The newly-approved congressional redistricting plan is expected to bring a major political shift for the western end of Klickitat County.
Rather than having the western third of Klickitat County included within Washington's 3rd Congressional District as has been the case for the past 10 years, the area will instead be moved into the 4th Congressional District.
On the "street level," what the shift means is that residents of the area west from Lyle to Bingen and White Salmon will no longer be represented by U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Vancouver. Instead, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican from the Tri-Cities, will represent the county in Washington, D.C.
Barring a last-minute alteration -- which is seen as highly improbable -- the changes will formally become effective Feb. 12, and will be in place for the 2002 elections. That means that candidates competing for the 4th District, rather than the 3rd District, will appear on the ballot throughout all of Klickitat County in this fall's elections.
"The plan takes out Klickitat County entirely and a good portion of Skamania County from the 3rd District," explained Anne Linskey, press secretary for Baird. "Brian doesn't want to lose any of it. He's been to every town, their schools, and to town meetings. It's strange to think of losing any part of his district."
To reflect the new census configuration, the 3rd District had to lose 40,000 in population. The Washington State Redistricting Commission determined that shrinking the district from its ends on the north and west was the most logical solution.
As a result, the boundary of Washington's 3rd District will now end just east of Stevenson. At the other end of the district, Grays Harbor County will also be dropped from the 3rd.
Baird was first elected in 1998, then was re-elected in 2000. He plans to seek a third term this year, but he will no longer be on the ballot in Klickitat County.
Hastings, who will be the new representative for this part of Klickitat County, was first elected in 1994. He is expected to run for his fifth two-year term in 2002.
State Sen. Jim Honeyford, a Republican who represents the state's 15th Legislative District, said he thought the switch of congressional representation made sense for Klickitat County.
"I think it's a better fit," said Honeyford, who resides in Sunnyside. "There are rural issues we all face in this district, and Doc's district is primarily rural with a resource-based economy."
Although the Legislature has an opportunity to amend the redistricting plan, Honeyford said it was very unlikely any changes would be made. He pointed out that a two-thirds vote of each legislative chamber was required to alter the plan.
"A change in one district means changes in neighboring districts, so it's very unlikely," he explained.
Honeyford added that Washington State's 15th Legislative District will continue to represent all of Klickitat County, although the district will change somewhat in other areas: The 15th Legislative District will shift westward, losing a portion of Benton County that was included previously, while extending to cover all of Skamania County and a small portion of Clark County.
The new alignments are created every 10 years based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Washington's state plan was drafted by the four-member, bipartisan Washington Redistricting Commission.
Gov. Gary Locke praised the look of the new congressional map.
"Redistricting is very, very difficult, and the way commission approached it, I think, is a win-win for the people of the state of Washington," Locke said.
Locke added that having the independent commission draw the new boundaries avoids the "blatant gerrymandering" that occurs in many states, where political partisans carve out districts to try to aid their partisan interests.
There are nine congressional districts in Washington.
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