Redistricting: Oregon can’t afford “Brownmandering”

by Brendan Monaghan

There’s an old historical saying that “all roads lead to Rome,” and in Oregon, that phrase is true of Portland. So much so that Tri-Met changed their logo in 2002 because three circular arrows pointing to a center was seen as too Portland-centric. Perhaps then the Oregon State Legislature should consider this when they redraw the House, Senate, and congressional lines in time for the 2012 elections. The current lines were drawn – not by either legislative body, but by then-People’s Commissar for State Bill Bradbury – after the last census reflected the Democrats’ worldview that all roads (and thus, all metro area districts) lead to and revolve around Portland.

This wasn’t always the case in the past and it doesn’t have to be this way now. A glimpse at Oregon’s House districts from the 1990’s shows that counties and communities of commonality- not partisan gain or incumbent protection- were once the basis for district lines. Particularly in Multnomah County, the legislative districts respected county lines- the only exceptions being District 7 (Sauvie Island to the Sunset Highway) and District 10 (Portland-Happy Valley). Other communities were contained within their respective counties, tied together with people who shared their interests and concerns.

Contrast that to current districts like 27 (Portland-Raleigh Hills), 35 (Portland-Tigard), 38 (Portland-Lake Oswego), 41 (Portland-Milwaukie), 51 (Portland-Estacada), 52 (Portland-Hood River), and 31 (Portland-Astoria). The stated Democrat goal of diversity and bringing together disparate peoples and communities is all well and good, but not when the cynical motivations and observable effect is to reduce diversity of political views in the Legislature itself. Taking advantage of the politically-motivated stalemate, Bradbury cracked Republican voters in the suburbs and packed their districts with reliable Democrats in Portland- peoples that had nothing in common, and before 2002 were rightfully separated.

Republicans, spearheaded in the House by Representative Shawn Lindsay (30, Hillsboro-North Plains), have a redistricting plan that will set things right again, reunite distinct communities that were once cut off from each other, and pull them out of Portland’s orbit of domination. It will maintain balance in the Legislature, give voters more representation in the halls of Salem and Washington, and remind them that their votes do indeed count. Members who could once rest on their laurels every two years knowing they could count on the reliable votes of Portlanders would actually have to work and fight for every vote as their seats would no longer be safe beyond the point of competition.

Of course, as Democrats know they have an ally in current People’s Commissar for State Kate Brown (who mere months ago vetoed a proposed initiative that would have cleaned up this messy, hyper-partisan process of redistricting), they have no incentive to cooperate. Quite the contrary, the more they gum up the works and refuse to work with Republicans and do everything they can to prevent the plan from passing, the more necessary it will become for Brown to resolve the dispute and draw our districts her way. Her record as we have observed from her time in the Legislature to her current office is one of blind and unwavering devotion to Party; the interests of every other Oregonian be damned.

Is there anyone, Republican or Democrat, who seriously doubts her districts will be drawn to maximize Democrat gains in the Oregon House and Senate? Or that without accountability, Democrats would err on the side of protecting their own congressional incumbents- tiger suits and all? Just this past November, Democrats won 51% of the congressional vote and 80% of the seats. There are ways for you, the ordinary Oregon voter, to get involved in this process. Go to for more information and let the politicians know Oregon can’t afford continued Brownmandering.

Brendan is a graduate student at Portland State Universty, where he hosts the KPSU “Right Jab” radio program. Brendan is studying politcal science, and graduated from The Ohio State University in 2007, with a degree in political science.