Reapportionment plans have been announced for the state House of Representatives and the Senate. The House plan appears headed for strong approval in that chamber, and there is little reason to think it will not also gain approval in the upper chamber.
As for the Senate redistricting maps released yesterday (May 11), it is certain to attract some negative votes, but was applauded by some leaders among minority Democrats in the two chambers.
In varied ways, in interviews this week with The City Sentinel, incumbent legislators serving the heart of Oklahoma City seemed pleased with the districts that will take effect with the 2012 elections.
In the House of Representatives, MidCity Republican David Dank was chairman of the redistricting process for all of Central Oklahoma – in essence, the Fifth Congressional District. This story focuses solely reactions of incumbent elected officials. The City Sentinel will examine other aspects of the new districts in future reporting.
State Rep. Al McAffrey’s district [House 88] retains much of its MidTown character, but edges both west and northwest of its current base. McAffrey told The City Sentinel, “I’m fine. I have to say that David Dank did a great job. I appreciate him being so fair with me.”
As McAffrey sketched his situation, “My district has shifted some west and northwest. As the plan evolved, Rep. Dank asked me about the lines, and listened to what I had to say. David Dank was fair and honorable in this whole process.”
State Rep. Jason Nelson, on the near west side, had similar comments about the anticipated lines for the district he now represents (House 87). He reflected, “I thought it was really fair. None of us in the MidCity got everything we wanted. As you look at the way the vote in the district could go, it might be better for me, but it is not a safe seat. It has the potential to be very competitive.”
He continued, “I moved some toward the northwest, but the district is still south of Northwest Expressway. It was not really a lengthy process. I might have spent 45 minutes, total, working on the process.”
As for Dank himself, he told The City Sentinel, “When the speaker and [Redistricting Committee] Chairman [Dale] DeWitt asked me to be chairman of the 5th district reapportionment, I told them every one of the local legislators would have input on the design of the districts. I said we’re not going to ignore the wishes of those who have run for election and been serving here for awhile.
“I told every member we hoped to strengthen the representative process.”
Dank said, “I thought the process wound up being forthright and honest. I had four Democrats who walked in and thanked me for the process. Everybody who plans to try to stay in office is happy.
“My district [House 85] went a little north and now goes to the other side of Lake Hefner. I gave up part of the southern end of my district, but kept Crown Heights and the area east of Classen. It was a process of negotiation and discernment. I gave up some strong precincts.
“In the end, 34% of my constituents will be new. And, I have no problem with that. As it is, I got 58% of the vote in my old district so I felt this was necessary to have a redistricting that could result in everyone having a representative that fit the community or part of town in which they live.”
Perhaps the most significant change in representation for the MidCity area will come in the state Senate.
On Wednesday evening, May 11, Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, the Oklahoma City Democrat elected from District 46 in the MidCity, told this reporter, “In the end they were fair to Senate District 46 and many other Democratic districts, but I will be voting NAY on the overall bill to show solidarity with members of my caucus who are unhappy with the process, and who will vote against the bill. However, there will be enough bi-partisan votes for the bill to pass.”
Rice posted reflections about the Senate plan on his Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/notes/andrew-rice/the-new-senate-district-46/10150168972636580).
There he wrote:
“The new Senate maps have been released. My district, District 46, has been able to retain some of it’s MidTown OKC character, while also expanding into a new and historic form overall. …
“There was enough Hispanic population in my current southern precincts, along with much of South Oklahoma City/Capitol Hill to the south of my district line, for us to create a 51% Hispanic district out of the new lines of District 46. This is an important and historic part of Oklahoma City’s evolution, progress, and commitment to provide our growing Latino community more political power in the democratic process.
“It will be an honor to represent this historic new district when we transition to the new districts in November of 2012. And my hope for the future is that the growing Latino population in the new District 46 will perhaps some day soon be able to elect a Hispanic Senator to be a strong voice for their community at the State Capitol.
“I am sad to lose many of the unique urban neighborhoods currently in District 46. Among them are the Shepard, Crestwood, Cleveland, Putnam Heights, Las Vegas, Gatewood, Miller Neighborhood, Capitol View neighborhoods, and many others.”
Rice noted most of those neighborhoods are shifting into districts now held by Senator David Holt (District 30) and Senator Cliff Branan (District 40).
Rice commented, “My hope is that their inclusion into those districts can have a moderating influence on the Republican Senators who will represent them.
“The northern area of Senate District 46 (north of the Oklahoma river) will still roughly represent most of downtown, Heritage Hills, Mesta Park, the Plaza District/Classen-Ten-Penn, Classen SAS area, Jefferson Park, Central Park, Paseo, Edgemere Park, Douglas Edgemere, Helm Farm, and all of Crown Heights and Edgemere Heights.
“Redistricting was a difficult and frustrating process, but I am grateful that mid-city residents will still have a unique and multicultural district.”
The Senate is expected to pass its reapportionment plan within the next few days. The House approved its plan today (Thursday) on a 93-3 vote.