Losing parties in redistricting suit say they won't appeal

rmauer@adn.comNovember 21, 2013 

The two losing parties in the latest redistricting lawsuit said Wednesday they won't appeal the summary judgment of a Fairbanks judge, clearing the way for elections from 2014 to 2020 to be held under the most recent map of the Alaska Redistricting Board.

Fairbanks attorney Michael Walleri, representing two voters in the liberal-leaning Ester and Goldstream areas and the Alaska Democratic Party challenged the latest map through lawsuits filed in Fairbanks Superior Court.

On Monday, judge Michael McConahy rejected the challenges. He said the redistricting board, dominated 4-to-1 by Republicans, didn't have to come up with the best possible plan, only one that met fairness and constitutional standards.

The plaintiffs could have appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, which in 2012 tossed an earlier redistricting board effort as unconstitutional. Walleri said it was time to battle for votes in the next election, not the shape and character of the 40 House and 20 Senate districts.

Walleri said his two clients, George Riley of Ester and Ron Dearborn of Goldstream, achieved "90 percent" of what they initially set out to do in first challenging the redistricting board two years ago. Among those goals: getting Ester and Goldstream in the same compact House district as the northwestern part of the Fairbanks-North Star Borough.

In an earlier redistricting plan used only for the 2012 election, the two communities were on the eastern edge of a massive Bush district that stretched to the Bering Sea and included the Yukon River Delta. The Supreme Court allowed the election to proceed under that flawed plan because the board ran out of time to draft a new one.

Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, currently represents the district.

But Walleri said he regretted the state Senate district for Ester and Goldstream also includes North Pole, a conservative town, rather than the university section of Fairbanks, with which they were more closely aligned, he said. The senate seat is held by majority leader John Coghill, R-Fairbanks, who won't face voters again until 2016.

"My guys are pretty much exhausted," Walleri said. "It's been a long battle. We've got two plans overturned. I think it's the best idea to get on with the politics of the situation and not appeal and be content with achieving our original goals over the city and Ester."

The state constitution mandates that legislative districts be redrawn every decade after the results of the U.S. Census are in and population shifts can be charted. The next census will be taken in 2020.

Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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