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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Oregon congressional map pleases both parties

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Oregon congressional map pleases both parties

SALEM — The 2010 election gave Oregon an evenly divided House of Representatives and a power-sharing agreement between Republicans and Democrats, and the result was a redistricting process that left both parties relatively happy.

For the first time in a century, the state Legislature adopted new congressional and legislative maps that were not thrown out in court.

"Redistricting in Oregon was not as pure as the driven snow, but was pretty even-handed and occurred with a commendable degree of public input and transparency," said Janice Thompson, who advocated for fairness in the redistricting process as executive director of Common Cause Oregon in 2011.

The new congressional map looked remarkably similar to its predecessor. It preserved the status quo, just moving a few boundaries to account for shifting populations.

In the process, two districts got marginally more competitive for Republicans, but the GOP has failed to take advantage. Democrats still control four of Oregon's five congressional districts, as they have after every election since 1996.

The most substantial change came to Oregon's 5th District, represented by Democrat Kurt Schrader, which has long been the state's most competitive. A slight Democratic registration edge became even smaller and stood last month at just over 2 percentage points. In the 2012 election, President Barack Obama narrowly beat Republican Mitt Romney in the district, 50 percent to 47 percent, compared with his 55-42 victory statewide.

The district lost parts of heavily Democratic Portland and Corvallis, gaining less-liberal suburban voters in Clackamas County. That was the biggest coup for Republicans in redistricting, said former state Rep. Shawn Lindsay, a lead Republican negotiator when the maps were approved in 2011.

"If the Republicans get an excellent candidate for (Congressional District) 5, it's a wonderful pickup opportunity," Lindsay said. "It's the best pickup opportunity we have in Oregon."

The 1st District, now represented by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, also got slightly less Democratic, but Democrats still outnumber Republicans by 10 percentage points. Obama did even better in the district, trouncing Romney 57 percent to 40 percent.

Oregon's most lopsided congressional district is the 3rd, a Portland-centric district represented by Democrat Earl Blumenauer. Obama won the district 72 percent to 25 percent.

In the only Republican district, Romney beat Obama 57-40.

Primary responsibility for drawing legislative and congressional district maps lies with the state Legislature. If lawmakers can't come up with a plan — as has happened consistently for decades — the secretary of state draws new legislative maps and a federal judge becomes responsible for the congressional district boundaries. Lawmakers attributed their success this time around to the tie in the House, which meant neither party could advance a map that angered the other.

There was some grumbling after the maps were announced, primarily from lawmakers disappointed in the negotiated legislative maps, but both passed the Legislature with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.

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