BOISE – When Coeur d’Alene contractor and former state lawmaker Dean Haagenson served on Idaho’s redistricting commission a decade ago, he received telephone threats and threats against his business.
“I don’t always hew to the party line – I try to do what’s reasonable,” Haagenson said Tuesday. “Some people respect that. Some don’t.”
As Idaho’s new redistricting commission started work Tuesday to draw new legislative and congressional district lines, it asked two members of the last redistricting commission for advice.
Said Haagenson, “Remember who you’re responsible to: You’re responsible to the citizens of Idaho. You’re not responsible to your respective political parties.”
Haagenson, a Republican, said his work last time with Democratic commissioner Ray Givens of Coeur d’Alene to develop compromise plans angered some in the GOP. “The fact that I’d sat down with him at his computer and toyed with district lines really offended them,” Haagenson recalled.
But that’s how Idaho’s bipartisan redistricting commission works – with three Democrats and three Republicans, it’ll take at least one person willing to cross party lines for any plan to pass.
Lou Esposito, a Boise political consultant and a GOP member of this year’s redistricting commission, said, “We’re coming into this with an open mind. We’re going to be looking at all the public input. We’re going to be approaching this from a standpoint that best serves the citizens and voters of Idaho.”
Republicans already control every statewide elected office, plus more than 80 percent of the seats in the Legislature. Population trends since the last census aren’t considered likely to change that; they could even increase it.
Former Democratic Commissioner Tom Stuart, of Boise, told the new commissioners that no plan developed solely by one party or the other will pass. “I just don’t think that’s reasonable; that certainly didn’t happen last time,” he said.
Idaho’s current legislative districts will “have to be substantially changed” this year, Boise State University political scientist Gary Moncrief told the newly sworn-in commissioners on Tuesday morning. That’s because most of Idaho’s current districts now have either too many or too few people.
Lorna Finman, of Rathdrum, a Republican member of the new commission, said she figured her party asked her to serve because “they wanted my mathematical brain” – she has a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford and is president of LCF Enterprises, a high-tech engineering and manufacturing business based in Post Falls.
Plus, she said she had no plans to run for office. Redistricting commissioners are barred from running for the Legislature for five years after serving on the commission.
The commissioners on Tuesday elected former state Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello, and former state Rep. Allen Andersen, D-Pocatello, as their co-chairmen. They also discussed holding public hearings around the state, including possible North Idaho hearings later this month.