Midday Scan: The redistricting edition

How Slade Gorton elbowed his way to success in Washington, what it will mean for the rest of us, and how Californians played dirty in their neck of the woods. Plus other non-redistricting news.

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Former Sen. Slade Gorton

How Slade Gorton elbowed his way to success in Washington, what it will mean for the rest of us, and how Californians played dirty in their neck of the woods. Plus other non-redistricting news.

The new 1st Congressional district looks like an inverted arrowhead, with an equally inverted demographic (from Medina to Marblemount, Bothell to Concrete.) It's a district united by a common humanity and, well, not much else. Wild prediction number one: The next 1st-district representative will be a well-heeled professional from Bothell or Medina (think Suzan DelBene) and not a log-splitting populist from Marblemount. Wild-prediction-number-one's glaring exception: Republican populist and former dairy farmer John Koster of Arlington. Koster, who nearly defeated Rep. Rick Larsen in 2010, is a seasoned lawmaker skilled at retail politics. With a fractured Democratic field, Koster is now the presumptive front runner. 

As the Herald's Jerry Cornfield observes, the redistricting maps make Snohomish County the cornerstone of a new political geography (a potential leg up for state Sen. Steve Hobbs.) "In the end, parts of Snohomish County wound up in the 1st, 2nd and 7th congressional districts," Cornfield writes. "The 2nd District, served by Larsen, will shed communities in east Snohomish County and add the cities of Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Brier. The district already includes Everett, Marysville and Arlington." The redistricting outcome illustrates the political savvy of Republican commission member Slade Gorton. While the 10th district centered in Olympia is a de facto Democratic pick-up for Denny Heck, the 1st is now a bona fide swing district that could even the political math and bolster state Republicans.   

Slade Gorton triumphed the old-fashioned way, with sharp elbows and smart-guy finesse. In California, Democrats embraced an equally old fashioned but less honorable tact: Game the system and undercut the spirit, if not the letter, of the state's redistricting process. ProPublica offers a comprehensive look at the rule bending in practice. "The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players.

To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests," Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson write. "When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento." 

The California case fleshes out the larger question of how to de-politicize a process that is inherently political. The answer has been to delegate re-districting to balanced, albeit partisan commissions with the shrewder partisans winning. With an imperfect system, best practices get clouded, which is why politics is less a science than an extension of human nature. So, what better way to underline the foibles of human nature than through song? Indeed, ProPublica explains it all with The Redistricting Song, a sweet capstone to an inspired series of investigative articles.

The Endangered Species Act is freighted with emotional baggage. To be effective, wonky scientists need to dumb down and recast their rhetoric. The first question for skeptics, such as House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, is why the recovery rate is a meager 1 percent. "I firmly believe we could do better," Hastings tells Rob Hotakainen of McClatchy News. 

One of the challenges is recovery takes too long for impatient lawmakers. "Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz., said scientists had concluded that it took an average of 42 years for a species to recover to the point that it no longer was endangered," Hotakainen writes. It's also a political football Hastings might want to avoid. "Hastings may be entering dangerous territory: A former Republican chairman of the committee, Richard Pombo of California, tried hard to change the law, only to earn the enmity of environmentalists, who helped defeat him in 2006."     

"Why, oh why, can't Seattle leave Portland alone to bask in its greatness?" writes an ill-informed Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times. Okay, Murphy is right, even if it's ersatz greatness fueled by the popularity of "Portlandia," a comedy series on IFC. Seattle is still bigger, better, smarter, and, well, humbler than Portland.

To prove it, Seattle locals Lila Hurwitz and Daniel Doolittle conceived "Put a Plane on it," a website to counteract Portlandia's too-cute, albeit brilliant "Put a Bird on It."  "When will it end? When the rain stops? Or will someone from outside the Northwest have to step in with yet another website?" Murphy writes.

Lastly, for an impressive example of local sports history, the Herald's Scott Johnson has a two-part profile of Husky great George "The Wildcat" Wilson. "Had George Wilson been playing football in the early part of the 21st century instead of the one that preceded it, he may not have had any choice but to spend his entire life in the spotlight. Instead, Everett's first superstar came and quietly went, disappearing from the public eye and eventually leaving this world a nearly forgotten man," Johnson writes. By the way, Wilson's not-so-forgotten great-nephew is King County Executive Dow Constantine.  

Link Summary

The Herald, "Redistricting sets up political battleground in Snohomish County"

ProPublica, "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission"

Seattle Times, "Hastings, GOP target Endangered Species Act"

Los Angeles Times, 'Portlandia' anyone? Seattle says to put a plane on it" 

The Herald, "The rise of the 'Wildcat,' Everett's first sports superstar"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson