It’s hard to imagine that anyone is entirely happy with the unholy mess the Washington State Redistricting Commission made of its critical once-a-decade task. But residents of what has been the state’s 12th Legislative District, including the Methow Valley, have reason to be especially aggrieved.
Members of the Redistricting Commission, whose new legislative maps may well stand despite a botched and possibly illegal process, ignored pleas from the 12th District’s current representatives and their constituents to keep the district essentially intact. None of that seemed to matter to the two Republicans or two Democrats on the Redistricting Commission. Both parties threw the 12th under the bus.
As we reported earlier, the Methow Valley has been in the 12th Legislative District since 1972, with Chelan and Douglas counties. The new maps place the Methow with the rest of Okanogan County in the 7th District along with Stevens, Pend Oreille and portions of Ferry, Douglas and Grant counties. (Okanogan County will stay in the 4th Congressional District, now represented by Republican Dan Newhouse.)
State Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, noted that “Many organizations from North Central Washington provided extensive comments to the Redistricting Commission about keeping our region together, based on the shared natural resource, economic, and other interests of the area. … Our local stakeholders did everything the commissioners asked of us in providing comments and then they seemingly disregarded those comments in forming the new maps.”
Instead, Okanogan County and the Methow Valley will be part of the 7th Legislative District, currently represented by Sen. Shelly Short and Reps. Jacquelin Maycumber and Joel Kretz, all Republicans.
Hawkins and the 12th District’s two state representatives, Keith Goehner and Mike Steele, are also Republicans, but they have been notably focused on and responsive to important local needs and issues rather than ideological posing. All have helped the Methow Valley community advance high-priority causes in the Legislature. The 12th District delegation usually adopted the Republican party line on larger state issues, sometimes to our disappointment, but they could be counted on to hear us out on things that are important to us locally — and get results. Other community representatives around the 12th would surely affirm that kind of attentiveness from their legislative delegation.
Those kinds of relationships take time, patience and trust to build. They will be missed, and we thank Hawkins, Goehner and Steele for their efforts.
To be fair, maybe our new state representatives will, in time, be equally attentive. Frankly, we’re not immediately confident. They seem to have other ideologically-driven agendas and priorities, wolf eradication preeminent among them. One wonders if any of them would have gotten behind state funding for a Methow Valley biochar project, as Hawkins did, or helped round up more state capital projects funds for the Twisp civic building project. That said, we’ll try to keep an open mind.
The Redistricting Commission’s wreckage further torqued the 12th District by vaulting its boundaries westward over the Cascades to include communities in Snohomish and King counties, turning a distinctly eastern Washington district into a geographically daunting and politically nonsensical mélange. Aside from both being on U.S. Highway 2, what are the natural connections between Monroe and Wenatchee? Again, both parties seemed indifferent to the consequences of such a drastic realignment for effective representation.
The state Legislature will vote to approve the new maps next year but can’t change them without a two-thirds vote. Some legal challenges to the Redistricting Commission’s maps are being mounted, or considered. But we may well be stuck with the commission’s muddling for another 10 years, until the next census count comes around. That will be a cumbersome transition for everyone.