OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A plan to redraw Washington's congressional districts would anchor the state's new district around Olympia.
The proposal released Wednesday dramatically reshapes districts on the western side of the state to make room for the new 10th Congressional District.
The 1st District being vacated by Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee now stretches into the rural northwest parts of the state, from eastern King County to the northern border, making it a potential swing seat in the delegation.
Democratic commissioner Tim Ceis, who agreed to the plan with Republican counterpart Slade Gorton, said he expected that district to be a race to watch in 2012, and several candidates have already lined up to campaign for the open seat.
"I tend to think it's a swing Democratic district," Ceis said. "I'm sure Mr. Gorton thinks it's a swing Republican district."
The map essentially leaves four comfortably Republican districts -- the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th -- and five comfortably Democratic ones along the I-5 corridor from Olympia to Bellingham and on the Olympic Peninsula.
Redistricting maps are coming together around the country in a process that takes place every 10 years to ensure each district has a balanced population. Washington gained a 10th congressional seat after a decade of population growth.
Republican commissioner Tom Huff and Democratic commissioner Dean Foster said Wednesday they are struggling over how to assign Hispanic voters around Yakima. Foster wants to concentrate many Hispanics into a majority-minority 15th District. Huff would also have a majority-minority district but to a lesser degree. Both members publicly released their own maps to begin broader discussion.
The commission is comprised of two Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees. At least three of them must agree on the maps to approve them by a New Year's Day deadline.
If the panel fails to reach an agreement, the state Supreme Court will take control of the process. If the commission does reach an agreement, the Legislature will have an opportunity to make minor modifications.
Two of the members focused on legislative boundaries previously agreed to details on districts in western Washington that would displace five incumbent lawmakers. They are still working on the eastern side of the state.
Along with the 10th District, the state will also have a second open seat next year as Rep. Jay Inslee runs for governor.