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New Idaho redistricting plan reshuffles lawmakers

Idaho legislative redistricting plan L-93
Idaho legislative redistricting plan L-93

BOISE - After just two days of deliberations, Idaho’s citizen redistricting commission has adopted a new legislative district plan - and this one doesn’t land North Idaho Sens. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, in the same district.

The earlier plan, which was overturned by the Idaho Supreme Court for dividing too many counties between districts, would have forced the two to face off if they both wanted to remain in office; Broadsword announced earlier that she’d retire from the Senate rather than seek a fifth term next year by running against Keough, a close ally and eight-term senator.

Broadsword said Friday evening that she hasn’t decided yet what to do. “I haven’t had a chance to look at what the size of the district is or what it looks like,” she said. “I have to look at all my options. I’ve been receiving a lot of encouragement to stay, to please run for the Senate again … so I just have to look at the whole picture.”

Under the new plan, L-93, Broadsword ends up in the new District 7, along with first-term incumbent Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood.

That district marks the biggest change for North Idaho in the new plan from the earlier one, L-87. In order to avoid splitting Kootenai County among legislative districts, the new plan no longer takes a chunk of Kootenai for the sprawling District 7, which includes all of Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho counties. Instead, it adds on to that district the southeastern corner of Bonner County, with the line running up Highway 95 and turning east at Lake Pend Oreille.

“What we did was we revised L-87 at the direction of the Supreme Court,” said commission Co-Chair Ron Beitelspacher.

Beitelspacher said he wasn’t happy about making the large District 7 even larger; there are also two other giant districts in the new map, in central Idaho and in eastern Idaho.

“I represented a huge district for several years, and I know how difficult it is for the representer and for the represented,” he said. “I’m not in favor of what we’ve done” on those large districts. But, he said, “This is what the Supreme Court has said we have to do.”

The new plan creates several new incumbent matchups that wouldn’t have occurred under the previous plan, and eliminates some that the previous plan would have created. Beitelspacher said he had no idea how the new plan affected incumbents; commissioners avoided any mention of incumbents as they redrew the lines, focusing instead on population numbers, county lines and roads.

A public records request showed that the new plan creates a dozen potential matchups among incumbents in 10 legislative districts.

In North Idaho, there was no change in District 5, which includes all of Benewah and Latah counties. There are three House incumbents there - Reps. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, and Tom Trail, R-Moscow - and just two seats.

Elsewhere in the state, senior lawmakers and top members of leadership ended up in face-offs. The new plan would pit Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, against Senate Judiciary Chairman Denton Darrington, R-Declo, if both chose to run again.

Three members of the House GOP leadership - Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke of Oakley and Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of Donnelly - would face other House incumbents in their districts. But House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who in the last plan landed in a district with five House incumbents, this time wouldn’t have to face any other incumbents to keep his seat.

The new legislative district plan has a population deviation among districts of 9.7 percent, which meets the 10 percent standard considered presumptively constitutional; and divides just the minimum number of counties possible - five, plus two, Ada and Kootenai, that are divided only internally because they’re large enough for multiple districts.

After adopting the plan late Friday afternoon, redistricting commissioners, staffers and the Idaho Attorney General’s office went to work on writing up detailed findings to explain each of the new districts; the commission will meet Saturday to review the findings, and plans to present the new plan Monday to Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

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