Oregon redistricting gives GOP slight bump
By Aaron Blake,
This is the latest in a regular Fix series that focuses on the decennial redistricting process in key states. We call it “Mapping the Future.” The series aims to look forward to how the maps in these states could be drawn and what the best and worst outcomes for each party might be. Today we take on South Carolina. (And make sure to check out the previous installments: Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, North Carolina , Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, New Jersey, Colorado,Minnesota and South Carolina.)
Oregon’s state legislature has passed a new plan for its five congressional districts, and the new map looks a whole lot like the current one.
Republicans say they feel marginally better about their chances of beating Democratic Reps. David Wu and Kurt Schrader, but neither of their districts are much more GOP-friendly under the new map.
(Check out this great illustration by the state legislature, which allows for easy comparison between the proposed districts and the current ones.)
Observers thought the map in the state was headed for the courts, as it has the last two decades. That’s because the two chambers of the legislature are so evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, including a tie in the state House. (A deadlock in the legislature pushes the map to the courts.)
Instead, last week the legislature worked out the details and passed a map where both sides came out happy. Or, at least, satisfied.
Looking for changes on the new map requires a magnifying glass. (Lucky for you, we have one.)
Train that magnifying glass on Portland-based Multnomah County and you begin to understand the critical differences the map that is and the map that (likely) will be.
Wu and Schrader both cede parts of heavily Democratic Portland and Multnomah County to the Democratic 3rd district of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D). In the process, Wu’s and Schrader’s districts will tilt slightly more towards Republicans.
The most competitive district in the state looks to be Schrader’s suburban 5th. Schrader, who won reelection by five points last year, loses much of his territory in Portland to Blumenauer and swaps some territory with Blumenauer in suburban Clackamas County to the east. He also loses Democratic-leaning Corvallis, in the southern part of his district to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D).
The cumulative effect is a slightly friendlier swing district for Republicans who, with relatively few targets left on the map nationwide after sweeping victories in 2010, will likely make defeating Schrader a priority. (Schrader was one of 15 Democratic incumbents named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Frontline” program for its most vulnerable members.)
But Schrader isn’t the only target. Wu, whose northwestern 1st district loses downtown Portland to Blumenauer and picks up some of suburban Multnomah County just north of the city — the piece of the county that lies north of Portland and west of the Willamette River.
The combined effect is a more suburban and slightly less Democratic-leaning district for Wu.
Although the seat still leans toward Democrats, Wu’s personal problems have Republicans gunning for him, and 2010 GOP nominee Rob Cornilles is considering a repeat bid. Democrats, meanwhile, suggest the problem may be solved if Wu doesn’t make it through a tough primary, where he faces state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. If Avakian claims the nomination, the 1st will be tough for the GOP to win.
The other Oregon district that could be competitive is DeFazio’s Eugene-based 4th district — but probably only if the 13-term incumbent runs for higher office or retires.
The good news for Democrats is that the district got a little better for them in the new map. The district picks up Democratic-leaning Corvallis and doesn’t add too much of the more conservative Grants Pass area in the southwestern part of the state, as Republicans had wanted.
The city of Grants Pass remains entirely in the district held by the state’s lone Republican, Rep. Greg Walden. Under the new map, his massive 2nd district, which covers the eastern two-thirds of the state, remains the same except for the changes near Grants Pass.
In the end,Oregon’s is a status quo map. The changes are only likely to shift a point or two, here or there. No incumbent faces direct peril because of the lines although several could have real races in 2012.
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