The Farm Team: Redraw Could Hurt Republicans

Posted August 8, 2008 at 3:52pm

Last in a four-part series.

In California, Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much. But nearly 10 years ago, as redistricting loomed, party leaders on both sides of the aisle agreed on this: protecting as many incumbents as possible.

Accordingly, Democratic and Republican leaders in the California Legislature and in the state’s Congressional delegation worked hand in hand to draw a map that preserved the jobs of as many sitting Members as possible — both in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C.

What resulted — with a few exceptions — were some of the safest Congressional seats in the country, with very little competition for House seats in the elections that followed this decade.

[IMGCAP(1)]The next round of redistricting is right around the corner. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) repeated attempts to overhaul California’s system for drawing House seats, so as to create districts that are more competitive, have resulted in massive opposition among both Democrats and Republicans.

This suggests that there is little chance that the 2011 remap will be handled much differently than what occurred in 2001, although that ultimately depends on who replaces Schwarzenegger as governor in 2010.

In California, the state Legislature draws Congressional boundaries, although the governor must sign off on the map. With the Legislature firmly in Democratic control, the party in 2011 could be in a position to draw a map that adds Democratic seats at Republicans’ expense.

Republican political consultant Allan Hoffenblum, who is based in Los Angeles, said that could happen if a Democrat is elected to replace the term-limited Schwarzenegger in 2010. Hoffenblum said redistricting will be an issue in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, as some Republicans will push to nominate a moderate — the only kind of Republican seen as capable of winning a statewide race in California.

“If it’s a Democratic governor, [the Democrats] will do everything they can to gerrymander the hell out of [the new map] and maximize the number of Democratic seats,” Hoffenblum said. “There will be pressure to nominate a moderate Republican as governor so that he can veto” any remap that is too favorable for Democrats.

Schwarzenegger is pushing a state Legislature redistricting reform measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. However, the governor dropped his push to revamp how Congressional districts are drawn.

In the event that little change occurs following the 2011 redistricting, there are several California politicians who are seen as strong potential candidates for the House — particularly because the Legislature limits Assemblymen to three two-year terms and state Senators to two four-year terms.

Should eight-term Rep. Ed Royce (R) choose to vacate the GOP-leaning 40th district anytime soon — he’s given no indication that he has any plans to do so — his successor could be plucked from a group of Republicans that includes former state Sen. John Lewis, state Sen. Dick Ackerman, state Assemblyman Mike Duvall and Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby.

In the 41st district, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) has been the subject of retirement rumors for the past couple of years. Although he’s running for re-election this year, he will be 74 in October and is serving his 15th term. Should he choose retirement next cycle, replacement possibilities include former state Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte (R), San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos (R), state Sen. Bob Dutton (R) and state Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R).

In the solidly Republican 42nd district, there has also been speculation that the incumbent might retire. But like Lewis, Rep. Gary Miller (R) is running for re-election this year. Should he opt for retirement next cycle, Duvall, state Assemblyman Bob Huff and Mission Viejo City Councilman Frank Ury might be among those angling for his seat.

The 43rd district is a rare Democratic outpost in the Republican-leaning Inland Empire suburbs, which begin about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and stretch eastward. Rep. Joe Baca (D) appears firmly ensconced in that seat. But should he choose to retire, state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D) is seen as the obvious choice to replace him.

Negrete McLeod previously served in the Assembly, and in fact had a hand in putting the brakes on what had been a budding Baca family political dynasty in the Inland Empire. In 2006, then-state Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr., the Congressman’s son, challenged Negrete McLeod in her state Senate primary. Baca Jr. lost to McLeod.

Meanwhile, Baca Jr.’s younger brother, Jeremy Baca, lost in the 2006 Democratic primary to replace Baca Jr. in the state Assembly. Jeremy Baca lost that primary to now-state Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter, who is also seen as a potential successor to Baca in the 43rd district.

In the Republican-leaning 44th district, Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R) GOP successors could include state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, state Assemblywoman Mimi Walters and state Assemblyman Jeff Miller.

In the GOP-leaning 45th district, Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s (R) replacements could include state Sen. Jim Battin or state Assemblyman Brian Nestande, who previously served as chief of staff to both Bono Mack and her late husband, Rep. Sonny Bono (R).

In the Republican-leaning 46th district, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) has also been the subject of retirement rumors. Should he retire down the road, several Republicans might angle to succeed him, among them state Board of Equalization member Michelle Steel, whose husband, Shawn Steel, is a former state Republican Party chairman; state Assemblyman Van Tran; state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore; former state Assemblyman and current Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh; and state GOP Treasurer Keith Carlson.

In the 47th district, one of the few that has the potential to be competitive, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) has avoided tough challenges over the past few cycles. But Republicans expect Tran to run against her in 2010, and his standing in the Vietnamese community could boost him. Immigrants from Vietnam are a key voting bloc in the region of Orange County covered by Sanchez’s seat, and they tend to lean Republican.

However, Sanchez has long coveted a run for higher office, and she could choose to run for governor in 2010, leaving an open seat in her wake.

The 48th district is solid GOP territory, and Rep. John Campbell (R), elected in December 2005 in a special election, does not appear to be headed anywhere anytime soon. But if Campbell were to retire unexpectedly, DeVore, Walters or Ackerman might run to replace him. Ackerman, then the state Senate Minority Leader, initially ran for the seat when it became vacant in 2005, but backed out after Campbell jumped into the race.

This seat, demographically wealthy, might also attract a self-funder.

In Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R) GOP-leaning 49th district, a vacancy is not out of the question. Issa has run for higher office in the past, and might do so again — particularly if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) retires in 2012. In line to succeed Issa are Hollingsworth, Walters, state Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R), state Sen. Mark Wyland (R), San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn and Vista Unified School District board President Jim Gibson, a candidate for Oceanside City Council.

In the Republican-leaning 50th district, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) survived the free-for-all that ensued when Rep. Duke Cunningham resigned in late 2005 amid scandal. Currently serving in his first full term in this northern San Diego County seat, Bilbray doesn’t appear to be headed anywhere. But, should a vacancy occur, former state Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian (R) and wealthy businessman Eric Roach (R), both of whom ran for this seat in the 2006 special election to replace Cunningham, might run again.

Nathan Fletcher (R), who is headed to victory this November in his race for state Assembly, might also run. Fletcher previously served in the Marines and is married to Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a former Bush/Cheney campaign official.

In the Democratic-leaning 51st district, Rep. Bob Filner’s (D) successors might include former state Assemblyman Juan Vargas, who challenged Filner in the 2006 Democratic primary, losing by 8 points. State Assemblywoman Mary Salas (D) might also run for this seat.

The solidly Republican 52nd district is being vacated by retiring Rep. Duncan Hunter (R). His son, Marine reservist Duncan D. Hunter, won the June 3 GOP primary and should cruise to victory in November. Barring a run for higher office, the younger Hunter, who is in his 30s, could be in office for the foreseeable future.

Santee City Councilmember Brian Jones and wealthy businessman Bob Watkins, both of whom lost to Hunter in the primary, could be among his replacements should he retire after serving only a few terms.

In the Democratic 53rd district, Rep. Susan Davis (D) is serving her fourth term and is not expected to retire in the near future. But should a vacancy occur in her seat in the next few cycles, her Democratic successors might include state Sen. Christine Kehoe, state Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña or San Diego Councilwoman Donna Frye, who previously ran for San Diego mayor, nearly winning.

Editor’s Note: With this installment the Farm Team column comes to a close, as all 50 states have been profiled. Look for the Under the Radar column, which profiles interesting but little-known Congressional candidates, in this space beginning in September.