Go back to the rain shadow! Karl Rove's dark money will not avail you!
This might seem awfully silly and parochial, but it's true one of the biggest controversies in both Oregon and Washington is the Cascade divide. The Cascades split both states geographically, climatologically, culturally, and politically, and the issue of which congressional district should cross the volcanic range and where in order to make up the population difference is one of the hottest debates in every decennial redistricting in which it is necessary (especially in Washington, which has two districts based in the eastern part of the state and will have to draw at least one more across the mountains this year). Some folks, especially east of the Cascades, even grumble about kicking the hippies in the Willamette Valley and along Puget Sound out and forming their own state.
So, I thought maybe we should give them what they want and see how that shakes out redistricting-wise.
A lot more people live west of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest than live east of them. As a result, this new state has a whopping twelve congressional districts, effectively combining the soon-to-be-eight districts based in western Washington and the four districts based in western Oregon. Rather than trying to preserve the bizarre, haphazard numbering scheme of both Washington and Oregon's congressional districts, I've renumbered these districts roughly from north to south, though it might be hard to tell from the colors. I've named this state Cascadia, though it could also be named West Oregon, in a nod to its pre-statehood history.
CS-01 (blue): Rep. Rick Larsen (D)
This district, stretching from the San Juan Islands (via Anacortes) to the western ridge of the North Cascades, is the northernmost in the new state of Cascadia. It's also quite Democratic and should be solid for Larsen. Safe Democratic with Larsen, Likely Democratic without Larsen.
CS-02 (green): Rep. Jay Inslee (D)
Inslee, the Democratic incumbent here, is pursuing the governorship. But it's unclear whether Inslee would (or could) if part of what is now Washington merged with part of what is now Oregon. As such, I've listed Inslee as the incumbent here, but of the Democrats running to succeed him, Steve Hobbs and Darcy Burner live outside the lines here, while Marko Liias, Roger Goodman, and (I believe) Laura Ruderman live inside them. This district is quite Democratic and could even elect someone like Burner, God forbid. Safe Democratic.
CS-03 (purple): OPEN
This district is fairly similar to Republican Rep. Dave Reichert's current district, but it leaves out his hometown of Auburn, picks up all of Bellevue, and stays entirely within King County. As a result, it's several points more Democratic and has probably become unwinnable for Reichert, though he would have the best shot of any Republican in the district. Darcy Burner, who lives here, might choose to switch over and run here. Likely Democratic with Reichert, Safe Democratic without Reichert.
CS-04 (red): Rep. Jim McDermott (D)
I'm not sure if McDermott lives in this district under these lines, but he'd probably run here. It contains north and west Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, and part of the Kitsap Peninsula, coming out as (unsurprisingly) a very, very Democratic district. Safe Democratic.
CS-05 (yellow): Reps. Adam Smith (D) and Dave Reichert (R)
You would think Republicans would love a guy named Adam Smith, but they keep trying to beat him every election cycle, so I guess not. Nonetheless, this Seattle-to-Tacoma district, which contains the homes of both Smith and Reichert, is of course a Democratic lock. Reichert could run here, but Smith would beat him like a rented mule. The odd geography of the Seattle area makes this district look rather odd, but it actually works quite well from a CoI perspective. Safe Democratic.
CS-06 (sienna): OPEN
I don't believe any incumbents live here, but this district recognizes a community of interest for the southern end of Puget Sound and is anchored by Olympia, the state capital. This is a fairly Democratic area, although Sen. Patty Murray underperformed somewhat here last year due to Dino Rossi's strength in usually-Democratic Pierce County. Paulist acolyte Doug Cloud, a four-time loser to Smith who lives in Gig Harbor, is a likely Republican candidate here. Likely Democratic.
CS-07 (magenta): Reps. Norm Dicks (D) and Jaime Herrera Buetler (R)
This is kind of a weird district, combining reddish exurban Portland–Vancouver with most of the blueish Olympic Peninsula. The result is a district I estimate (hard without exact numbers) that Sen. John McCain won narrowly in 2008. Dicks is a stronger incumbent than Herrera Buetler, but the district is redder than his current district and has a partisan profile more similar to Herrera Buetler's district. If the two incumbents squared off, I'd call it a jump ball. If Dicks didn't run, advantage Herrera Buetler. Tossup with Dicks, Lean Republican without Dicks.
CS-08 (teal): Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D)
This Portland-based seat is the only one in Cascadia that crosses the Columbia River, combining Portland with its largest suburb of Vancouver, as well as the smaller liberal Clark County suburbs of Hazel Dell, Minnehaha, and Orchards. It also spreads into rural Multnomah and Clackamas counties, but the urban core of the district outweighs its rural population by an order of magnitude. Blumenauer lives here, would probably run here, and would crush all opposition here. This would probably be one of the most Democratic white-majority districts in the country. Safe Democratic.
CS-09 (orange): OPEN
At the time of the next general election, this district will be represented by either Democrat Suzanne Bonamici or Republican Rob Cornilles. Bonamici could hold a district like this down easily. Cornilles would get destroyed. This district combines most of west Portland with most of Washington County, all of Columbia County, and about half of the Oregon Coast. The result is a district that is very liberal and predominantly white-collar. Safe Democratic.
CS-10 (cyan): Rep. Kurt Schrader (D)
Schrader's district pulls out of Marion and Tillamook counties and takes in more of rural Clackamas County, as well as all of Republican-tending Yamhill County, but it also grabs almost all of Gresham, Oregon's fourth-largest city, and a much larger portion of Portland, including its southwest and most of its southeast. Schrader could probably afford to move a little to the left here, but this isn't quite as safe as the other Portland-based districts. That's a relative concept, of course, and I would expect Democratic dominance here. Likely Democratic.
CS-11 (chartreuse): OPEN
By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, then-Sen. Barack Obama won this mid-Valley-based district in 2008 by a two- to three-point margin, making it one of the most competitive districts in the state. Both parties have intriguing benches here. Republican state legislators Jackie Winters and Vicki Berger, both of Salem, are perhaps the likeliest to run for the GOP nod. On the Democratic side, the most interesting potential candidates in my estimation would be Brian Clem, a young state representative from Salem; and Mayor Sharon Konopa of Albany. Candidates would definitely matter in a district as close as this, and it's hard to say who would start out favored. Tossup.
CS-12 (slate blue): Rep. Peter DeFazio (D)
Eugene is the major population center here, followed by Medford, Ashland, and Grants Pass in southern Oregon. DeFazio is perfectly suited for this district. It's hard to say how this district might change demographically over the next decade or so, as rural southern Oregon is trending red, while the twin metropoles of Medford (traditionally Republican) and Ashland (traditionally Democratic) have been growing and trending blue. My sense is that a non-incumbent would have to work harder than DeFazio to hold the seat. But DeFazio has made no suggestion that he's planning on retiring anytime soon. Likely Democratic with DeFazio, Lean Democratic without DeFazio.
That concludes the run-through for the strongly Democratic west.
After this round of redistricting, Washington and Oregon will combine for fifteen congressional districts. Cascadia got twelve of them. This state, reasonably enough, got the other three. I reluctantly clove to the Oregon state government's definition of eastern Oregon and included Hood River County in this new state, which I've called Imperial after the Inland Empire, though it could also be called East Oregon or simply Empire. I decided to use all-different colors for this state because I could.
IM-01 (salmon): Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R)
This district is the only one in Imperial that remains entirely within what is currently Washington. Its major population base is in Spokane. It also includes about half of the only county to be split in the state, Grant County (the Washingtonian version). Although Obama won Whitman County and did pretty well in Spokane County as well, the rest of the district is very red. Obama lost by between five and six points here, which isn't that bad considering the territory, but it's probably out of range for a Democrat considering Democratic Party infrastructure in the Inland Empire barely exists. McMorris Rodgers should be strongly favored here, although Democrats might have a recruit in outgoing Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, who was caught sleeping this year and may want a shot at redemption. Likely Republican.
IM-02 (blue-violet): Reps. Doc Hastings (R) and Greg Walden (R)
Nothing is more fun than Republican primary battles! This one could actually have ramifications for the general election, too. While the part of this district that would be familiar to Hastings (who currently represents central Washington) is quite conservative, going for Dino Rossi last year by about 22 points, the portion currently represented by Walden south of the Columbia River was exactly 330 votes shy of breaking for Obama in 2008. The result is a district that McCain won by a mere seven points, and the part of this district that is now central Oregon was trending pretty rapidly towards Democrats before the recession slammed the brakes on economic growth there. A somewhat more centrist Republican like Walden would probably be able to hold off Democratic challengers here, but a moderate Democrat from somewhere like Bend, The Dalles, Yakima, or Ellensburg could give Hastings (who would be favored to win the Republican nomination) a real test in a good Democratic year. Safe Republican with Walden, Likely Republican without Walden.
IM-03 (spring green): OPEN
Hey ho, nobody home! This district runs the gamut from alpine slopes and a national park in the southwest through vast expanses of empty desert in the southeast and center to rolling plains broken by jagged mountain ranges in the east to rich farmland and vineyards in the north. The largest concentration of population here are twin pairs of "Tri-Cities": Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick in what is currently Washington, and the considerably less populous trio of Umatilla, Pendleton, and Hermiston a mere 25 miles away in what is currently Oregon. This beautiful, geographically diverse district will elect a Democrat approximately when Hell reopens as a giant subterranean ice rink. Safe Republican.
So Imperial looks like an 0-3, while Cascadia looks like a 10-2. It is a very real possibility that Imperial would elect an entirely Republican congressional delegation while Cascadia would elect all Democrats, becoming the largest state to be dominated at the federal level by a single party. However, those two swing districts are too close to call, so I'll settle for considering them true tossups. Represented on the map, the Pacific Northwest would now look like this in terms of partisan split:
Thoughts, either on the map or on the concept?