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Rep. Jay Inslee's (D) gubernatorial bid gives Washington state's redistricting commission some room to maneuver as it looks to squeeze in a new district gained in reapportionment.
The result could further entrench the eight remaining incumbents — four Democrats, four Republicans — and give Democrats the opportunity to hold a 6-4 advantage in the delegation.
"Because we gained a Member of Congress as a result of the census, all of the Members obviously are concerned about where their lines will be," former Sen. Slade Gorton (R), who serves on the five-member redistricting commission, said in an interview.
The commission's two Republicans, two Democrats and a nonvoting commission chairman have not yet begun cross-party negotiations. They have until Jan. 1 to agree to a plan, and in the past two decades the plans weren't settled until New Year's Eve, Gorton said.
But there is a consensus among the Republicans and Democrats in the state who spoke with Roll Call that Republican Reps. Dave Reichert and Jaime Herrera Beutler, who picked up an open Democratic seat last year, likely will see their seats packed with more Republicans.
And should Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) decide to move West and bid for a seat because his own is likely to vanish through Ohio's redistricting process, things could get interesting.
Reichert, whose district voted for President Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the past two presidential elections, is a perennial target for Democrats, and Herrera Beutler likely would be as well.
By removing some of the more Democratic parts of Olympia's Thurston County in the 3rd district, a new 10th district that would favor Democrats could be carved out. Northeast of Seattle, Inslee's 1st district could gain some of the more Democratic areas of Reichert's district, which is based in King and Pierce counties but is expected to move farther south and east.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D), who won by just 2 points in 2010, could see his 2nd district in the northwestern corner of the state pick up some more Democratic areas closer to Seattle, making it safer.
"The two big variables are where to put the new 10th and how to realign the open 1st," Democratic consultant Christian Sinderman said. "Everyone else is an incumbent with an entrenched desire to make their district safer than it is."
Democrat Denny Heck, who lost to Herrera Beutler last year, is hoping the 10th ends up in his base of Thurston County. He even filed candidacy papers last month with the Federal Election Commission that listed his district as the still imaginary 10th. He quickly refiled, placing "00" as his district.