Home Statewide Politics Redistricting Board Strikes Back: Interior Edition

Redistricting Board Strikes Back: Interior Edition

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Petersburg wasn’t the only community involved in litigation over the 2012 redistricting lines. Several members of the Ester Community, a part of long time incumbent Representative David Guttenberg’s (D) district, were also involved in litigation. They claimed that their district violated the conditions for cohesiveness of socio-economic interest within the district and geographic compactness. Under the 2012 plan, District 38 stretched all the way from Ester to the Bering Sea, covering some 500 miles of territory – none of which was connected by road or accessible by air from Fairbanks. That wasn’t the only complaint coming from the area. Many said that the Fairbanks North Star Borough had also been carved up into too many districts in the process.
The redistricting board was ordered by the courts to redraw the entire map, and on July 7th they released their latest concept plan. Upon looking at the new districts for Fairbanks, the first thing that stands out is that Rep. David Guttenberg’s district (formerly District 38) no longer stretches from Ester to the Bering Sea. Instead the new District 4 picks up a substantial portion of the old District 2, which was held by Representative Tammie Wilson (R – North Pole). Much of this area (particularly Farmers Loop and Goldstream) voted for Bob Miller (D) back in 2010 when he narrowly defeated incumbent Representative Mike Kelly.
Wilson’s 2012 district was highly controversial in that it cut out a large swath of the ultra conservative Badger Rd/North Pole area and placed it into Representative Bob Miller’s existing district. This advantage helped Wilson beat Miller in 2012. That situation has been remedied under the new plan: the new District 3 consolidates precincts surrounding North Pole with the south side of Chena Hot Springs Road, meaning that two Republican incumbents will have to face off in a primary before the next Session (Wilson and Representative Doug Isaacson).
Representative Scott Kawasaki’s (D) district will only see minor changes, losing some territory south of town to Representative Steve Thompson, who lost precincts in the North Pole shuffle. District 5 (Representative Pete Higgins – R) will still contain the University of Alaska – Fairbanks and Chena Ridge precincts. District 5 and the new District 6 become part of a larger rural interior Senate District C that covers the upper Yukon drainage, Minto Flats, Nena, Cantwell, and Tok. Senate District C leaves the Fairbanks Senate District’s A and B looking like one large island in a sea of rural Alaska, but might help the state’s position on protecting the rural/Native vote in the Interior.
How this will change the political landscape for Fairbanks and the Interior remains to be seen. Prior to the 2012 redistricting, Interior Democrats had pulled off an impressive series of wins. In 2010, the Fairbanks area was represented by three House Democrats (David Guttenberg, Scott Kawasaki, and Bob Miller) and two Senate Democrats (Joe Paskvan and Joe Thomas). After the redistricting and resulting election melee, the area is now represented by a majority of Republicans. There are four House Republicans (Tammy Wilson, Steve Thompson, Pete Higgins, and Doug Isaacson) and three Senate Republicans (John Coghill, Pete Kelly, and Click Bishop). It will be interesting to see if these new changes allow for the return of the “Joe’s” (Sen. Joe Paskvan and Sen. Joe Thomas). The North Pole Republican primary should also be a good one to watch.
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1 COMMENT

    • Thanks! We’ve been following this whole process pretty closely from day 1. Having lived, worked, and volunteered in the areas helps provide a lot of insight. Glad people are finding it informative and interesting.