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Slade Gorton and Tom Huff will lead Republicans on state Redistricting Commission

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Jan. 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm with No Comments »
January 4, 2011 1:37 pm

The leaders of the House and Senate Republican caucuses tapped former members of the Washington state Legislature to represent the GOP on the commission that will draw congressional and legislative lines.

But the Senate appointee has a much-longer political resume than that. Former U.S. senator and former state attorney general Slade Gorton was appointed by Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt. House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt named former budget chairman Tom Huff to represent that caucus. Huff, of Gig Harbor, represented the 26th District from 1995 to 2001.

The two Republicans will join two men appointed last month by Democrats – former House Chief Clerk Dean Foster will represent House Democrats and Tim Ceis will represent Senate Democrats. Ceis is the onetime chief of staff to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. He is now a partner and founding member of Ceis Bayne East Strategic, a consulting firm. Foster, who also was Gov. Booth Gardner’s chief of staff, served on the redistricting commission in 2001.

These four will agree on a non-voting chairman and then use new Census numbers to divide the state into 49 legislative districts and 10 congressional districts. The later dividing act is made difficult by the fact that the state now has 10 districts rather than nine.

The state Legislature can then approve or reject the plan but it can’t change it. While it is sometimes referred to as a non-partisan commission, the appointees show that it is very partisan. The commission, approved by voters in 1983, is better described as bi-partisan because at least three commissioners at least one from each party must agree on a final plan.

Here’s the release announcing the GOP appointments:

Republican leaders choose Slade Gorton, Tom Huff to serve on Washington State Redistricting Commission

OLYMPIA…Today Sen. Mike Hewitt and Rep. Richard DeBolt announced they have selected former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and former state Rep. Tom Huff to serve on the Washington State Redistricting Commission.

Every 10 years the bipartisan commission is established for the purpose of redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries using the latest U.S. Census data. Under Washington’s Constitution, majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate each select a member of the commission. Those four commissioners then choose a non-voting fifth member to serve as chair.

“The redistricting process is critical to ensuring citizens have fair and accountable representation through their elected officials,” said Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, who is Senate Republican Leader. “That’s what makes the selection of the commissioners so important – and why I am so pleased that Slade has chosen to take on this important task.”

“We are pleased that Tom has agreed to take on this important assignment. He will bring a thoughtful and fair-minded approach to the redistricting commission,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis, who is House Minority Leader. “Tom has a proven track record of public service marked by accomplishments that were the result of working with people across the political spectrum. His experience and his record of success will serve the people of Washington well in this critical redistricting exercise.”

The redistricting process involves more than a year of planning, public participation, commissioner negotiations and mapmaking. A redistricting plan must be approved by three of the four voting commission members. This plan becomes final unless it is amended by the Legislature within 30 days after the beginning of the next regular or special session (a legislative amendment can affect no more than 2 percent of a district’s population and must be approved by two-thirds of the members of each chamber). The new boundaries will take effect with the November 2012 congressional and legislative elections and remain valid for 10 years until the next federal census and redistricting process takes place.

Background on the Republicans’ selections:

Slade Gorton. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University Law School, Gorton served in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Air Force Reserves before commencing a law practice in Seattle. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1959 to 1969, including as majority leader from 1967 to 1969. Gorton was Washington State Attorney General from 1969 to 1981, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980, where he served from 1981 to 1987 and from 1989 to 2001. Gorton also served as a member of the 9-11 Commission in 2003 and 2004. He has been involved with redistricting before, serving as the Republicans’ lead on the issue in the 1960s.

Tom Huff. A resident of Gig Harbor since 1989, Huff served in the state House of Representatives from 1995 to 2000 and was chair of the appropriations committee. He served as the founding chairman of the Washington Retail Association and remains active in numerous civic and business organizations throughout the state. Huff is a past Chairman of the Board of St. Martin’s University.

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