Plan would split county between districts

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County could be split between two congressional districts under a redistricting plan released Wednesday.

The proposed plan by former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and Tim Ceis, former Seattle deputy mayor, would put the western half of the county in the 4th Congressional District and the eastern half in the 5th Congressional District. The split would place Touchet and Burbank in the 4th Congressional District and Walla Walla, College Place, Waitsburg, Dixie and Prescott in the 5th Congressional District.

The county is currently entirely in the 5th Congressional District, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The 4th Congressional District is represented by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings. Both are Republicans.

Gorton and Huff are two of the four voting members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission, which has been charged with redrawing the state's political maps for federal and state legislative offices. The other two members are Tom Huff and Dean Foster. Gorton and Huff are the Republican appointees and Ceis and Foster the Democratic appointees. The commission is led by Chairwoman Lura Powell, a nonvoting member.

The commission has to finish its work by News Year's Day and all plans must be approved by three of the four voting commission members. If the commission fails to agree on new maps, the task will fall to the state Supreme Court to redraw the boundaries to equalize populations in the congressional and legislative districts.

Commissioners were scheduled to meet again today in Olympia to continue work and will probably meet again Friday and possibly even Saturday, said Genevieve O'Sullivan, the commission's communications director.

According to a Seattle Times article today, Gorton and Ceis' proposed congressional district plan would create a 10th Congressional District in the south Puget Sound centered around Olympia.

A plan to redraw state Legislative Districts also was released Wednesday by Huff and Foster. Under their proposal, Walla Walla and Columbia counties would remain in the 16th Legislative District, along with portions of Franklin and Benton counties.

That district is represented by state Reps. Maureen Walsh and Terry Nealey and state Sen. Mike Hewitt. All are Republicans.

While all of Walla Walla and Columbia counties would remain in the 16th District, Powell said in an article in the Tri-City Herald today that commissioners have not been able to agree on where Pasco and West Richland will be placed.

Powell told the Herald that Foster's plan would divide Pasco between the 16th and 9th legislative districts. His plan would also move West Richland out of the 8th Legislative District into the 16th district, which would wrap around the Tri-Cities and pick up much of rural Benton County.

According to the Seattle Times, another dispute arose Wednesday when Foster and Huff declared that they were at an impasse concerning Hispanic representation in Eastern Washington.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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