Surprises may be in store for politicos and voters when the State Redistricting Commission meets Wednesday morning in Olympia, reportedly to reveal the final congressional map agreed on by at least three of the commission’s four voting members, based on early information from a source with the commission.

Although the precise precinct-by-precinct details of the map are being withheld, the map produced in talks between Senate Democratic appointee Tim Ceis and Senate Republican appointee Slade Gorton and described to us includes political upsides for both parties heading into a critical election season, but has ignored the comments made most frequently at public hearings held across the state.

Certainly, changes in many districts are noteworthy, and will generate both thunderous applause and storms of controversy through the corridors of political power.

For example, Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D) bid to become governor is still an uncertain proposition, but renovation is already underway in the 1st congressional district he is vacating. No longer straddling the Puget Sound, the 1st will reportedly stay on the mainland and reach far north into what is currently the 2nd congressional district. The changes draw in many among the throng of potential Democratic and Republican candidates seeking to succeed Inslee, creating what should be the liveliest congressional primary in the state next year.

A substantial remodel is also said to be planned for the seat held by Rep. Dave Reichert (R) whose 8th congressional district will lose a large portion of its current stake in Pierce and South King Counties and drive over the Cascades into the Eastern Washington counties of Chelan and Kittitas. Recent voter trends suggest the redesigned 8th should still lean Republican, fueling speculation that Reichert might mount a challenge to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) next year.

The map the public sees this morning will give almost everyone something to talk about, almost that is except for an active group of residents who, ironically, have been talking to the commission since the beginning of the redistricting process early this year.

Since early in Washington State’s 2011 redistricting process, representatives from minority groups showed up at public hearings, repeatedly calling for the creation of a congressional district containing a majority population of minority residents.

Lamentations organized by minority voting rights group OneAmerica complained of poor congressional representation in areas with larger minority populations, and high on their wish list was to situate the new 10th congressional district in a majority-minority area to give candidates from those communities an opportunity to run for the open seat.

OneAmerica took the initiative to draw a “Unity Map,” placing the dream district in the area south of Seattle down to the Pierce County line and eastward into the communities feeding the Highway 167 corridor.

When proposed maps were introduced by each of the four redistricting commissioners in mid-September, all but one commissioner – House Democratic appointee Dean Foster – did not feature some form of majority-minority district in the south King County area. (House Republican appointee Tom Huff drew his proposed 10th congressional seat to almost the exact specifications of the Unity Map.)

After all the build-up – nada. Well, almost nada.

The final congressional map said to be agreed to by the four-man commission is reported to place the wide open new 10th congressional district in Thurston County (the area the Democratic establishment has sought to procure for former state representative Denny Heck to wage his second attempt to win a seat in the U.S. House), while the 9th congressional district is drawn into South King County and portions of the lower eastside of Lake Washington, giving minority activists the majority-minority district they desired but with baggage in the form of incumbent Democrat Rep. Adam Smith (D).

Some may see the agreement reached concerning the creation of a majority-minority district as half a loaf, an appeasement born of the need to protect Smith as an incumbent and launch Heck’s congressional career. If minorities respond unfavorably to these developments, it could be one more sign that the political marriage of convenience between minorities and the Democratic Party is becoming less expedient.


[photo credit: baboon™]