The proposed new boundaries for Spokane's 3rd Legislative District could be helpful for a potential bid by Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.
The proposed district (map here) still would strongly favor Democrats, but it also would add some Republican-leaning precincts.
McLaughlin said last week that she will decide in the next few months if she will challenge Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. She said that she and her husband have ruled out a run for state House because she would have to focus too much on reelection efforts with only two-year terms.
Republicans have looked to McLaughlin to run for Legislature at least since 2009, when she won reelection resoundingly over neighborhood leader Karen Kearney. She captured 67 percent of the vote, in a district that voted for Barack Obama a year earlier. She also has become extremely interested in Legislative politics with her involvement in the Washington Association of Cities. (She is president of the group this year.)
McLaughlin has proven that she can win big in a council district that leans slightly Democratic. But can she win in a Legislative district that's the most Democratic in Eastern Washington?
McLaughlin has at least a few advantages. She may have more name recognition among voters after running two council campaigns that were much higher profile than any of the recent Lisa Brown reelection bids. Brown hasn't faced a stiff challenge since she beat the incumbent Republican to take the seat in 1996, and even then, she won by 14 percentage points. She beat her most recent opponent by nearly 50 percentage points.
But there are many factors that favor Brown. As a City Council member, McLaughlin has developed important relationships with key neigborhood leaders, but she will be debating different issues if she runs for Legislature. Democratic-leaning voters who were willing to vote for McLaughlin for a nonpartisan position may be hard-pressed to send her to Olympia when some top issues will highlight McLaughlin's conservative stances on social issues like gay marriage or domestic partner benefits. And if the race looks tight, Democrats will fight hard to keep the seat.
If the new 6th District looks out of reach for Democrats, and McLaughlin runs against Brown, this year's 3rd District Senate race could look a lot more like recent 6th District competitive battles with lots of money, mudslinging and TV ads.
And there could be another interesting 3rd District race this year, too. Former Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple, who lost in the primary for a House seat in 2010, said last week that he will study the redistricting map and is considering another run.