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New Washington map creates competitive district

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Members of Washington state’s bipartisan redistricting commission released a compromise map Wednesday that is expected to be pretty close to the (if not the) final version of the state’s new congressional districts.

The map creates a competitive district running from the Seattle suburbs in King County all the way up to the Canadian border, bringing in fast-growing Snohomish County. With the state gaining one seat, the commissioners agreed to give both sides a fair shot at winning the new district, which leans slightly Democratic, according to an early review of the map.

Washington State Redistricting Commission

It also created a new majority-minority district in the Seattle area and moved all of Olympia into one district.

In the end, both sides got some of what they had wanted.

Republicans had wanted to create the Snohomish-based district that would lean Republican, while Democrats sought a new Olympia-based district that they could win.

Instead, the GOP’s Snohomish-based district took in more Democratic parts of King County to create a competitive district. The district is labeled No. 1 on the new map . One estimate shared with the Fix showed that it went easily for President Obama (more than 55 percent) but narrowly for GOP candidate Dino Rossi in the 2008 governor contest and 2010 Senate contests. Democrats will likely be favored.

The district isn’t technically new, as it takes in some of Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D) current 1st district, which is based in northern Seattle. But Inslee is running for governor, and the district was vastly redrawn to be much more competitive than his current district.

The map-drawers essentially moved Inslee’s Democratic leaning district to a new spot on the map, creating the new Olympia-based 10th district, which will be a Democratic-leaning open seat.

By creating that district in Olympia, the map-drawers were able to shift the 9th district held by Rep. Adam Smith (D) northward and give it a slight majority of minority voters — a key aim for minority groups and Democrats. It now runs from the southern part of Seattle to Tacoma. (For more detail on the Seattle-area districts, click here.)

The map also shores up some of the more vulnerable members in the state.

Freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s (R) swing 3rd district in the southwestern part of the state drops its territory near Olympia and becomes a couple percentage points more Republican. It now leans Republican (added bonus: Herrera Beutler’s 2010 opponent, Denny Heck (D), has already announced for the new 10th district).

Rep. Dave Reichert (R), long a Democratic target, sees his 8th district expand eastward to pick up rural areas of Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R) strongly conservative 4th district. Reichert’s district, which leaned Democratic, is now at least a swing district and should be safer for the GOP if and when he retires.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Rick Larsen’s (D) Puget Sound-based 2nd district should be safer after taking in some of Inslee’s territory. The GOP almost beat Larsen last year, and he has already drawn two formidable opponents in 2010 foe John Koster (R) and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Greg Anders (R). But Anders and Koster may both decide to run in the 1st now.

The map was agreed to by Democratic Commissioner Tim Ceis and Republican Commissioner Slade Gorton (a former senator). The commission includes two Republicans and two Democrats, and Ceis and Gorton need to secure the support of one other member to pass it.

The map must be approved by Jan. 1.

The state Democratic Party voiced its support for the compromise soon after it was released.

“We are inspired that this new proposal presents opportunities for Democrats to expand the number of dedicated representatives who will fight for the interests of Washington’s middle class in Congress,” state party chairman Dwight Pelz said.

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