 1991 and 2001 and in both cases there was a large group who thought Kitsap should only have two legislative districts. I’m not sure why that would be better politically for this area. At first glance it does seem like more is better. Bremerton itself is represented by nine different legislators, even though not one legislator is actually from Bremerton.
One of the impacts of redistricting worth watching is that 35th District swing. The district will still likely take in all of Mason County. It’s the fringes that are worth taking notice of.
The reason I believe we are more likely to lose the 35th District, or at least part of it, is because of where the incumbents live. Sheldon (Potlatch) and state Rep. Kathy Haigh (Shelton) both are in Mason County. Fred Finn lives near Olympia in Thurston County.
Several months ago I did another story on redistrictings and spoke with the man many agree is the state’s foremost expert on the subject, Dick Morrill. By e-mail he told me, “The commission’s first unwritten rule is to protect incumbents.”
So you would think, assuming what Morrill said is true, that the 35th District’s emphasis in the redistricting plan would favor Thurston County over Kitsap. I don’t know specifically where the population growth has happened in Thurston County, so it could be that the 35th won’t change much at all. Sheldon said he thought not many incumbents will find themselves in a new district.
Sheldon also said state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, is considering running for Congress should Jay Inslee run for governor, as practically everyone is assuming. What isn’t so clear, however, is what district Liias will live once redistricting is done. If Inslee does announce he’s running for governor, there’s no incumbent to protect, so the First Congressional District could see wild swings.
This again goes to the idea that all of Kitsap County could be in one congressional district represented by Norm Dicks. Imagine that. And if Bainbridge were lumped with Seattle legislatively, we could have 12 legislators representing the county.
Here’s a cliche for you: The possibilities are endless. Actually, they’re not. They pretty much range from Kitsap having one or two members of Congress and two-four legislative districts. That’s not exactly endless, is it.