This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Redraw the political map purely for the benefit of Pierce County, and you’d get a bizarre gerrymander in which four or five congressional districts somehow fan out from the Tacoma Dome.
The more members of Congress looking out for Pierce County’s interests, the better.
That, alas, can’t happen. The four-member redistricting commission now overhauling the state’s political boundaries must pay lip service to geography and is supposed to keep communities as intact to the extent possible. We trust the final plan will also keep a key relationship intact – the one between Tacoma and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.
The unspoken – but overriding – priority of nearly any redistricting effort is to protect incumbents and maximize partisan advantage. Washington’s commission is designed for political parity: Two of its members are appointed by Republicans, two by Democrats. Collectively, they’re tasked with drawing lines both parties can live with.
This is an exceedingly complex job, akin to solving an algebraic equation with way too many variables. There are all kinds of reasons to stretch the lines of a particular district one way or another. In fact, the addition of a new congressional district – Washington’s 10th – is forcing a wholesale readjustment of boundaries for both Congress and the Legislature.
It’s pretty much a given that Democrat Adam Smith will continue to represent the Tacoma area in the U.S. House of Representatives, for the simple reason that he lives in Tacoma.
Dicks – who lives in Belfair – is not a given. In fact, one commission member, former Republican legislative leader Tom Huff, has offered a map that would lop off the eastern finger of Dicks’ 6th Congressional District that currently encompasses Gig Harbor and much of Tacoma.
Much as we respect Huff, we think that’s a terrible idea.
Dicks has represented Tacoma superbly for more than 34 years, ever since he was first elected to the U.S. House in 1976.
Over the years, Dicks has had some role in nearly every major improvement to the city. He played a big part in the rehabilitation of Union Station, the creation of the Interstate 705 spur, the historic land use settlement with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the state Route 509 bypass around the Port of Tacoma and the Foss Waterway cleanup – all of which contributed greatly to the city’s renaissance in the 1980s and 1990s.
While he’s often been perceived as a sort of Santa Claus bringing home congressional loot, he has also been a behind-the-scenes dealmaker and negotiator who has helped break down institutional barriers to such key projects.
Tacoma could not have hoped for a more effective representative than Dicks has been for more than three decades now. The state’s new political map must keep that bond intact.