January 17, 2012
Chelan and Issaquah find common ground
There is nothing wrong with the good people living in Chelan and Wenatchee, but what do they have in common with Issaquah? They grow apples and recreational tourists, we grow lots of kids and IT employees. We do share the Cascades in between us.
Apparently, we will now share a representative who must represent the new 8th Congressional District, after the redistricting committee has drawn new boundaries.
Many would think that redistricting to balance populations would create compact, geographic districts with similar demographics. No. The committee’s real job is to protect incumbents and the two-party system.
By that standard, the committee did quite well. But here in the 8th, Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert has been given a seat that is likely his for as long as he wants. By jettisoning some of the more liberal areas and adding conservative chunks of Eastern Washington, Reichert will likely be forced to be more conservative than moderate to avoid a future primary challenge.
Using the redistricting commission is probably better than letting legislators in Olympia do it, as some states do, but the process is still flawed. A better option is to turn redistricting over to judges. Certainly they have some closet political affiliations, but they are accustomed to setting aside their personal views when ruling. Our state law already mandates that judges will settle the congressional district boundaries if the committee cannot reach a consensus.
Another option is being pioneered by California. That new system invites citizens to volunteer and then the redistricting commission members are chosen at random. Seats are specifically reserved for people who are either not involved in a political party, or are part of a minority party. The commission is also forbidden from considering where incumbents live.
Some are saying that the new 8th Congressional District will be nice bridge between Eastern and Western Washington. We think it will be a difficult district to manage for a congressman and his staff, and even more difficult for an elected official to represent such varied viewpoints when it comes time to vote.