A redistricting plan signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber on Monday puts the Oregon Senate District 3 seat in the crosshairs for future elections.
Incumbent Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, narrowly squeaked out a victory over a Republican challenger in the November 2010 election. Under the redistricting plan, Senate District 3 now encompasses more Republican strongholds, taking in parts of the Applegate Valley, areas east of Phoenix and toward the Medford airport.
"It doesn't help me personally, but that's not the point," said Bates, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2000.
The district, which covers southern Jackson County, still has a slight Democratic edge in voter registration.
House and Senate districts in the state are redrawn every 10 years to reflect updated population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite the change, Bates said, the legislative effort to redistrict was fair. He said it was a difficult task because the population of the state has swelled along the Interstate 5 corridor while growing more slowly in Eastern Oregon.
"The redistricting committee did a pretty good job," he said. "It was done the way the voters would want, not the way the politicians wanted."
Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, said the registration edge in his strongly Republican district was eroded just slightly. His district moved more to the west, which has more Democrats than east Medford, he said.
Esquivel, who is on the redistricting committee, said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, also lost a little ground in his strongly Democratic district that covers southern Jackson County.
"It didn't matter which way the lines were drawn, he would have lost ground," he said.
Despite the reshuffling of districts, Esquivel said, the changes won't have a marked effect on local candidates' chances of winning.
"Southern Oregon pretty much remained intact," he said. "Everybody got a little hurt, but nobody bled to death."
Esquivel had been critical of the redistricting process when the first proposals surfaced but said most legislators could live with the boundaries.
"Overall, I thought it was pretty fair," he said. "You kind of like it, but you can also hate it. So it's a pretty good plan."
Esquivel said the last time the Legislature approved a redistricting plan was in 1951. Since then, stalemated redistricting plans were resolved by the secretary of state.
"It's unusual to get this done," he said. "To be honest with you, I didn't think we had a chance."
In November, Bates defeated Republican challenger Dave Dotterrer by just 282 votes, so any loss of Democratic voters could hurt him.
Dotterrer said he was not prepared to commit to running again in 2014 against Bates but said the redistricting has been regarded favorably by most Republicans.
"I got a general sense of satisfaction," he said. "I've been told by folks that this was to my advantage."
Dotterrer said he went to a redistricting committee hearing in Medford, but wasn't actively involved in the process.
Cathy Shaw, Bates' campaign manager, said that instead of a 5 percent Democratic registration advantage in Bates' district, she thinks it will end up being about 4 percent under the redistricting plan.
"What he lost and what he gained is not significant in terms of the outcome," she said. "It's a tweaking, not an overhaul. I think it's kind of a wash for him."
In 2010, Democrats had 29,829 registered voters in the district compared with 26,009 Republicans, she said.
Of the nearly 50,000 votes cast in that Senate race, however, Bates won by only about one-half of 1 percent.
Shaw said she would need to review a precinct breakdown before she could determine what the actual voter registration will be with the new boundaries in place.
Shaw noted that even with a relatively close registration breakdown, Bates won his 2010 election, countering voting trends nationally and throughout the state that unseated Democrats from office.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email email@example.com.