Proposed new congressional district centers on Olympia

Denny Heck announces plans to run for House seat

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: December 28, 2011, 8:13 PM

 
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Washington State Redistricting Commission

A bipartisan commission mapping districts for Washington’s state and congressional lawmakers unveiled a proposal Wednesday for a new 10th Congressional District centered in Olympia. Moments later, entrepreneur Denny Heck stepped forward as a candidate.

Heck of Olympia is a Democrat and Vancouver native who ran unsuccessfully in 2010 against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, in Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. Since May, he has campaigned for election to the U.S. House of Representatives. His only holdup was which district to run for. That question was answered Wednesday when commissioners proposed that his home in Olympia would be within the new congressional district, created to account for the state’s population growth in the past decade.

“He is excited he turned out to be in District 10,” said Phil Gardner, Heck’s communications director. “It’s a district he’s well-positioned in.”

With its nucleus as Olympia, District 10 would be a Democrat-friendly climate. It would encompass the majority of Thurston County, part of Pierce County and the city of Shelton in Mason County.

Heck served as state representative for Clark County’s 17th District from 1977 to 1986. He also was chief of staff to Gov. Booth Gardner and founded TVW, the state’s equivalent of C-SPAN.

Meanwhile, District 3 would shed the Olympia area and gain Klickitat County, fortifying its Republican base.

“It looks like the district might become more friendly to Republican interests,” said Brandon Vick, chairman of the Clark County Republican Party. “I don’t see it as a major swing in either direction. Obviously, candidates have to run on their merits, but the results might lean more in our favor.”

Kathleen Lawrence, chair of Clark County Democrats was not immediately available Wednesday to comment on the proposed map.

Under the proposal, District 3 would contain a southern slice of Thurston County and all of Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties.

“Jaime will be happy to represent and work hard for the residents of her district, whatever the boundaries,” Herrera Beutler’s spokesman Casey Bowman wrote in an email Wednesday. “She commends the commission and all of the citizens who shared their time, energy and thoughts during this detailed process.”

Slade Gorton, Senate Republican appointee to the commission, said the proposed map reduces the number of cities split by congressional districts from 23 to just five.

It also creates what is called a “majority minority” in Congressional District 9 in the Greater Seattle area. More than half of the district would be made up of minorities.

“We’ve reached a fair and equitable balance,” said Tim Ceis, Senate Democratic appointee.

Cherry Cayabyab of the United for Fair Representation Coalition said the majority minority district would “help spur active participation by our communities of color.”

“It is very sad to see racial gerrymandering come to Washington,” a commenter named Brian wrote on the commission’s website. “Minorities do not need special districts to get elected in Washington, and it is dishonest to suggest otherwise,” he wrote.

Legislative districts

Work on Eastern Washington legislative districts stalled Wednesday when commissioners Tom Huff, House Republican appointee, and Dean Foster, House Democratic appointee, declared they were at an impasse over whether to create one or two Latino-dominated districts. The commission is scheduled to meet again at 10:30 a.m. both Thursday and Friday.

Western Washington legislative maps were released on Dec. 16.

The commission has until Jan. 1 to finalize maps and submit them to the Legislature. Failure to meet the deadline would place the decision in the hands of the state Supreme Court.

The commissioners are divided into two subteams to draw the new boundaries. Gorton and Ceis were responsible for the congressional districts. Huff and Foster are drawing Eastern Washington’s legislative district maps.

The Legislature can alter proposed maps by only 2 percent. Such action needs two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the House.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.