Why Are G.O.P. Contributors Putting Big Money Into California Redistricting ‘Reform’ – A Love of ‘Fairness’??5 min read

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The Republicans have enlisted Common Cause and the League of Women Voters in their campaign to take control of the Legislature through redistricting.

The Governor has endorsed this plan – and the money behind it is almost entirely Republican. They use the rhetoric of reform, but be clear: this GOP money has one aim and intent, and that is GOP control. Fellow-traveling Reformers would have you focus on the process and not the product – but it’s the product that is important. And that product is a passel more of Republican seats. Enough GOP gains that the Democrats would have to sweep the table of the marginal seats to maintain their majority.

Let’s look at the product, seat by seat.

Assembly District 1. Following the Constitution, the Legislature began in the upper left hand side of California with Del Norte. Then, running down the coast, added counties (Humboldt, Mendocino) until reaching Sonoma where the liberal areas around the Russian River made it a Democratic seat. Lake County, heavy in retired seniors, and Trinity, insignificant in population, were also added.

But the move into Sonoma isn’t necessary. A movement East, into Shasta, is more symmetrical and the likely direction a Commission would take. This shifts the seat from one dominated by coastal environmentalists to one dominated by the economics of timber. A Democrat supporting coastal environmentalists would lose to a Republican backing the timber economy. A Democrat who tried to hold centrist voters would lose 12-15% of the vote (and the election) to a ‘Green’ party candidate. (Cf. Doug Bosco)–and, in any case, adding 30 Dem, 48 Rep. registration in Shasta would finish the job: (minus 1)

Assembly District 17 includes the entire County of Merced, some sheep farms along I-5 in Stanislaus County that connect the seat to Tracy in San Joaquin. It slides along the Delta to Stockton – where it takes in the ‘old’ portion of town (primarily African American).

Any Commission would simply make San Joaquin into a seat. At 40% Republican, it would elect a Republican Supervisor. Merced, a title V county, would have to be attached to Kings County (also title V) and to the heavily Hispanic (but non- voting) census tracts containing small farm worker communities in Stanislaus, Tulare and Fresno Counties. The result would be a Hispanic, Republican district – the top of the current 30th AD. (minus 2)

Assembly District 30 would recede entirely within Kern County and become safely Republican. (minus 3)

Assembly District 31, the Fresno City based seat would remain so. But growth in the surrounding suburbs will make this a GOP seat that would resist even Democratic line drawers in 2011. (minus 4)

The decision not to move AD 7 into Vallejo has the ripple effect of pushing all of the seats on the Coast and the SF Peninsula “downward”. From a partisan perspective this means the disconnect of Santa Cruz from the Monterey Peninsula (a move made by the Court Masters in 1991 and reversed after a masterful plea by then Assemblyman Sam Farr). Farr will fail in 2011. The peninsula can’t be connected to the Salinas Valley for Title V reasons – so it will be joined with San Louis Obispo. This makes the 27th AD Republican (minus 5)

The 35th Assembly District current stretches along the coast from the Hispanic half of Oxnard City to just South of Santa Maria. Any Commission would simply include the whole of Santa Barbara as a seat. With a 41-35 registration, this is a marginal seat. (Dems could lose a seat)

Assembly District 53 takes the heavily Republican Palos Verdes peninsula and attaches it to a Democratic cut of Long Beach via the old port area of San Pedro in Los Angeles. A Commission would simply add Anglo Long Beach tracts to this otherwise Anglo seat with the result being the loss of a marginal district and the creation of a safe Republican one. (minus 6)

Assembly District 61 is anchored in Los Angeles by the heavily Democratic City of Pomona. A Commission would avoid this County split pushing AD 61 entirely into San Bernardino County (38 Dem, 41 Rep). (minus 7)

Assembly District 62 would include the San Bernardino not put into AD 61 and Riverside population to make up the difference. It is unclear what the result would be – either a marginal seat or a safe Republican seat. (Dems could lose one).

Assembly District 78 would surely gain the Anglo city of Coronado from the otherwise Hispanic AD 79th – which would likely add African-American population from the current AD 76 to make up for the loss of Coronado. This would make the 76th – currently a marginal seat held by Republicans a Republican seat. The 76th, currently a safe Democratic seat would become marginal (Dems could lose one).

So the Governor’s Commission would move 7 seats from Dem to Rep and move three seats from Dem to ‘undecided’. That puts the party balance at 38 Dem and 39 Republican. Assuming the Contra Costa based AD 15 remained a marginal (albeit Republican held seat), Democrats would have to win three of the four ‘competitive’ seats to retain a one-vote majority in the Assembly.

(And, note that there are 6 competitive or marginal seats in the plan drawn by the Legislature: AD 15, 17, 30, 31, 78, 80 and only four likely to be produced by any commission)

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause could care less if Republicans gained control of the Legislature. Well, I’m a Democrat and I think turning the state over to the GOP (they already have the Governor) would be a disaster for public education, for the poor, and for the environment. No true progressive should endorse a process that produces such a disgusting product.

Bill Cavala was Deputy Director of the Assembly Speaker’s Office of Member Services where he worked for over 30 years.

He attended undergraduate and graduate school in the 1960’s and received a doctorate in political science at UC Berkeley. He taught political science at UC Berkeley during the 1970’s while he worked part-time for the State Assembly.

Cavala left teaching at UC Berkeley and went to work for Assembly Speaker Willie Brown in 1981 until his tenure as Speaker ended in 1995, and he has worked for his five successors as Speaker up to and including Speaker Fabian Nunez.

Mr. Cavala manages election campaigns for Democratic candidates.

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