Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Republicans release redistricting map

GOP plan groups Blaine with Custer, Lemhi

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy graphics Two main maps have been proposed by the redistricting commission for consideration so far. The Democrats' plan at left would keep District 25 mainly the same, as District 26, but add a small part of Twin Falls County to bring the population up slightly. The more recent GOP plan, right, would split the current district, sending Gooding south and grouping Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties with Custer, Lemhi, Butte and Clark counties as District 35.

A plan proposed by state redistricting commissioners Monday would split Gooding County from Blaine County and break up the state's Democratic stronghold by putting much of District 25 with its neighbors to the north.

The Republican members of the Idaho State Committee for Reapportionment countered a plan issued by the Democrats last week with a plan that joins Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties in a district with Custer, Lemhi, Clark and Butte counties.

Gooding would go to the south, joining Twin Falls County for representation in the state legislature.

"It's like oil and water," said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, of the new, larger district. "They just won't go together. It's not the same community of interest."

State code requires district lines to be redrawn every 10 years in accordance with the most recent census data, to keep district populations approximately equal.

As a result of the 2010 census, districts' populations need to be between 42,549 and 47,027. Under the GOP proposal, Blaine County's new district would encompass 43,878 people.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said the Republican proposal does not make sense, as Blaine County residents and residents of Lincoln and Camas counties tend to look toward Twin Falls or Boise for infrastructure and services.

The same cannot be said for the rest of the proposed district, she added.

"Most everyone from Salmon to the rest of southeast Idaho gears toward Idaho Falls for business," she said. "They're beautiful parts of the state, and I respect the people who live there, but we have no point of common interest."

Many of the regional offices of agencies with which Blaine County works, such as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Idaho Transportation Department and the Bureau of Land Management, have regional offices in Jerome, Shoshone or Twin Falls.

Custer and Lemhi tend to have regional offices for federal agencies in Salmon or Challis, which Jaquet said would make it difficult for any legislator representing the district.


"The people representing Lincoln, Camas and Blaine will be wearing two hats, one for the Magic Valley and one for southeast Idaho," she said.

Jaquet won't have to worry about keeping her seat, as she has already announced her intention not to run in 2012. Stennett and Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, however, will have to fight to maintain their seats.

Pence said her fight would likely be a tough one, as most of her votes normally come from Blaine County.

"I didn't carry Gooding County to begin with," she said. "It would be extremely hard to go into [Twin Falls County] and pick up the votes I need. We might not ever elect anyone from Gooding."

Pence would face three incumbents, Republicans Pete Nielsen of Mountain Home, Jim Patrick of Twin Falls and Rich Wills of Glenns Ferry.

Under the Democrats' plan, neither Pence nor Stennett would run against incumbents.

Pence and Jaquet said the GOP plan would cause a stiff shift to the right for both districts. Jaquet said running as a Democrat has been historically difficult, but that she managed to succeed by going door to door and putting a face to her name.

That approach wouldn't work in the proposed district, she said.

"It's a lot of doors with huge distances," she said.

Driving from one end of the district to the other would take about four hours, making any campaign stops in Salmon, she said, an "overnight commitment."

The commissioners have until Sept. 4 to make a decision regarding district boundaries, and the current plans are more than likely to change, say legislators.

"I don't think either one of these plans will be adopted in their entirety," Pence said. "I think there will be some horse trading."

Stennett said the commissioners would need to "duke it out," but added that she doubted the committee would set the boundaries by deadline.

District boundaries were settled by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2001, when Stennett's husband, the late Sen. Clint Stennett, represented what was then known as District 21 in the Legislature.

Stennett said she expects this outcome to be similar to the one in 2001.

"At some point, it will probably go to the courts," she said. "We'll just have to watch and see how the conversation continues."

Katherine Wutz:

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