Tri-Citians will continue to be part of the same congressional district under a redistricting proposal released Wednesday, but it remains to be seen how the area will end up being represented in the state Legislature.
Wednesday's proposal by former U.S. Sen. Slate Gorton and Tim Ceis, former Seattle deputy mayor, drops Wenatchee, Ellensburg and the Columbia River Gorge from the 4th Congressional District represented by Pasco Republican Doc Hastings, but adds Okanogan County and parts of Adams and Walla Walla counties.
Gorton and Huff are two of four voting members of the state's Redistricting Commission, which has been given the task of redrawing the boundaries for the state's congressional and legislative districts before New Year.
The commission is led by nonvoting Chairwoman Lura Powell of Richland.
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In a series of last minute meetings, the commission has released a proposal for redrawing the state's existing nine congressional district and adding a tenth in the south Puget Sound area around Olympia, and one for the legislative districts west of the Cascade Mountains.
The commissioners Dean Foster, former chief of staff for Gov. Booth Gardner, and former state Rep. Tom Huff said Wednesday they have reached an impasse in negotiating the boundaries for Eastern Washington's legislative districts, Powell told the Herald.
There are a few wrinkles in the legislative map, including Yakima and Spokane, but the one closest to home for Tri-Citians is whether Pasco will be represented by one legislative district or two, Powell said.
Pasco city officials have asked the commission to keep the city intact when drawing district lines, but Foster's plan divides Pasco between the 16th and 9th legislative districts.
Foster's plan also moves West Richland out of its traditional home in the 8th District into the 16th, which would wrap around the Tri-Cities and pick up much of rural Benton County.
Powell said she hopes the commission will come to a consensus on eastern Washington's legislative districts today.
The commission needs three of its four voting members to sign off on each redistricting plan before the Sunday deadline, she said.
The 4th Congressional District as drawn by Gorton and Huff would keep the Tri-Cities and Yakima as its main population centers and leave it the congressional district with the largest Hispanic population in the state, although not the highest minority population.
"From day one, we've known that adding a tenth district required joining over 150,000 Eastern Washington residents with Western Washington," Hastings said in a statement. "This meant central Washington's 4th District would shrink and gain new population from the 5th District. While this change had to happen, I do feel a loss that communities that I've had the honor and privilege of representing will now be located in the 3rd and 8th districts."
"I've previously represented both Okanogan and Walla Walla and believe they share common interests with other communities in the 4th District," Hastings said. "I commend the bipartisan commission for completing a final map on time and thank all Washingtonians who participated in the public process."
Local Democrats said the proposed boundaries aren't likely to make the staunchly Republican district any less red on the political map.
"The plan does not change the political complexion of the district," said George Fearing, a representative of the 4th Congressional District Democrats. "The plan presents challenges in that the district would run all the way to the Canadian border making direct contact with voters more difficult."
Fearing also noted that the plan isn't yet final and the two other voting members of the state's Redistricting Commission have yet to weigh in.
Powell said she hopes the work won't come down to the wire Saturday, as she would like to be back home for the traditional Tri-City Americans/Spokane Chiefs New Year's Eve hockey battle.
"I for one want to be at the Ams game on Saturday night," Powell said.