Redistricting Oregon: O So Svelte

Dave Bradlee finally managed to sort the obnoxious problems with Oregon’s 2010 Census data, which means it’s time for me to give my home state a whirl.

Nothing too much has changed, as you can see. It just has pretty lines and definitely preserves communities of interest. Only three counties (Columbia, Josephine, and Lincoln) are split between congressional districts, and none of those three are split between more than two districts.

OR-01 (blue)

Democratic Rep. David Wu, who lives in Multnomah County, is out. Unfortunately, some depopulation along the Oregon Coast means this district is stretching a bit further south to find constituents, which is maybe the only part of this map I’m not thrilled about (for aesthetic reasons). As for the politics, as this is a horse-race elections site: Despite Yamhill County’s Republican lean, the great majority of this district’s population is in true blue northwestern Oregon. If Wu can be kept out by this redistricting job, state senators Suzanne Bonamici and Mark Hass are probably in line, provided Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian doesn’t want the job. The inside scoop is that if Wu’s job opens up, he’s got first right of refusal. Likely Democratic.

OR-02 (green)

Walden lives in Hood River. Hood River has been moved elsewhere. Even if Walden doesn’t move back – and I think the diehard conservatives in eastern Oregon, which is (surprisingly enough) one of the most conservative parts of the entire country, may prefer to send Oregon Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli or Bend-area state senator and ambitious “rising star” Chris Telfer to Congress instead of Walden, a close ally of (the possibly doomed) Speaker Boehner who has taken flak for being a leading member of the quasi-moderate Main Street Partnership – this district is red enough to elect an Oregonian version of Christine O’Donnell without a fuss. Anyway, I felt Hood River County belongs with eastern Multnomah County in terms of communities of interest more than it belongs with the high desert cow counties. Safe Republican.

OR-03 (purple)

Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s district has consolidated all of Multnomah County, taken over Hood River County, and poked up into Columbia County just a tad bit, simultaneously withdrawing from Clackamas County. As for politics: Che Guevara could get elected here by double-digit margins. Walden could run here, but he would get clobbered. Wu could also run here, but he would also get clobbered. Mostly, I just think this district looks nice. Safe Democratic.

OR-04 (red)

One of the enduring mysteries of Congress is the charmed existence of Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, a blunt, unabashed, aggressively off-the-reservation left-winger sitting in a light-blue seat. Last year, when conditions seemed perfect for a Republican to potentially upset DeFazio, Republicans in the district nominated certifiable crazy person Art Robinson. DeFazio’s final margin was closer than expected, perhaps on account of his taking victory against Robinson pretty much for granted, but it was still fairly convincing. This district hasn’t changed much. DeFazio still has the red ball-and-chain that is Linn County tethered to him, but it’s easily offset by flaming liberal Benton and Lane counties, both of which are anchored by legendarily left-wing college towns. In terms of actually drawing the map, since I wasn’t consulting political data, it was basically just leftover western Oregon and as much of southern Oregon as fit with population limits stretching east from the coast (which turned out to be not much). Likely Democratic.

OR-05 (yellow)

What is there to do about Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader? Well, one thing to do that would make Clackamas County residents happy would be to give the piece of OR-03 reaching down a little bit into Schrader’s home county back to this fairly swingy district. Another thing might be to embark on a registration drive in increasingly Hispanic Salem and its suburbs, but that’s not really redistricting’s job. Redistricting’s job is to preserve communities of interest, and that was my chief consideration here. As a progressive who generally supports Democrats, I’m not honestly worried about Schrader, and this is why: Republicans target OR-05 every cycle, and every time, they do worse than they were expecting. Last year, Schrader was supposed to lose to Scott Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuun (who, yes, still lives in this district). He won by over five points instead. Republicans were supposed to take over the district in 2008 when then-Rep. Darlene Hooley retired. Schrader crushed Hooley’s 2006 opponent (who was supposed to beat her then, too) by 16 points. Fun fact: in this D+1 district, Republicans haven’t even come as close as five points away since 1994 – the cycle before then-Rep. Jim Bunn lost to Hooley (in 1996) by a margin nearly identical to the margin by which Schrader prevailed last year. For whatever reason, this district is fools’ gold for the Oregon Republican Party. But my favorite part of this redrawn district? It consists simply of all of Polk, Marion, and Clackamas counties, and it’s just 515 heads over the target population. Sexy. Lean Democratic.

25 thoughts on “Redistricting Oregon: O So Svelte”

  1. You’ve turned it into a 53-46 Bush and 52-45 Obama district. It’s gone from D+1 to R+1 or R+2. Yes, Schrader won in 2010, but that doesn’t mean he’s safe for eternity, especially since he only won the three counties you retained in the district by about 1,000 votes.

  2. And your analyses are generally correct.

    Similar to Johnny L, I am somewhat concerned about an Allen Alley or Chris Dudley running against Kurt Schrader. However, long term, I suspect OR-05 will be politically more like an (SF) East Bay district by ’20.

    One unknown — how that district would react if a repeal-anti-gay marriage initiative gets to the ballot for ’12. (There are wingnut aspects to that district.)

  3. We don’t need a district where “Che Guevara could get elected here by double-digit margins,” especially since there are no Voting Rights Act issues here.

  4. Sao —

    If you’re interested, I’d love to see more redistricting stuff – perhaps state lege stuff – from you over at BlueOregon.  What do you think?   Interested?

    (One caveat: we require our writers, including guest columnists, to use their full names.  Hopefully that’s not a dealbreaker.)


    So, that’s pretty cool. Not mentioned by name (as we do tend to go by silly handles here!) but I’m just flattered to get a whole article devoted to a map that took me a little over an hour to draw (though I am quite fond of it).

    Shout-out on the front page of SSP too, which I’m nearly as flattered by!

  6. Even traditionally white-collar, Republican-voting Lake Oswego broke for now-Gov. Kitzhaber last year, although Chris “The Dud” Dudley had residence in the city. Even just a few years ago, I thought Lake Oswego voting for a Democrat was utterly unthinkable. The Latino influx into Polk and Marion counties can definitely be a boon to Democrats if they up their voter registration efforts there (though no question a significant number of them are illegal immigrants).

    An alternate version I had gave Hood River County to OR-05 and shifted around some precincts in Columbia County and down the coast to compensate, but I didn’t think it looked quite as nice. Communities of interest wouldn’t really be an issue, though, either way.

    I suppose another possibility would be to keep the Benton County split, but honestly, I think the trends are less positive for OR-04 than they are for OR-05, and moving Rep. DeFazio’s district a few points more Democratic was important to me. The guy keeps getting reelected, but he’s not great at staying on-message, and frankly him letting that nutter Robinson get within single digits spooked me a lot more than Rep. Schrader’s five-point win over a credible (albeit ridiculously named) opponent.

    Anyway, I’m going to try to get in touch with Suzanne Bonamici and see what she thinks. She may well agree with you.

  7. That alternate map splits four counties (Polk, Columbia, Lane, and Josephine) while preserving communities of interest as best as possible, though the towns of Dallas and Florence are split and the towns of St. Helens and Scappoose, which have a lot more in common with the Washington County suburbs than they do with urban Portland, are added into OR-03 (which isn’t a huge deal, considering eastern Multnomah County – and Hood River County, for that matter – is suburban and rural). I’m not sure Rep. DeFazio would at all appreciate OR-01 taking part of the Lane County coastline, but he’s not exactly a key player in what goes on in Salem; he’s blazed his own trail, and sometimes that means getting lost in the wilderness. Wouldn’t hurt him any, electorally speaking.

    It’s certainly not as clean-looking as the original map, but it probably does nudge OR-05 a bit bluer than that without hurting DeFazio too much.

  8. I mean Bonamici may agree this isn’t a good configuration; being in charge of the Oregon Senate’s redistricting efforts, she’s not actually allowed to take partisan data into consideration.

  9. Oregon’s laws on redistricting are too strict to allow Portland to be chopped up.

  10. Part of SW Portland is in OR-01. As for communities of interest, SW Portland is ritzier, and has just as much in common with Washington Co.

    I’m suggesting there’s some room for interpretation on what is a “community of interest” — that has been accepted by the OR courts before.

    In a similar fashion, there is a common “community of interest” between say Troutdale / Gresham / east Portland (east of I205) and much of Clackamas Co. Lots of Portlanders to the west of the river don’t like to go all the way out there.

    Another community of interest — central / east Portland through Lake O / West Linn. These communities are very artsy all the way through. Light rail may link these areas further together in a few years.

  11. Johnny, what redistricting laws are you talking about?  Historically, Portland has always been in two – and sometimes three – congressional districts.  Right now, it’s in three.

    When I was chair of the citizens committee on redistricting at the Metro Council, we proposed a map (that failed) that had parts of Portland in 5 of the 6 districts.  No legal problem there.


    “The Legislative Assembly or the Secretary of State, whichever is applicable, shall consider the following criteria when apportioning the state into congressional and legislative districts:

         (1) Each district, as nearly as practicable, shall:

         (a) Be contiguous;

         (b) Be of equal population;

         (c) Utilize existing geographic or political boundaries;

         (d) Not divide communities of common interest; and

         (e) Be connected by transportation links.

         (2) No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent legislator or other person.

         (3) No district shall be drawn for the purpose of diluting the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group.”

    It would be hard for Portland to be chopped up without it being challenged under these restrictions. How do you justify it outside of #2? Yes, there’s a little bit in the southwest of the city that’s put in other districts, but what the other poster suggests is chopping Portland up to make more Democratic districts.

  13. That would be fantastic – thanks! If you have a Twitter account, you can DM me (my handle is @SaoMagnifico) and we can hash out details.

  14. And one of the things I suspect will happen is that the little nub into SW Multnomah County (perhaps inaccurate to say SW Portland, as the city line does cross into Washington County and even a bit of Clackamas County as well), which is quite clearly there for Rep. Wu’s benefit, will be removed.

    There’s also been some hue and cry, according to what I’ve read, over the current OR-03 grabbing some precincts from Clackamas County. Clack tends to see itself as a community of interest – of course, it’s probably one of the only counties in western Oregon that you regularly hear referred to as such; it’s funny that in Maryland, virtually everyone identifies themselves by which county they’re from, and I didn’t know which county I actually lived in until I was probably 14 years old growing up in the Portland area – and they’ve been clamoring to have a district that keeps the whole county together.

  15. First of all, there’s the weasel words “as nearly as practicable” which gives anyone an out.

    Second, “utilize existing boundaries” can easily be described as in conflict with “not divide communities of common interest”.

    You need look no further than the current legislative district map, where there are LOTS of districts that cross over from Multnomah County to Washington County.

    In general, courts in Oregon have studiously avoided weighing on the redistricting activities of legislative bodies.  I can’t remember the last time that a court struck down a map.  Not sure it’s ever happened.

  16. IIRC, “Metro” is an official gov’t body that includes three counties: Multnomah, most of Clackamas, most of Washington. His note suggests that Multnomah can be split in different ways, and combined with parts of the other counties.

    One could argue that all of “Metro” is a single community of interest.

  17. I asked Suzanne Bonamici via email how I could submit my maps for study, and she replied that she’s not allowed (and she’s heading the entire Oregon Senate’s redistricting efforts, not just the Senate Democrats’ efforts, as I had thought – just wanted to correct myself on that) to take political considerations or incumbency protection into account while drawing the map. I think she would be extremely unlikely to try to unpack Multnomah County.

  18. unless he jumps into the (Portland) Mayor race. If Sam is vulnerable as the talk suggests, ’12 may be Earl’s last shot at what I think is his dream job.  

  19. Steve Novick for Congress. That would be interesting. As would a potential bid by Loretta Smith, the only African American member of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, who was just elected last year but worked on Sen. Wyden’s campaign staff and may have an in that way.

  20. I’d hope state Rep Jules Kopel-Bailey would be ready to move up in that instance. He seems to be a potential young Paul Krugman.  

  21. ref

    Most of the changes were essentially blamed on Census errors. But if I’m reading Hartung v. Bradbury correctly, the court did consider “communities of interest” and suggested that the plantiff did not meet the burden of proof.

    (provisio, IANAL)

    That suggests the boundaries did not egregiously (?) violate the communities of interest standard. (aka, I think they’d strike down a baconmander.)

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