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New California Lines Create Upheaval

California Members got their first look at a proposed new Congressional map on Friday, and early analyses showed Democrats will likely benefit from the new lines.

Reps. Howard Berman (D), Brad Sherman (D) and David Dreier (R) are just three of the incumbents most affected under the first draft of the new map released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The commissioners said, however, when approving the map that it is only a rough draft and will change several times before being finalized on Aug. 15.

The map shows Democrats gaining an advantage in more Congressional districts than they currently hold. One analysis by Democratic redistricting expert Paul Mitchell found that 37 districts favor Democrats, including five he said leaned Democratic, and 16 districts favor Republicans, including three that lean to the GOP. Democrats currently hold a 34-19 advantage in the delegation.

“It certainly foreshadows big change in the delegation,” said Douglas Johnson, a redistricting expert and fellow at the Rose Institute.

Johnson concurred that the plan “leans a little Democratic,” but there are some Voting Rights Act issues that he said could even out the political balance once they are fixed.

Johnson said Latinos in East Los Angeles lost a seat under this plan. Latino leaders denounced the map for reducing the number of majority-Latino districts despite the fact that they account for most of the state’s population increase.

On Twitter, Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, called it the “worst case scenario for #Latinos.”

The Republican likely hurt the most is Dreier, whose San Gabriel Valley district would become heavily Democratic under the proposed lines. His new district would have a 51 percent Latino citizen voting age population and President Barack Obama would have carried it by 28 points, according to Mitchell’s breakdown of the map.

Several Members’ residences have been moved into single districts, including one in the Central Valley that includes the homes of Reps. Jeff Denham (R), Dennis Cardoza (D) and Jim Costa (D).

Eastern Bay Area Democratic Reps. Pete Stark and Jerry McNerney were also drawn in together. Based on the new lines, Stark would likely run in the Fremont-based district and McNerney would be forced to move into the San Joaquin County district.

In Los Angeles, Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D) district would have a 53 percent Latino CVAP under the new map, compared with 40 percent African-American CVAP. Rep. Gary Miller (R) was drawn into a district with Rep. Judy Chu (D) that is 43 percent Asian CVAP and favored Obama by 12 points in the 2008 election.

Democratic Reps. Berman and Sherman were placed inside the same North Los Angeles district, while a neighboring district is now majority Latino.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cárdenas wasted no time in announcing his candidacy for that seat on Friday. “People have been urging me to run for Congress, and I’m very proud to have the chance to be the first Latino to represent the San Fernando Valley in Congress,” said Cárdenas, a former state Assemblyman, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Should he run, insiders said state Sen. Alex Padilla (D) would be a top contender for the same seat.
Berman’s brother, Michael Berman, drew the state’s Congressional lines in 2001. Just one incumbent lost in the past 10 years, which was one reason California voters approved this new process.

The commission, which has been meeting since January and holding hearings around the state, applauded its effort following the vote to approve the first draft of the map. Like its other meetings, the vote was webcast for all to see, unlike the redrawing of the maps in previous decades.

“There is a lot of good stuff in these maps, definitely, but I’m sure there’s a ways to go,” Johnson said.