By Miriam Raftery
June 12, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – Who will your future representatives be for Congress, State Senate and Assembly? Starting next year, many East County residents will find themselves in different districts-- if draft maps drawn up by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission are adopted. While most legislators appear likely to keep fairly safe seats, some districts have become more competitive. Key East County districts will have drastically different boundaries, forcing elected officials to campaign on unfamiliar turf--and even adjacent counties.
The commission was formed following a ballot initiative approved by voters. The goal was to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians in Sacramento in hopes of creating more competitive and geographically rational district lines instead of gerrymandering. Public comment is sought in June before the commission finalizes its plans.
ECM’s analysis of the maps yields some intriguing findings. Among them:
• Congressman Duncan Hunter, major advocate for the border wall, will see his district shift to lose portions in the south near the border and pick up more areas in northeast San Diego County. But it’s still solidly Republican, picking up regions in northeast San Diego County as well as Temecula.
• Congresswoman Susan Davis picks up La Mesa Mt. Helix, the Navajo/Lake Murray area, Grossmont College and other new turf, but loses beach areas. Overall the district still looks safely Democratic.
• Congressman Darrell Issa’s formerly inland district will get beach areas that are currently Democratic and pro-environmental strongholds, but overall his district remains staunchly conservative Republican—losing parts of Riverside but adding south Orange County.
• The District currently occupied by Bob Filner (who is running for Mayor) will pick up more of East County—including conservative Campo/Lake Moreno areas. The redrawn lines also include liberal areas in Imperial County, securing the southern District as a Democratic stronghold overall. Democratic State Senator Juan Vargas has declared his intention to run; other candidates are also rumored to be eyeing the seat.
• Congressman Bilbray will have to work harder to hold his seat, since over 55% of voters in his new proposed district voted Democratic in the last presidential election, though a majority did vote Republican for Governor. Jess Durfee, chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said the redesigned 50th is "much more in play” and will be a “battleground district.”
• State Senator Joel Anderson's home is in the same northeast district as GOP Senator Mark Wyland. Wyland is termed out but GOP Assemblyman Martin Garrick is deemed likely to run, says conservative pundit Barry Jantz. According to former GOP Chair Ron Nehring in a post at San Diego Rostra, Anderson aims to run in a redrawn district that now hugs the South-of-8 border region and continues into Imperial County. That district has a 48% Democratic, 26% Republican registration and nearly 53% of its voters voted Democratic for President in 2008 – a major shift from Anderson's past GOP strongholds in Senate and Assembly. Moreover, over 41% in the new district are Hispanic. That could be a challenge for Anderson, who authored AB 1928 to crack down on undocumented immigrants. This district has potential for a pickup on the Democratic side of the aisle, though Nehring noted that he would “not bet against” Anderson (known as a tough and well-financed campaigner) retaining the seat. (Wyland/Garrick's Senate district looks far safer with a 48% Republican, 27% Democratic registration.)
• Conservative bastions of Santee and parts of Lakeside shift into Democratic districts for Assembly and State Senate (but not Congress). That makes Democrat Marty Block’s Assembly district more competitive and has Republicans eyeing it in hopes of a potential upset. But Block has amassed an impressive track record of bills in Sacramento, where he chairs the Higher Education Committee, including forcing San Diego State University to restore policies giving priority to local students.
• Brian Jones, Republican Assemblymember from Santee, has a radical shift in his district’s boundaries. He now looks to run in a district that includes the border region in San Diego’s East County as well as Imperial County, though the district overall still voted Republican in the last president and gubernatorial elections.
• The northeast part of the County appears likely to remain in Republican control, based on party registration, even though GOP Assemblyman Martin Garrick no longer lives in the redrawn district.
• Republicans are hoping for a pick-up in a redrawn coastal district that runs from Imperial Beach and Coronado north to Solano Beach, but also includes Rancho Santa Fe. “Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s current district is located entirely within this Assembly District and his candidacy would make it instantly competitive,” says former Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring. But he faces a likely challenge from ex-Assemblywoman Lori Saldana.
• Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s district will lose eastern regions including Poway; the new district would extend north from Rancho Bernardo. Fletcher also loses coastal Del Mar and Solano Bech, which will be lumped into a coastal district covering much of downtown San Diego and Coronado. Fletcher has announced plans to run for Mayor of San Diego, however, leaving this an open seat.
Countywide, the balance of power isn’t liable to shift drastically, both side agree.
But statewide, some strategists suggest Republicans could lose several Congressional seats Democrats could potentially gain more power in Sacramento as well.
“You’re looking at three to five Republican members of Congress that just kind of vanish,” Matt Rexroad, a Republican political consultant in Sacramento, told the Sacramento Bee.
He also views the prospect of Democrats obtaining two-thirds in both Assembly and State Senate “very much in play.” That would allow overrides of a Governor’s veto and enable Democrats to pass budgets that include revenue increases. In recent years, budget compromise has stalled because Republicans have pushed cuts-only revenues to slash spending as well as services.
But others note that Republicans tend to have higher voter turnout than Democrats, meaning Democrats can’t be assured of victory in districts with new but slim majorities.
The 14-member bipartisan redistricting commission approved all the new maps by a unanimous vote.
The public will have a chance to weigh in with opinions at a public hearing held by the commission in San Diego at City Hall starting at 6 p.m. June 20.
“I'm predicting the East County-Imperial Assembly district may change and/or the South County Senate districts may change,” Jess Durfee, chairman of the San Diego Democratic Party told ECM. “It appears that there are voting rights act issues with the way they have done it - I hear MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund) is not happy with Latinos not having a Senate empowerment district down here.”
“I can't believe these can be the final maps because it cuts El Cajon in half,” said Ray Lutz, a Democrat who formerly ran against Hunter. But his residence would no longer be in Hunter’s district under the proposed redistricting plan. Still he offered some praise for the commission. “I do like the way they have made the assembly and senate districts coincide. That will make our life much easier in terms of remembering the lines.”
Although the state Republican party initially supported taking redistricting out of legislators' hands, the party's leader has now come out criticizing the commission for using a consulting firm he claims leans toward Democrats. The commission rejected a request from the GOP to use a consulting firm known for its Republican leanings.
What other explanation could explain the apparent increase in Democratic-leaning districts?
In a word: demographics. The number of voters who've registered as Republicans has dropped steadily, from 35% in 2003 to just under 31% this year, according to the Los Angeles Times, which also indicates that 90% of California's population growth in the past decade has come among Latinos, a voting block that tips largely Democratic.
The commission is bound by law to adopt final maps in August, though court challenges may ultimately alter the outcomes.
To find out what districts you’re in now, and what districts you’ll be in if the proposed redistricting maps are adopted, click this link and type in your address: http://lat.ms/lVhFSz
View the commission's draft maps here: www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov
To view more detailed maps and demographic information on San Diego’s redrawn districts, visit:
Vargas (candidate for seat held by Filner): http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-89/image/442/
Imperial & South East County (open seat): http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-105/image/571/
North East County (Anderson/Wyland): http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-105/image/586/
Open seat - coastal: http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-105/image/592/
Open (Jones?) Imperial & South East SD County: http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-96/image/496/
Marty Block : http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-96/image/519/
North East County: http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-96/image/531/
North San Diego-swing seat: http://www.mpimaps.com/nggallery/page-96/image/537/
Find additional analyses of the plans, including comparisons to alternative plans proposed by various groups, as well as party registration breakdowns by district, at:
See article with more comments on La Mesa's district shifts at La Mesa Patch: lamesa.patch.com/articles/la-mesa-shifted-to-democratic-districts-under-redistricting-draft#comment_884903