WA redistribution could benefit the GOP, as voting patterns change

After each census, the legislative and congressional districts are redrawn to ensure that each has roughly the same number of people. In some states, this is a partisan, gerrymandered, undemocratic mess. But in Washington state the lines are drawn by a bipartite commission with citizen contribution, which means that both parties always have a say.

At the start of this process, both parties identify where their constituents live based on past elections, and then propose new constituencies that encompass their constituents, creating safe and partisan constituencies. The party that obtains the majority of secure ridings can enjoy an electoral advantage. But this year, to gain that advantage, a different approach might be needed.

The dominant party could be the one that proposes new constituencies based not on where its voters are, but on who and where their voters will be in 2024 and 2028.

This is because in some areas of Washington, how people have voted in the past is not necessarily a reliable indicator of how they will vote in the future. Party preferences are now fluid. Suburbs that traditionally voted Republican now send Democrats to Olympia and Washington, DC Pro-logging Democrats are now electing Republicans. Depending on the redistribution and how the two parties position themselves on the issues ahead, a few Democratic districts by the end of the decade could switch to Republican, just as Mercer Island became Democrat. It is not hypothetical. Depending on the new constituency legislative lines, the shift to the right that we have seen in Grays Harbor could occur in new constituencies that include Everett or Parkland.

Growing up in southwest Washington, I remember Grays Harbor reliably voting for Democrats like Scoop Jackson and Warren Magnuson. But the Democrats who repeatedly returned Julia Butler Hansen and Don Bonker to Congress from the 1960s to the 1990s elected a Republican in 1995 and have continued to do so since 2012; in 2016 and 2020, they voted for Trump. This partisan fluidity hovers above a reality that Butler Hansen’s Democrats, whether in the harbor or in Spokane or Pierce County, are not “Jayapal Democrats,” as are many of the Bellevue-Mercer Island Republicans who sent Steve Litzow to Olympia are not Trump Republicans.

This change among voters reflects a change within the parties themselves. The “Jayapal Democrats” are pulling their party to the left, while the Republicans appeal to some of the Democrats who feel abandoned. In a recent interview, the state’s Senate Minority Leader John Braun spoke proudly about how the working family tax credit “managed to overcome the bump.” [in this legislative session] because the Republicans have led on this issue. Minority House Leader JT Wilcox said: “Republicans, I think, probably make up the bulk of working low-income families. These are the people who are being left a bit behind now, especially when you keep hearing about a regressive tax system and progressive values. I can’t tell you how angry I am, honestly, that a lot of actions [passed this year by Democratic legislators] are incredibly regressive and are the most painful for… working families who have to commute.

A Republican legislative leader told me during the session that the Washington Republican Party is “now a strong workers’ party.” If that’s true, during this year’s redistribution, Republicans might look at some Democratic districts of Butler Hansen that weren’t interesting 10 years ago, but could start voting Republican in four to 12 years.

Click on the maps for a higher resolution version.

Think of Spokane. There, the South Hill neighborhood, south of Interstate 90, is linked to tidy Tudors, mid-century hikers, and lots of colonial and artisan homes, all hidden behind proper landscaping. Neighborhoods north of the Spokane River, like Hillyard, are denser in post-war bungalows. Given conventional thinking, one would predict that South Hill would vote Republican and Hillyard would vote Democratic, but not so much. In my 2016 gubernatorial campaign, I beat or tied up Inslee in the compound north of the river and lost South Hill. In 2020, the advisory vote on the new grocery bag tax – which Republicans oppose – passed in South Hill and failed north of the Spokane River.

A similar divergence on taxes can be seen in the results of the 2018 Democrat-favored cap-and-trade initiative, which reportedly raised the price of gas and fuel oil. He failed in the working and military class of Parkland, but moved to the more toned suburbs of Redmond, Sammamish, and Issaquah.

These results are consistent with a late-April statewide internal Republican poll in which respondents earning less than $ 100,000 a year cited post-homeless taxes as the state’s most significant problem. . Respondents earning more than $ 100,000 a year ranked taxes fourth after homelessness, the pandemic, the environment and only then increasing taxes.

Republicans trying to take back suburban communities by opposing tax hikes are fighting a 21st century battle with a 20th century battle plan. But Democrats are showing a similar disconnect by emphasizing diversity, fairness and police reform, which the internal poll found were among the weakest concerns of respondents earning less than 100,000. $ per year, a conventional Democratic stronghold.

I’m not suggesting that Republicans move away from what used to be Republican suburbs. This is where the votes are, and the ongoing realignment of voters is uncertain and will be gradual. And Republicans can always win it – my analysis of how Sammamish, Mill Creek, and Bellevue now vote suggests that a mainstream Republican in Washington state who came up with pragmatic, center-right approaches to homelessness and environment could gain in these communities.

I suggest, however, that the path to a statewide Republican legislative majority (and perhaps even the governor’s office) may not involve leading the suburban table, but rather reclaiming a few seats in the suburbs. historically Republican suburbs and overthrow a few traditionally Democratic communities. .

Turning over communities like Everett and Parkland, who both voted for Joe Biden, won’t be easy. This might require policy adjustments, such as opposing the right to work for the private sector and first responder unions, or developing market-based means to provide medical care to all children. But, depending on how the districts are redesigned, maybe a few communities could be overthrown just by reaching out to people who feel abandoned by the “Jayapal Democrats” who are raising their taxes, who are putting their jobs on the line for the sake of it. environmental measures that will bring no environmental gain and that defend the right of guys to camp on their children’s playgrounds. If Republicans can focus on the concerns of these “working families who have to commute,” in 2024 or 2028, unexpected seats could be at stake.

This is all based as much on my intuition as it is on data, but if I’m right, Republicans proposing redistricting maps might be arguing in favor of a few “Butler Hansen districts,” which depending on how the parties migrate and of voters settle in, could vote Republican before the end of the decade.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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