The Slade Gorton mastery of Washington redistricting, which lasted part of two centuries, was last felt in the post-2010 census design of legislative districts in which boundaries were artfully drawn to make them a little more Republican.
The art form was on display in the state’s 42nd and 10th Legislative Districts.
Neighborhoods of liberal Bellingham disappeared from the 42nd, giving more weight to conservative and still largely rural Whatcom County.
The 10th was redrawn to put more conservative turf in Skagit and Snohomish Counties into a district centered on Whidbey and Camano Islands.
The 2020 election has yielded a surprise – if it holds.
In the 42nd District, as of Friday, Democratic challenger Alicia Rule was leading Republican incumbent Luanne Van Werven by 2,108 votes.
State Representative Sharon Shewmake, a Democrat who won a razor-thin upset victory in 2018, is more than 3,134 votes ahead of the GOP’s Jennifer Sefzik.
The Democrats’ apparent victories sets up what should be the Legislature’s marquee struggle of 2022. State Senator Doug Ericksen of Ferndale won reelection two years ago by just forty-five votes.
Ericksen is best known as co-chair of the 2016 Trump campaign in Washington, as a paid lobbyist for Cambodia, and as the petroleum industry’s chief advocate in Olympia. He has often been entertained more than any other legislator.
The redrawn 10th District voted out its Democratic State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen in 2012, with the religious right sending out hit mailings decrying her courageous vote for marriage equality. The district did not elect another Democrat until State Representative Dave Paul eked out a win in 2018.
Three Democrats led in the 10th District’s election night count. The Wednesday and Thursday ballot dumps have swung to the Republicans.
Appointed State Senator Ron Muzzall, a Republican, holds a one hundred and forty one vote lead over Democrat Helen Price Johnson. HPJ is one of the Democrats’ top recruits in the 2020 election cycle, a three-term county commissioner who helped Island County navigate through the Great Recession.
One Republican who earned bipartisan support, State Representative Norma Smith, decided not to run this year. She backed Governor Inslee on net neutrality, and coauthored (with Democrat Drew Hansen) legislation slapping criminal penalties on owners who led decaying boats leak oil into our waterways. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has brought charges under the “garbage scow” law.
Former Island County Commissioner Angie Homola leads Republican Greg Gilday, a Camano Island attorney and Smith’s chosen successor, by 582 votes. Paul is 2,036 votes ahead of hard-line Republican opponent Bill Bruch.
Bruch is the Skagit County Republican Chair, a COVID-19 skeptic and foe of the state’s comprehensive sexual health education law.
Bruch was hit with scandal late in the campaign.
Skagit County Democrats found he was twice sued in Whatcom County for allegedly making false representations to two clients on investment opportunities.
The story was picked up by a paper in LaConner and the South Whidbey Record Default judgments totaling $1.7 million were entered against Bruch after he did not respond to the legal actions. Bruch has called the 1998 case “ancient history” and claims to have been a “naïve victim” of an associate. “Young and naïve, I was exploited, used and defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars of my own money by someone who I believed to be a trusted friend,” he said in a statement.
The Democrats have as strong a ticket in the 10th District as anyplace in the state. Muzzall has served only a few months following the resignation of Republican Barbara Bailey, who did the bidding of big business in the Legislature.
Slade Gorton is no longer with us, so he cannot serve as a post-2020 census redistricting commissioner. The Republicans ran the table ten years ago, after Democrats telegraphed their demands. They got a U.S. House district shaped for Denny Heck, and a majority-minority Congressional district. The Democrats yielded concessions that elected Republican legislators.
Democrats have paid for one more piece of post-2010 redistricting handiwork.
The 19th Legislative District is a longtime Democratic bailiwick. But the last redistricting put a big chunk of conservative Lewis County into the 19th. Republican Jim Walsh, a loud Tim Eyman ally, was elected in 2016.
A pair of Democrats, State Senator Dean Takko and longtime State Representative Brian Blake, an opponent of gun responsibility, have been sent packing this year.
Political alignments change. Bellingham and Whatcom County used to be prime contested territory. In his first race for Attorney General in 1968, Gorton targeted the county with a mailing that disclosed that his opponent had been arrested for driving drunk. It swayed my parents’ votes.
The county is still conservative, while Bellingham is strongly progressive.
The bulk of “Bellywash” was put in the solidly Democratic 40th District.
By contrast, Southwest Washington has moved to the right. Only two of Washington’s thirty-nine counties – Grays Harbor and Pacific – voted for George McGovern back in 1972. Both voted for Trump in 2016.
Grays Harbor did so again this year.
Cowlitz County, another part of the 19th, voted big for Trump and gave sixty-two percent of its vote to Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp.
Governor Inslee, give some time and attention to your state’s rust belt.