The State Houses – What’s At Stake in 2010

Thirty-nine states will be electing a governor during the 2009-2010 election cycle. Of these, eighteen races will not include an incumbent and four incumbents who will be running were not elected to their current position. The recession and huge budget deficits threaten to undercut the power of incumbency for governors running for reelection.

The Current Line-Up

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Rep. Peter King, the dean of the Empire State Republican congressional delegation (actually the only member of the GOP caucus prior to the November elections), shared some political insights with his newly-elected colleagues about the ways of Washington. But, according to the New York Times, it’s Albany and the intrigue in the state capital that these new congress-critters need to keep an eye on.

Mr. King, a Republican from Long Island, talked to them about the importance of sticking together and about difficult votes ahead.

But then he turned to a subject that the rookies in the room had thought little about: redistricting. In a few weeks, lawmakers in Albany will begin talks on how to redraw New York’s Congressional map and eliminate two districts.

It was clear that these fresh-faced politicians were not prepared for what may be the ultimate insiders’ game.

“I told them to get ready,” Mr. King said, recalling the meeting. “That process turns friend against friend.”

The redistricting battle is looming as an early test of the anti-establishment sentiment that carried many novice politicians to victory in the 112th Congress. While more senior House members are already working their ties in statehouses back home to protect their districts, many freshmen are just waking up to what is coming.

Are they really? Is their knowledge about civics so limited that they don’t understand what the Census does every decade?

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University of Washington geographer and demographer Dick Morrill observes that the ‘surprising historical accident’ that four incumbent Washington House members reside at the edges of their current districts might dictate that the brand-spanking new Tenth Congressional district be carved out of northeastern King County:

So if we look at the area with the largest population with no incumbent representative to protect, we find it is northeastern King County. This area, with almost 2 million people, has only two representatives within its borders, so no one would be squeezed out. Thus a logical alternative for the 10th district is indeed King County, which has almost enough population for district 7 (McDermott, Seattle), 8 (Reichert, Eastside and south King County), and a new 10th (northeastern King).

This would in turn make the 9th (Smith, Tacoma) mainly a Pierce County district, and put Olympia in the 6th (Dicks, Belfair).

There is one caveat. If Jay Inslee opts to run for the open governor’s chair in 2012, the lack of an incumbent in his First District could provide the mapmakers to freedom to make a more radical redraw that would still protect the remaining incumbents.

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