A new redistricting plan pits Juneau Rep. Cathy Munoz against Haines Rep. Bill Thomas, and separates downtown Juneau and Petersburg.
The Alaska Redistricting Board Monday adopted significant changes to Southeast’s political boundaries. Munoz’s current Mendenhall Valley district expands to Haines, Skagway, Gustavus and Funter Bay.
The board also redrew the Capital City’s other House district – represented by Beth Kerttula — to include downtown, Douglas Island, the airport and Fritz Cove Road. The redistricting board originally paired downtown Juneau with Petersburg.
The fishing town has argued that it doesn’t have enough in common with Juneau, which is more dependent on government and tourism.
Thomas says he can now make that argument.
“I don’t think we have much in common with Juneau, other than we’re all people, so I guess that’s one way to look at it. But if you look at just Haines, we’re again primarily a fishing town so I think that’s the same dilemma they have in Petersburg,” Thomas says.
Thomas currently represents what’s known as the Ice Worm district, comprised of Native villages and fishing communities all the way to Cordova.
Munoz and Thomas – both Republicans — have already filed to run for re-election — in districts that look far different than the latest proposal. They have until June first to decide if they will run against each other in the August Republican primary.
Munoz believes the redistricting board’s latest plan will be challenged by Alaska Native groups.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty in the plan because of the issue surrounding the Voting Rights Act and the elimination with this plan of the Native voting rights district. I’m not sure what, if anything, will change from this Option A that was adopted today and what might eventually come out of the Department of Justice ruling on this plan, but I do anticipate there will be challenge from Native organizations in our region,” Munoz says.
Hoonah and Angoon – previously in Thomas’ district — are now with Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell as well as several small towns on Prince of Wales Island, and a number of other tiny communities, including Tenakee Springs, Elfin Cove and Pelican.
Under the latest plan, the southern Southeast district is Ketchikan, Saxman, Metlakatla, Craig, Klawock and Hydaburg.
The Redistricting Board redrew the Southeast boundaries to comply with an Alaska Supreme Court order that the map be based on state constitutional requirements. The new plan comes before the court on Tuesday for consideration.
Even if it’s approved by the state Supreme Court, it still must pass scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department. The board’s attorney, Mike White, says that process could take 60 days.
Southeast Alaska lost population in the last census and the number of House districts in the region are shrinking from five to four.