Friday, December 23, 2011

Foster vs. Gorton, reliving the 60s with redistricting

Since the redistricting commission technically still has time, they might as well take it:
Having already surpassed their self-imposed deadline of finishing in November, members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission said there is still more work to do and that a final deal likely wouldn’t come before next week. The commission has an official New Year’s Day deadline, or else the duty is sent to the state Supreme Court.
I've tried to see if anyone has mentioned this little historic fact, but this isn't the same time that Dean Foster and Slade Gorton have dueled over redistricting Washington State's political boundaries. The Secretary of State's blog pointed out Gorton's role, but ignored Foster's.

Gov. Dan Evans signing the eventual redistricting law in 1965.

Highlight showing Gorton and Foster looking over his shoulder.
 Both Foster and Gorton were young participants during the contentious 1963 redistricting effort. Gorton was the redistricting leader for the Republicans in the legislature while Foster worked as a vital young staffer for the Democratic leadership.

Late last night I read the portion of the new book on Gorton that covered his role in the 1963 session (a pdf of the book is available free at the Secretary of State's website):
(Democratic senate leader Bob) Greive consigned the House bill to committee. The sorcerer had a gifted apprentice of his own. Young Dean Foster ran the numbers, tweaked the majority leader’s plan and gave him something to shop around on the House floor. (Slade) Gorton warned that two could play that game.

A lot of people, including some members of his own party, were wary of Slade “because he could just outsmart anybody,” Don Eldridge said. But  Greive  had  way  more  detractors  and  clearly  had  met  his  match  in Gorton. “I tell you, the two of them, that was a combination,” the GOP caucus chairman said. “I’d liked to have been a little mouse in the corner at some of those sessions.” 18  Pritchard said Greive was “Machiavelli on redistricting. He was too smart for everybody . . . until he ran into Gorton,” who “knew every jot, diddle, corner — whatever it was.
Grieve himself had some observations of the 1963 during his own oral history with the Secretary of State's office. Foster was so important that he would send state patrol cars from Olympia to Bellingham to pick up Foster from college:

Ms.  Boswell:  Dean  Foster  has  told  some humorous stories about you coming to pick him up in Bellingham and sending an escort to get him when you needed him to work.   He was still a college student right, during much of it?
Sen. Greive: As I understand it, he was.  I don’t think he was going to school while we were  in  the  session,  but  I’m  not  sure.   The other  thing  about  Foster  is  that  he  had  a tremendous capacity for work, as did Hayes. In  other  words,  he  understood  what  was important.    He  understood  the  question  of timing and everything else.
Ms. Boswell: Do you remember sending some state  patrolman  to  get  him?    Tell  me  about
Sen. Greive: In those days we had control of the state patrol’s very existence and anything that we wanted that dealt with the Legislature, they  were  “ours.”    They  were  most accommodating as long as it was something in an official capacity.  If the majority leader in the Senate, or the chairman of redistricting or whomever, had something he had to have, they would accommodate you.  They did that for a lot of other things.  I wasn’t the only one who did it.  But I did send the state patrol up to get him and take him down there to Olympia if I needed him.  Of course I’d phoned them first and cleared it with them.
I really doubt Foster is getting rides from the state patrol this time around.

Foster pictured from this 1965 article.

Its amazing now with the aid of freely available tools like this, that seemingly everyone (including me) can produce their own set of maps. The process this year even included a DIY section for the rest of us. But, almost 50 years ago, the data was so difficult to parse and the politics so divisive (the legislature itself drew the maps), you almost have to wonder why it even takes as long as it does today.

In the end, how did all that effort in the 1960s work out? Well, let's just say that hopefully we do better this time:

It was unlikely in such a contentious political climate that legislators could come to a decision on a partisan issue like redistricting, and indeed, the regular session closed without any agreement. Governor Albert Rosellini immediately called a special session, but after 23 days, it, too, ended with no redistricting plan.
The Court demanded a speedy solution to the redistricting roadblock, but the order did not guarantee that one would be found. Weary legislators also wanted to establish a redistricting plan as quickly as possible, but knew it had to be acceptable to elected officials as well as the voters.

After forty-seven days of debate, discussion, compromise, and open hostility, the Legislature finally passed a redistricting plan. The measure called for forty-nine senatorial districts, with one member elected from each district, and fifty-six legislative districts

1 comment:

caglels said...

True. Some battles never end.