Alaska Redistricting Board set to soon choose between 2 Eagle River Senate maps
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Redistricting Board is set to choose this week between two proposed Anchorage political maps with debate focused on what should happen with Eagle River.
The Alaska Supreme Court said in March that a Senate map pairing Eagle River with East Anchorage was an unconstitutional “political gerrymander.” The board is set to send a new plan to an Anchorage judge on Friday.
There are two proposed maps for Anchorage: The first, known as Option 2, keeps Eagle River intact in one Senate seat. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson would be paired with Muldoon in another seat and stretches of South Anchorage would be paired with a district that stretches down to Girdwood in a third seat.
The second map, known as Option 3B, splits Eagle River in two: The eastern part of Eagle River would be paired with the Girdwood House District. The western side of Eagle River would be connected to JBER.
Conservatives have largely supported Option 3B: It would give the solidly Republican Eagle River a strong chance of increasing GOP representation in the Senate. Liberals have largely backed Option 2: It’s been seen as more status quo and more likely to see Democratic incumbents reelected.
The two maps have sparked passionate debate during multiple days of public testimony and competing accusations of partisan gerrymandering.
Randy Ruedrich, former chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, helped draw the map that would pair Eagle River with Girdwood. He has argued it meets the constitutional requirements for contiguous districts.
“We meet that standard, in this case, by one of the longest contact areas in Anchorage,” he argued on Saturday.
Some callers to the board meetings noted that Eagle River and Girdwood have been in the same Senate district before. Others pointed out that a similar pairing has been considered for Anchorage’s municipal political maps.
Mike Edgington, co-chair of the Girdwood Board of Supervisors, said his board has been unanimously opposed to being paired with Eagle River, particularly with Chugach State Park sitting between the two communities.
“It’s not contiguous in any practical sense of the word,” Edgington said.
Republican Sens. Lora Reinbold and Roger Holland would need to run against each other in a new Eagle River-Girdwood Senate district. Both testified in opposition to it.
“Map 3B is absolutely ridiculous,” Reinbold said, strongly urging for Eagle River to be kept intact in one Senate district.
Yarrow Silvers, an East Anchorage community leader who led the successful legal challenge against the board’s previous Senate plan, argued on Saturday that Option 3B had similar problems.
“Keeping communities together is not gerrymandering,” she said. “Splitting communities apart is, unless you have a really rational, logical argument for it. And I have not heard that.”
There have been threats from the same law firm for another legal challenge if the board splits Eagle River into two Senate districts, again. The board is set to meet on Wednesday and Thursday to make a final decision on the Anchorage Senate maps.
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