When it comes to adding seats in the state legislature, the 2020 election was a wash for Washington Democrats. State Senator T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest) is an exciting addition, but State Senator Dean Takko (D-Longview) lost his seat, meaning the senate is still 28-21. Democrats can lose three caucus votes and still pass bills (without Republican votes), but not more–doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.
One of those frequent defectors is State Senator Mark Mullet, a center-right Democrat from Issaquah who won re-election by the narrowest of margins–58 votes–over nurse Ingrid Anderson, who was backed by labor and progressive groups. Governor Jay Inslee endorsed Anderson in hopes of bolstering his climate agenda, which Mullet has largely opposed. Inslee also threw his weight behind Nobles, Daniel Smith in the 17th, and Helen Price Johnson in the 10th, who all faced Republican incumbents. Price Johnson led on election night, but late results swung the election to incumbent Ron Muzzall (R-Oak Harbor). Daniel Smith lost by nine points.
While those losses were tough, redistricting could end up swinging these district in Democrats’ favor. The results of the 2020 Census will guide redistricting decisions since every district must be reset to have a nearly identical population once more, as was true in 2011 (using 2010 Census figures). Slow-growing districts will need to expand to capture enough population, and fast-growing districts will shrink in geographic size. In redistricting speak, the slow-growers are “underpopulated,” and the fast-growers “overpopulated.” Since it grew the most by far, Seattle will add representation most of all, carving out nearly half a district from its neighbors with a domino effect that may ripple far into the suburbs.
As a baseline, Washington state has grown nearly 14% in the past decade based on preliminary figures. That means a district that has grown 14% is treading water. Beat 14% growth and a district will shrink in geographic size, while falling short of 14% points toward expanding boundaries to take in more population. Seattle grew 25% in the past decade, adding about 152,000 residents–nearly half of King County’s expected gain of about 330,000 and 16% of the state’s total population growth of 931,660, as of April figures from the state Office of Financial Management. The state’s fastest growing district is the 43rd, with the 36th, 37th, 48th, and 1st also near the top, according to a Seattle Times analysis.