Well, my recent diary on the hypothetical state of Delmarva was pretty well received. I wanted to go a bit closer to home - my real home, not Maryland - for my next foray into fantasy redistricting. I also opted to do something a bit simple, since after all, yesterday was Election Day.
So, I took a trip back in time inspired by the great book How the States Got Their Shapes. I decided to take a look at what the effects of Oregon somehow regaining a few eastern counties it surrendered north of an artificial boundary way back when it was still an organized incorporated territory.
Something's missing! Washington has lost four small counties from its southeastern corner, south of the Snake River and north of the 46th parallel north. Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla counties have buggered off to (re)join Oregon after being given to the Washington Territory in the 1850s after Olympia whined insufferably to Congress about how it was so unfair that the Oregon Territory would get all of the good farmland after the Washington Territory was split off. As a result, Washington actually holds steady at nine districts instead of adding one in this round of redistricting, even though the combined population of these counties on the Snake's south bank is less than 90,000.
WA-01 (blue): OPEN
Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democratic incumbent here, is running for governor. Fighting to succeed him is a clown car of Democrats ranging from at least one clone of Rep. Dennis Kucinich to at least one clone of Rep. Heath Shuler. This district actually expands somewhat, though it remains solidly Democratic, voting for Sen. Patty Murray in a Republican wave last year by a 16-point margin. It includes most of the residences of the Democrats vying to replace Inslee, but Steve Hobbs's home of Lake Stevens is left out. What a shame. Safe Democratic.
WA-02 (green): Rep. Rick Larsen (D)
Surprisingly, feeding the Cascade foothills here to another district doesn't make this district all that much more Democratic. Sen. Murray won here by three points, which is definitely enough to keep Larsen safe. The other notable change here is that it sheds the San Juan Islands. Likely Democratic with Larsen, Lean Democratic without Larsen.
WA-03 (purple): Rep. Jaime Herrera Buetler (R)
Instead of expanding into Olympia, this district picks up Grays Harbor County, as well as Klickitat County. If not for the bizarrely Republican Lewis County, which sits like a gay-bashing, tax-slashing iron bar between the liberal Seattle and Portland metros, it would be pretty competitive. But Dino Rossi won here by more than nine points last year despite losing by five points statewide, and although Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt might be able to make a race of it, this is out of range for a liberal Democrat except for maybe in a Democratic wave year. Likely Republican.
WA-04 (red): Rep. Doc Hastings (R)
So remember how Rossi lost Washington by five points? He won this district by more than 29 points. This is by far the most Republican district in the state, as central Washington doesn't demonstrate, even remotely, the growing Democratic sympathies of parts of central Oregon to the south. Even Ellensburg, probably the most liberal city here, was won convincingly by Rossi last year. This is a no-man's-land for Democrats. There isn't much more to say. This district changes perhaps the least of any in the state from the current map, just dropping Klickitat County and staying exactly the same otherwise. Safe Republican.
WA-05 (yellow): Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R)
This is a weird district by necessity. It arcs up over Hastings's district to spill over the western flank of the North Cascades, which wasn't my first choice for the necessary Cascade crossing here, but it works out okay. McMorris-Rodgers gets a district that is demographically quite similar to her current seat, and she's safe for reelection here. Rossi won this district by 19 points. Safe Republican.
WA-06 (sienna): Rep. Norm Dicks (D)
The big change for this district is the addition of all of Olympia, as well as the San Juan Islands. It also drops Grays Harbor County, to little effect. Murray won it by nearly six points in 2010. This Olympia Peninsula-based district is an excellent fit for the powerful Dicks, and he can expect to hold onto this seat for as long as he wants it. Safe Democratic with Dicks, Likely Democratic without Dicks.
WA-07 (magenta): Rep. Jim McDermott (D)
I think McDermott lives in north Seattle and thus remains in the district, but even if he doesn't, he can and should run in this most Democratic of districts in the state. Instead of meandering south to take in SeaTac and Vashon Island, it wraps around to grab Mercer Island, Renton, and Sammamish to the east. Murray annihilated Rossi by a 47-point margin here last year. Safe Democratic.
WA-08 (teal): Rep. Adam Smith (D)
Although Murray underperformed in Pierce County, within which this district is entirely contained, the county is generally friendly to Democrats, and Smith is popular within the district, though significant tracts of this district are taken from Rep. Dave Reichert's current district. Murray won here by just a single point, though, dropping the PVI of this district to approximately D+2. Smith should hold it just fine, but if he retires or something happens to damage his image, it could be an opportunity for Team Red. Likely Democratic with Smith, Tossup/Tilt Democratic without Smith.
WA-09 (orange): Rep. Dave Reichert (R)
Reichert lives here, so I'm calling it his district, but so much has it changed that I've renumbered it. This is now a district anchored by south Seattle, including the liberal inner suburbs of SeaTac and Kent, and Reichert is just unlucky enough to end up here. It's entirely within King County, which is bad news for him right there, and Murray romped in this district by nearly 19 points last year. I don't see how even the resilient Reichert can survive even in a Republican-friendly year. Likely Democratic with Reichert, Safe Democratic without Reichert.
I'm calling the result of this redistricting a 5-3-1 map. And this is a visual representation of that partisan split:
However, I think Smith will run and win in the Pierce County district, which yields a 6-3 split:
But the fun doesn't stop with Washington, because its congressional district must have gone somewhere. And that somewhere happens to be the same place that those four Snake River counties went: Oregon, the greatest state of the 50.
Looks kinda funny now that it doesn't stop at the 46th parallel east of the Columbia River, huh? I think I could get used to it. The 86,000 or so people in those four new counties nets Oregon a 6th congressional district, on which it tragically missed out by 41,500 people this decade, and as a result, the map has been shaken up pretty dramatically.
OR-01 (blue): OPEN
This "waves and wineries" district on the Oregon Coast doesn't get things off to an auspicious start for Team Blue in this six-district configuration. While it answers a longstanding demand for this community of interest to receive representation in Congress, a lot of this territory has seen bluer days. While the parts of Washington County included in the district have trended Democratic, and Yamhill and Polk counties are straggling leftward from their Republican stronghold status, the southern part of the district is populated with ancestral Democrats who are either dying off or turning to the Republican Party. Vote counts here are sure to be a dogfight between liberal Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Lincoln, and Washington counties and conservative Coos, Curry, Douglas, Polk, and Yamhill counties (with Tillamook County up for grabs). I tend to think this tilts Republican, as the most liberal parts of Benton, Lane, and Washington counties are in other districts, while all of Coos, Curry, Douglas, and Yamhill counties are here. Tossup/Tilt Republican.
OR-02 (green): OPEN
This district effectively combines the sparsely populated communities of interest of eastern and southern Oregon. And with apologies to Rep. Greg Walden, he's been redistricted elsewhere. This is a very, very red district, and adding the conservative Snake River counties taken from southeastern Washington doesn't change that one whit. In fact, under this six-district configuration, this district gets substantially more Republican, dropping Bend and the Democratic areas of the Columbia River Gorge. Safe Republican
OR-03 (purple): Rep. Eric Blumenauer (D)
This configuration sees Portland unpacked somewhat, and this district is basically the Westside plus parts of downtown east Portland and most of the inner Washington County suburbs. Blumenauer is the extremely popular incumbent here, but by the next general election, this district will be more crowded, with either Suzanne Bonamici or Rob Cornilles also being incumbent members of Congress who live here. A hypothetical Rep. Cornilles might decide to try his luck in the coastal district, while a hypothetical Rep. Bonamici could either defer to Blumenauer, try to get him to retire, or primary him in the hopes of overcoming him with Washington County votes. But this is an extremely liberal district arising from the splitting of Portland, as well as an overall quite affluent district. I don't know that Blumenauer or Bonamici could pass up an opportunity to run here. Safe Democratic.
OR-04 (red): Rep. Peter DeFazio (D)
I went ahead and did it. I created a district combining the two related communities of interest of the lower Willamette Valley and central Oregon. Eugene and Bend are actually at almost the exact same latitude; they're both midsize cities that serve as regional metropoles and have very young average populations. The difference is that Eugene is west of the Cascade Range and Bend is east of it. But that's okay. Politically, despite the inclusion of Republican strongholds Jefferson and Linn counties, it looks solidly Democratic, with the deep blue tendencies of Lane County plus Democratic strength from Bend and especially Corvallis more than canceling out rural Republicans. DeFazio, who is quite popular, should be easily reelected here. Safe Democratic with DeFazio, Likely Democratic without DeFazio.
OR-05 (yellow): Rep. Kurt Schrader (D)
Just as DeFazio benefits from losing some of the more conservative portions of his district, so does Schrader, who no longer has to deal with all but the parts of Polk County that sit adjacent to the state capital of Salem. Marion County is trending Democratic despite being a Republican stronghold not so long ago. Clackamas County isn't likely to go blue as fast as neighboring Washington County did, but it's exhibiting a similar trend as Portland's satellite cities and towns continue to not get the memo that white-collar suburbs are supposed to be conservative. Schrader should be safe enough here that this district is no longer considered a swing district (despite being in Democratic hands through several Republican wave years since the mid-1990s), but just as now, he's not entirely invincible. Likely Democratic.
OR-06 (sienna): Rep. Greg Walden (R)
Ah, there he is. And there he goes. This Gorge-based district is entirely contained within counties where then-Sen. Barack Obama thumped Sen. John McCain in 2008, and it contains a big chunk of urban Multnomah County, particularly the less wealthy neighborhoods of Portland and the relatively gritty inner suburb of Gresham. Maybe Bonamici could persuade Blumenauer to run here? If not, State Rep. Jefferson Smith would surely take a hard look at this race in 2014 if he falls short in his bid to be mayor of Portland. Safe Democratic.
This shakes out to a 4-1-1 map overall, which would look like this:
And I'm sorry, but I'm bearish on that coastal district. Too much of that district has trended too far away from Democrats for a generic Democrat to be favored over a generic Republican in a neutral year. So I think it's a 4-2, if you pushed me:
Taken together, the partisan split Pacific Northwest looks like this under these maps, in my estimation:
Interestingly enough, despite the transfer of more than 85,000 Washingtonians from a very conservative part of the state to the slightly purpler state of Oregon, the partisan breakdown changes very little because 2008 turnout in that part of Washington lagged behind the region's turnout. This lesser Washington now went for Obama 57.6% to 40% for McCain, and the expanded Oregon gave Obama a win with 56.4% of the vote to 40.8% mustered by McCain.