New lines would create state's first 'majority minority' district

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on December 28, 2011 at 6:23 PM

The newly drawn 9th congressional district would become the first in the state where minorities are the majority, meaning that voters in the Rainier Valley, Bellevue and even Mercer Island could end up some very strange political bedfellows. 

The Rainier Valley is one of the most diverse zip codes in the country, where at least 59 different languages are spoken. Word that their new congressional district could soon be mostly minority comes as welcome news.

"We can gather strength behind that and put forward the agendas that affect the people of color in this community. I think it’s wonderful," said Marget Chappel, a South Seattle resident.

On Wednesday, the state’s bipartsan Redistricting Commission announced the changes. The new 9th would not include the parts of Pierce and Thurston counties that it currently holds, but it would acquire minority neighborhoods in South King County.

Supporters said the change should provide minorites better opportunities.

"Boeing is squarely in the middle of the district, which is good because those are job opportunities," said Nate Miles, whose Win/Win Network pushed for the change. "It's a new set of people and constituencies that we can talk to about hiring issues that we have."

But also in the district are the wealthy enclaves of Newcastle, Mercer Island and staunchly conservative Bellevue.  Some in the city aren’t thrilled with what this new political marriage may bring, specifically the potential of a liberal agenda.

"Different ethnic groups have their own ways of doing things," said Bellevue resident Jerry Percival. When asked if that worries him, he replied, "No, I'll just get out." 

Others pointed out that Bellevue is becoming much more ethnically diverse . "The neighborhood is changing because there’s a lot more immigration with more high-tech companies that are here," said Ann Chen of Bellevue.

Back in the Rainier Valley, Marget Chappel said, "Wherever there’s an opportunity for them to know more about us and to come together to work on agendas that affect us all as people, then that’s a good thing."

Though minorities are set to become the majority in the new 9th, that majority is razor thin -- just 0.3 percent. Many, however, expect that majority to grow.

Democratic Congressman Adam Smith currently represents this district.

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