Rocky Mountain News:
"New Maps Preserve Partisan Status Quo, but Also Boost Insiders." October
Map of proposed Congressional districts available August 31, 2001
The macro view of California's newly redrawn legislative and congressional districts - 173 of them, all told - is that they reflect the determination of the political establishment to freeze the partisan status quo.
The micro view is that the boundaries of the districts were changed dramatically, creating lines that swoop and dip in ways that would make little sense to the layman. They resurrect the now-famous comment that the late Congressman Phil Burton made about the congressional lines he drew two decades ago: "my contribution to modern art."
While honoring a bipartisan deal to preserve the current partisan makeup of both houses of the Legislature and the congressional delegation, the new districts were finely tuned to make it easier for certain favored candidates to run and discourage those out of favor. How finely? When the San Mateo County-centered Assembly district now represented by veteran lawmaker Lou Papan was reconfigured, legislators very carefully excluded the home of county Supervisor Mike Nevin, discouraging him from challenging Papan's daughter, Gina, for the seat. Nevin opted out.
Nevin's experience was replicated throughout the state as lines included or excluded areas to create a specific political outcome, either partisan or personal, in advance of any election - not exactly an exercise in textbook democracy. It's no secret, for example, that Democratic leaders changed Rep. Gary Condit's Central Valley district to both discourage the scandal-tinged congressman from running for re-election and make it more difficult for any Republican candidate.
One of the subtler refinements is found in Contra Costa County Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher's district. Democrat Tauscher had refused to support San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's bid for Democratic whip and Pelosi's pals punished Tauscher by dropping conservative suburbs from her district and expanding it into liberal, labor-oriented communities, forcing her to walk the party line more closely.
What happened to Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Boulder Creek, is a classic example of how personal politics affected redistricting. Although Keeley is regarded as one of the Assembly's brightest and hardest working members, his ambition to succeed Republican Bruce McPherson in the state Senate ran afoul of leadership priorities in both houses. McPherson's coastal district was carved up in ways that helped another Democratic assemblyman, Dennis Cardoza of Merced, seek a Senate seat if he wishes (although it now looks as if Cardoza will run for Condit's congressional seat). And Keeley didn't get any sympathy from the Democratic leader of the state Senate, John Burton, because Keeley had refused Burton's offer of support to challenge McPherson last year.
Burton (brother of Phil) also played a key role in changing the lines of his own San Francisco-based district to help his old pal, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, return to the Legislature after his reign as mayor ends. The new Senate lines split the heart of San Francisco's gay community, the Castro district, and thus erode the base that Assemblywoman Carole Migden or some other gay or lesbian candidate would need to run for the Senate.
In preserving the partisan status quo and drawing lines to favor political insiders, the establishment, almost by necessity, ran roughshod over political hopes of California's non-white communities. Many Latinos are bitter about not achieving big gains in either the Legislature or Congress under the plans and San Jose's Asian-American community was fragmented among several districts, for example.
The new maps are now in effect and throughout the state, candidates are lining up to run. But those who believe they were short-changed are complaining, and taking those complaints to court. Keeley, for instance, has joined a plea by Latino groups to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to intercede under the Voting Rights Act. And more direct lawsuits have been filed to challenge the new maps.
Whether those challenges succeed or not, it's clear that the 2001 redistricting embodies the worst self-serving aspects of the process.
Contact Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee in California at [email protected].
Hispanic group asks judge to delay March election
October 16, 2001
A Hispanic group that objects to new congressional and state Senate redistricting plans is asking a judge to delay the March 2002 primary election.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a lawsuit Oct. 1 charging that the new legislative lines approved by California lawmakers dilute the power of Hispanic voters.
MALDEF filed a request Monday in U.S. District Court asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the election until their lawsuit is resolved.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Gray Davis said his office could not comment Monday.
Next year, Californians will elect a governor and seven other statewide constitutional officers, 53 members of Congress, 20 state senators and all 80 members of the state Assembly. The congressional and legislative posts are under the new district lines.
The deadline to declare candidacy for the race is next month for the state's first early primary election in a non-Presidential election year.
Lawmakers are required to draw new districts every 10 years to reflect population changes revealed by the census.
This time, it was Asian voters who got stiffed by reapportionment. That is to say, voters of Asian descent, or Pacific Islanders, or anyone from any place west of here.
Certainly, legislative reapportionment is a topic guaranteed to cure insomnia among the vast majority of us who have normal lives.
But reapportionment -- the redrawing of legislative district lines every 10 years after the census discloses changes in population -- is truly the baldest of efforts to keep power in the hands of those who already have it at the expense of anyone or any group of people who might really deserve it.
And that's just what happened to Asian voters. They got stiffed, particularly here in the Bay Area.
In order to protect the current political establishment of San Francisco, and, not coincidentally, of Santa Clara County, Asian populations were divided up so that their impact would be diluted.
Reapportionment often ends up being about race, but it's not all about race.
Unless we're part of a group of political leaders whose main concern is divide and dominate, all of us get stiffed.
The answer to getting stiffed is a political one -- we simply have to do our own politics better than they do theirs. That means we have to understand our own commonality of interests and how that can lead to political clout.
Reapportionment is fraught with examples of divide and dominate.
But what happened with the Bay Area Assembly districts is a good example.
San Francisco, which has an Asian population of 31 percent, is divided between two newly redrawn districts -- the 12th and the 13th.
The 13th Assembly District, located entirely within the city, is only 23 percent Asian.
The 12th Assembly District, which takes in the western half of San Francisco and half of Daly City, is 42 percent Asian.
The number of Asians in the 12th is boosted significantly by the inclusion of half of Daly City, which is itself 50 percent Asian.
By dividing San Francisco and Daly City, the new districts dilute the influence of Asian voters in San Francisco.
At the same time, the Daly City residents of the 12th District are nearly disenfranchised politically. The person who represents the district is likely to come from San Francisco and concern himself or herself exclusively with San Francisco issues, personalities and problems, leaving Daly City residents on the outs.
Divide and dominate.
As I said, reapportionment often ends up being about race, but all of us get stiffed.
The 2000 Census puts San Francisco's population at 776,000, while San Mateo County's is 707,000.
Each of the state's 80 Assembly districts should have about 423,000 people.
Yet, San Francisco ended up as the dominant portion of two Assembly districts, at the expense of San Mateo County. Meanwhile, San Mateo County is the dominant portion of only one Assembly district, the 19th.
Through reapportionment, San Francisco was allowed to cling to its own political importance in a region that is rapidly overshadowing what was once the dominant city.
It will be an interesting day when San Mateo County surpasses San Francisco in population.
That's already happened in Santa Clara County, where the population is 1.6 million. All or a major portion of six Assembly districts are located in Santa Clara County.
That raises the question of why Santa Clara County fails to have more clout in the Assembly than San Francisco.
The answer is a political one.
The fact is that San Francisco is a Bay Area anomaly -- a dense, urban center, surrounded by suburban areas that have become regions in their own right. They are regions with their own economies, their own social structures and their own political concerns.
Daly City has more in common with San Jose than it does with San Francisco. San Mateo County has more in common with Santa Clara County.
The communities from Daly City to San Jose have a commonality of interests - - similar concerns about housing, traffic, schools, and the increasing dominance of the high-tech economy.
Those interests transcend traditional politics as exemplified by reapportionment. Those interests also transcend traditional Bay Area politics that have San Francisco at the center.
Here's where we have to do politics better.
The Peninsula and the South Bay should start seeing themselves as a singular political entity.
Combine San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and you have a population of 2. 3 million, and eight or nine Assembly seats -- more than enough to draw some clout in Sacramento and to override the puny two seats San Francisco managed to wring out of the new census data.
The same can be done anywhere in the Bay Area by defining large political communities of interest that have in common the same economic and social concerns.
It's time we stopped letting reapportionment define our politics for us. It's time our politics were smart enough to reflect what we've become.
Mark Simon can be reached at (650) 299-8071, by fax at (650) 299-9208, or e-mail at [email protected] Write him c/o The Chronicle, Press Room, 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA 94063.
A drive to give Berkeley the nation's first electoral district designed for students has been thwarted by one of the bitterest political clashes to rattle the city in many years.
It's redistricting time, the once-a-decade rite of partisan battles across the country, but the fight in Berkeley over City Council district boundaries has generated unusual acrimony this time, even for a city famous for passionate politics.
"The process is the worst I've ever seen," Mayor Shirley Dean, a 22-year veteran of city politics, said yesterday, still angry over the council's 5-to- 4 approval Tuesday night of new council district lines. Her four-member centrist faction was on the losing side.
Rather than create one student-dominated district, the council's leftist majority voted to shift students into another district, a move that gives leftists a chance of unseating a moderate incumbent in the next election.
Students from the University of California, who account for 22 percent of Berkeley's population, lobbied for a single district where 70 percent of registered voters would be ages 18 to 24 -- enough, they believed, to elect a student to the City Council. It apparently would have been the first legislative district in the nation designed for students to have a voice in government.
UC Berkeley student Josh Fryday, an organizer of the student-proposed redistricting plan, said students are not satisfied with the plan approved by the council and will seek an amendment to the City Charter to create a student district.
"The ultimate goal," said Michael Wagaman, another student organizer, "is to make sure it's a district where a student can get elected."
Both sides on the council had expressed support for redrawing lines to empower students, but after angry public debate and last-minute changes made in what opponents called a back-room deal, the council majority approved new district lines that left students unsatisfied and enraged the council minority.
Dona Spring, a member of the council majority, said the minority's reaction "reeks of self-righteous hypocrisy." The centrists' plan, she said, would have concentrated more students in leftist Councilman Kriss Worthington's district, thus forcing him to run against a student. This would create division in the leftists' power base.
She said the council majority wanted to give students influence in two districts. The new plan shifted a large number of students into the district of one of the leftists' opponents, centrist Polly Armstrong, giving the leftist faction a greater chance of taking Armstrong's seat.
The result was two south-of-campus districts each with large numbers of students but without a dominant majority.
One district, now represented by Kriss Worthington, would lose students to Armstrong's district, ending up with 45 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 24. Armstrong's district would be 50 percent student-aged, according to census figures in a city manager's report issued yesterday.
But city officials estimate that the 2000 census missed more than 4,300 people in student dorms and neighborhoods, and that nearly all of them would end up in Armstrong's district, giving it a higher percentage of students and a total population far above the 12,850 target for each district.
E-mail Charles Burress at [email protected].
A statewide Latino political organization filed suit in federal court Monday, challenging redistricting boundaries in a bid to increase Latino representation in Sacramento and Washington.
Lawyers for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund charged that new boundaries for four congressional districts and two state Senate districts were designed to keep white incumbents in power. They asked a three-judge panel to order the lines redrawn and to delay the 2002 primaries from March until June to provide time to do it.
Although only a few districts are involved in the lawsuit, agreement by the federal judges could conceivably force redistricting of all California districts in Congress and the state Senate because redrawing can cause a ripple effect. None of the new Assembly district lines was challenged.
All the redistricting plans--adopted every 10 years after the U.S. Census--were approved by heavy, bipartisan majorities in both houses of the Legislature last month, and quickly signed by Gov. Gray Davis.
Sixteen of 19 Latino members of the Assembly and all seven Latino state senators voted for them.
But Antonia Hernandez, MALDEF president and chief counsel, said Monday that legislators simply voted for the plans "because their interests [in their own reelections] were taken care of."
She said the boundaries that were challenged dilute the Latino vote in at least three districts. The net result, she contended, would be to reelect white incumbents.
The biggest controversy is in the San Fernando Valley, where redistricting removed many Latino voters from the district long represented in Congress by Howard L. Berman (D-Mission Hills) and put them in an adjacent district represented by Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks).
Berman's district also was pushed farther south into predominantly white areas of the Hollywood Hills, while Sherman's district was moved north and wrapped around Berman's district, to include many Latinos living in Sylmar and some nearby areas.
MALDEF asserts that this would dilute Latino registered voters in Berman's district from 45% to 31% in next year's Democratic primary. The change would about double the number of Latino registered voters in Sherman's district, but still leave them far short of the numbers required to threaten the incumbent.
Other assertions in the suit are that the redistricting was designed to protect state Sen. Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) by reducing the Latino vote in their districts.
Berman's brother, longtime Democratic redistricting consultant Michael Berman, drew up the Senate and congressional redistricting plans approved this year, and many past redistricting plans as well.
However, the courts have occasionally stepped in to redraw his plans.
Howard Berman said Monday that he is "terribly disappointed" that MALDEF has filed its suit.
"For 30 years in public office, I have not merely voted for, but have led the legislative battles to enact issues of importance to the Latino community," he said. "I guess for MALDEF, it's more about skin color and ethnicity than the philosophy and the quality of representation."
Sherman said he did not much like the redistricting, because it is moving him away from substantial parts of his present district, including the 20% proportion now within Ventura County.
Michael Berman, breaking his usual silence in such matters, said that overall his plan "massively protected Latino voting power" statewide.
The redistricting plans would lead to Latinos adding one seat to the six California seats they now hold in Congress, one Assembly seat and two or three state Senate seats, he said.
Michael Berman acknowledged that the redistricting protected incumbents, Democratic and Republican, but he said this was necessary to avoid the long, bitter struggles of the past when partisan splits sent everything to the courts.
Strengthening marginal Democratic seats, protecting seats held by African Americans and adding voters to underpopulated Los Angeles County districts were also said to be important principles of the Berman plan.
Davis on Monday called MALDEF "a very creditable organization, which certainly is entitled to bring its views into court."
But "while no plan is perfect," he said, "I believe the maps are fair and balanced."
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior scholar with USC's School of Policy, Planning and Development, said there is nothing unusual about legislators protecting their own interests in redistricting plans.
She said she had no idea what the federal court panel will do. Monday, only one judge, District Judge Margaret Morrow, had yet been named. MALDEF lawyers said she will now name a second District Court judge, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will name the third judge.
Jeffe said the Berman plan might protect black lawmakers only in the short term. Eventually, she said, they are apt to be replaced by Latinos, as the overall Latino proportion of the California population is expected to continue to grow well beyond the one-third in the 2000 census.
Waiting Until Last Moment
At MALDEF, Hernandez said: "It is unacceptable and illegal to jeopardize the voting rights of historically disenfranchised minority voters. The district lines compromised the basic principles of community and the electoral process."
In addition, said Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute, which is supporting the MALDEF suit, legislators waited until almost the last possible moment to unveil the redistricting maps--the Friday before Labor Day--and then held a hearing the day after Labor Day.
Such procedures left minority representatives outside the Legislature with little capacity to respond, he said.
Gov. Gray Davis on Thursday signed redistricting plans that protect the state's incumbent legislators and members of Congress, extending Democratic control of the state's delegations for the next 10 years.
As "urgency" legislation, the measures became law immediately upon Davis' signature, a device that immunized them from a referendum challenge that could throw the issue to the state Supreme Court.
"The maps produced this year are fair and balanced," Davis said. But while the redistricting bills pleased both Democratic and Republican incumbents because they cement the partisan alignments in the Legislature and congressional delegation, political outsiders did not share in the joy.
Officials of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the California Latino Redistricting Coalition said they would work to undo provisions, approved by the governor, that allegedly weaken Latino political power.
Amadis Valez of MALDEF and Alan Clayton of the coalition charged that under the new configuration, Latinos will be unable to elect a candidate of their choice in some areas, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act for minorities.
"The Latino community feels very strongly that they have been victims of a lot of political deals and their voice has been lost," Valez said.
Clayton said his Los Angeles-based organization will petition the U.S. Department of Justice to challenge the design of several legislative and congressional districts.
He said the oddly shaped districts on the new maps violate voting rights law by ignoring various communities of interest.
"They missed voting rights opportunities," Clayton said of the Legislature's map makers. "This will hurt Latinos, African Americans and . . . Asian Americans."
Both groups cited as injurious to Latinos the splitting of the Latino community in the San Fernando Valley between the congressional districts of Democrats Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.
Under the required once-a-decade readjustment of political districts, Democrats will maintain their current 32-20 hold over the GOP in the state's current congressional delegation. The additional district awarded to California because of population growth is expected to elect a Latino Democrat. Though it will be the state's 53rd, the southeast Los Angeles County district has been assigned the number 39, in keeping with the pattern of such numbers rising from north to south.
The state Senate's lineup of 26 to 14 and the Assembly's 50-30 alignment will also hold, barring huge upsets, until 2011.
Traditionally in California, redistricting is a nasty behind-the-scenes battle as the majority party seeks to enhance its membership and the minority party scratches for what little it can get.
But this time, the parties made a deal in which each would keep the same proportion it won in last year's elections. Democrats would not seek to expand their membership and minority Republicans would be assured of shrinking no further.
Democrats wanted a bill that was referendum-proof, meaning it would need Republican support to win the two-thirds majority necessary for it to take effect immediately as an urgency law.
There was ample precedent for their concern: Ten years ago, a remapping dispute landed in the state high court, which redrew the plan.
Although the restricting bills became law only Thursday, their impact has already been felt in the political careers of veteran Reps. Gary Condit (D-Ceres) and Steve Horn (R-Long Beach).
Horn, a moderate who has barely won reelection in a Democratic-leaning district, announced his retirement early this month when map makers in the Legislature moved his home and most of Long Beach into a district now represented by Democrat Juanita Millender-McDonald of Carson.
In the northern San Joaquin Valley, Condit has been under increasing pressure not to run for reelection next year, from leaders of his own party concerned about his relationship with missing Washington intern Chandra Levy.
In the plan, party leaders all but wrote him off, redesigning his conservative Democratic district to reach far north into heavier Democratic territory in Stockton and stretching it south to Fresno to pick up more Democrats.
In doing so, Democratic leaders enhanced the possibility that another Democrat will challenge Condit, who has not said whether he will run again.
A bipartisan group of San Joaquin County officials filed a lawsuit Friday charging that new legislative and congressional districts illegally cut up the county and its biggest city, Stockton.
The suit contends that legislators violated the state constitution and weakened the county's influence by dividing it among four state Assembly districts, two state Senate districts and two congressional districts.
The state constitution requires redistricting plans to respect city, county and regional boundaries "to the extent possible."
"No reasonable person would say that they did not violate that standard," said Dean Andal, a state tax board member from Stockton and one of the 22 plaintiffs. "They did it blatantly and obviously."
He said it was possible that none of the Assembly members elected to the four new districts would live in San Joaquin County.
Kam Kuwata, a spokesman for Assembly Democrats, said the Assembly redistricting plan respects the geographical integrity requirement more than the one approved by the state Supreme Court 10 years ago.
"We were very mindful of all the legal guidelines and we're confident that the court will agree," he said.
Legislators are required to approve new districts every 10 years to reflect population changes revealed by the census.
The redistricting bills that were signed into law Thursday by Gov. Gray Davis will probably tend to strengthen both parties' holds on the seats they have now in the Legislature and California's congressional delegation.
The congressional redistricting plan adds parts of Stockton and San Joaquin County to a Modesto area district represented by embattled Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, to try to keep that seat in Democratic hands.
A state Senate district that now includes most of San Joaquin County and southern Sacramento County was redrawn to cover all or parts of four counties to bolster the re-election chances of Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, who narrowly won the seat last year. Andal said the San Joaquin districts could be redone without impacting those in other parts of the state.
"It would be very simple to keep us together," he said. "It would require some modest shifting of areas in adjacent seats."
He said the plaintiffs are not asking the court to disrupt next year's elections.
"We assume that the lawsuit can take place in a timely way and we can get a decision and a rewrite of the maps before the 2004 elections," he said.
The suit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, names Davis, Secretary of State Bill Jones and the Senate and Assembly as defendants.
Smooth Sailing in California
Every House Member who runs for re-election next year in the Golden State benefits from a new House map the state Legislature approved Thursday by large margins.
Except, perhaps, for Rep. Bob Filner. (D). Democrats in Sacramento brokered some last-minute changes to the plan by agreeing to draw a San Diego-area district in the hopes of helping state Assemblyman Juan Vargas . (D), one of state House Speaker Bob Hertzberg.'s (D) closest allies, in a primary challenge against Filner.
Following a fierce lobbying effort by Rep. Ellen Tauscher. (D), state legislators tried to soften dramatic changes to her 10th district. Tauscher's new district would still expand from its former Contra Costa County base to take in parts of three other counties, including Solano and Sacramento. But state legislators ultimately kept Orinda, Moraga and Lafayette in her district.
Gov. Gray Davis (D) is expected to sign the bill into law, but its critics remain vocal. Minority groups, which had threatened lawsuits if the plans did not reflect their fast-growing populations, said they still might sue.
"Both parties missed the opportunity to treat the Latino community fairly," said Alan Clayton., research chairman for the California Latino Redistricting Coalition, adding that his organization would ask the Justice Department to challenge the plans in court.
Other critics included state legislators and some House Members who said the map will minimize the potential for competitive campaigns. Most districts were drawn so that "we won't have to worry about elections for six, eight, 10 years because they are all preset. Everybody wins," claimed state Assemblyman Tim Leslie . (R). "What happened to drawing lines for the people of the state rather than ourselves?"
State lawmakers Thursday overwhelmingly approved and sent to Gov. Gray Davis bills designed to reduce competition at the ballot box and preserve the partisan status quo in the Legislature and California congressional delegation for the next 10 years.
In swift bursts of bipartisan cooperation, the usually fractious Assembly approved 58 to 10 a realignment of state Senate and congressional districts, while the Senate passed 40 to 0 a bill rewriting state Assembly districts.
Davis, who had insisted that the once-a-decade redrawing of political boundaries to reflect the 2000 census be a bipartisan effort, is expected to sign them quickly. "We've been plugged into the process. We don't see any major changes that the governor would ask for," said spokesman Steve Maviglio.
The Assembly was almost giddy in approving its redistricting plan, SB 802, on a 65-8 vote, a proposal that drew praise and criticism from minority community activists.
But it was attacked by a few Assembly members as an unvarnished incumbent protection plan that needlessly split cities and ignored "communities of interest." &But Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) defended the lower chamber lines as "sensitive" to minority community representation, and said they reflect nearly perfect populations of 423,396 per district.
"I understand it's not a perfect plan," Hertzberg said.
But he added that it will pass legal muster and was "done on a bipartisan basis in the most open way in the history of California."
The proposal, however, attracted angry criticism.
Assemblyman Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City), despite receiving a favorable GOP district himself, lambasted it as politically expedient at the expense of wider interests.
He said most districts were drawn so that "we won't have to worry about elections for six, eight, 10 years because they are all preset. Everybody wins. . . . What happened to drawing lines for the people of the state rather than ourselves?"
Two Democrats from the Silicon Valley, Assemblywoman Elaine White Alquist of Santa Clara and Assemblyman Manny Diaz of San Jose, attacked the lower house program as a butcher block for splitting communities.
Alquist complained that nearly half of Santa Clara had been moved to another district.
Alquist also said she was shocked to learn last week--by chance--that her proposed district no longer included her home.
On the redistricting plan for the Senate and Congress, which had drawn criticism from minorities, Assemblyman Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles) urged acceptance, telling colleagues that "this is about as good as it gets."
In contrast to previous bloody redistricting fights stretching back at least 30 years, California Democrats and Republicans struck an unusual deal this time, aimed at protecting the partisan breakdown in the Legislature and House.
Under the agreement, minority Republicans guaranteed enough votes for a two-thirds majority on the redistricting bills so they would take effect immediately on Davis' signature.
This would make them immune to a referendum challenge, which the GOP had threatened.
In exchange, Republican ranks would not be further reduced by the Democrats in charge of redistricting.
In the Assembly, Democrats outnumber Republicans 50 to 30; in the Senate, 26 to 14; and in the House, 32 to 20.
However, House Democrats are expected to gain one seat in Los Angeles County due to the creation of a heavily Latino 53rd District.
Outside the legislative chambers, Latino and Asian American political activists complained that their communities were entitled to a better shake.
"In the Assembly plan, we believe that the concerns for incumbency protection and having a bipartisan deal overrode giving a full opportunity to the Latino community in Los Angeles County and other ethnic communities as well," said Amadis Velez of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
He noted that at least one new Latino Assembly district is created in southeastern Los Angeles County by the Assembly proposal, but that the growth of the Hispanic population justifies a second such district.
"We were told that this could not be done without jeopardizing the bipartisan deal," Velez said.
Kathay Feng of the Asian Pacific American Redistricting Coalition expressed disappointment that her communities' efforts to lobby for a greater political voice did not pay off in a bigger way.
But she said that as a result of intense lobbying efforts, politicians now would have to take notice of Asian American and Pacific Islander constituencies at election time.
"Even if we did not represent a majority of any district, it was important that our communities were significantly [represented] within a particular district," Feng said.
Senate Democrats and Republicans reached rare agreement Wednesday night and voted overwhelmingly to redraw U.S. House and state Senate districts designed to preserve the partisan status quo for the next 10 years.
The bills, shepherded by Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda), mirrored an agreement among congressional and legislative incumbents to reshape districts according to population changes of the 1990s, but to keep the current ratio of majority Democrats to minority Republicans.
In the Senate, Democrats outnumber the GOP by 26 to 14. Democrats also outnumber Republicans in the California House delegation, 32 to 20. On a 38-2 vote, the redistricting bill (AB 632) went to the Assembly for expected swift ratification today or Friday, the final stop before it reaches centrist Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who had insisted that it be a bipartisan plan.
The Assembly is expected to pass its redistricting plan today, also preserving the existing partisan lineup in the lower chamber of 50 Democrats and 30 Republicans.
The House and Senate plans had been attacked over the last two weeks by Latino and Asian American activists, who said they fell short of reflecting population gains of minority communities. But the bills adopted Wednesday were substantially the same as when they were proposed.
Participants said the incumbent protection package is aimed at keeping the minority status of the GOP from deteriorating further. In exchange, Republicans agreed to provide the two-thirds super-majority needed to make the program immune to a referendum, which they had threatened.
The plans drew a mixed response from the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund, which had proposed its own redistricting scheme.
MALDEF praised a provision to create new "border" districts along the international boundary with Mexico that would link Latino communities in parts of San Diego and Imperial counties in the legislative and congressional bills and establish a Latino-leaning Senate district in the San Joaquin Valley.
But Amadis Velez of MALDEF said the organization may challenge in court what he called the "dilution and fracturing" of the Latino community in the San Fernando Valley between the districts of Democratic Reps. Howard L. Berman and Brad Sherman.
He said that in spite of efforts to compromise, about 170,000 Latino voters in Berman's district had been politically weakened by shifting them to Sherman's neighboring district.
Velez said that as a result, Latinos may no longer be able to have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. That would be a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, he said.
"We believe it is unacceptable for the Latino community to go backward in terms of their gains and voting rights," Velez said.
The plans also drew criticism from Alan Clayton of the California Latino Redistricting Coalition.
State senators overwhelmingly approved new districts for the Senate and California's congressional delegation Wednesday after lawmakers removed a stumbling block that threatened to torpedo the plans.
The bipartisan legislation was sent to the Assembly by a 38-2 vote. A spokesman for Assembly Democrats, Kam Kuwata, said the bill probably would get lopsided support in that house on Thursday along with plans to redistrict the Assembly and a state tax board.
The plans are likely to help Democrats maintain their big majorities in the Legislature and the congressional delegation while giving them an additional seat in the House of Representatives. The plans also won support from Republicans because they would solidify their hold on the seats they have now.
Despite the bipartisan support Wednesday, the plans were threatened earlier in the week by a dispute among Democratic leaders over a few key Senate and congressional districts.
That logjam was broken when Senate leaders agreed to changes that could help one of Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg's lieutenants, Assemblyman Juan Vargas, win a congressional seat.
"This is our responsibility," said Sen. Don Perata, the Oakland Democrat who chairs the Senate elections committee. "Shame on us if were not able to agree."
Lawmakers are supposed to approve new districts every 10 years to reflect population shifts revealed by the census, but twice in the last three decades a panel appointed by the Supreme Court has drawn the lines because Democratic legislators could not agree with Republican governors on how to draw new districts.
Senators removed a major point of contention when they agreed to alter two San Diego-area congressional districts.
The latest plan would link Imperial County with inland areas of San Diego County now represented by Democrat Bob Filner to form the 51st Congressional District.
An earlier version of the plan would have tied Imperial County to a coastal San Diego district represented by another Democrat, Susan Davis.
Filner has charged that Vargas, a San Diego Democrat who is the Assembly's assistant majority leader, wanted Imperial County tied to parts of Filner's district to create a heavily Latino seat that Vargas could win.
Latinos would make up nearly half of the voting age population and nearly 40 percent of the registered voters in the new 51st District.
Vargas, who lost to Filner in Democratic congressional primaries in 1996 and 1992, refused to comment Wednesday, and Filner's office did not immediately respond to a call from The Associated Press seeking reaction.
But Perata said he thought Filner had accepted the change.
Hertzberg said earlier this week that linking Imperial County to Filner's territory was a more natural fit than tying the agricultural and desert county to the San Diego coast.
Perata said the Senate didn't make any changes to satisfy Assembly Democrats' concerns about the way the Senate plan would treat the state's central coast.
Assembly Democrats have complained the plan would make it difficult if not impossible for Assembly Democrats who now represent the central coast to win Senate seats.
But Senate leaders say they couldn't make major adjustments in the Senate lines without threatening other Democratic seats or the delicate agreement with Republicans that would allow the redistricting plans to pass with two-thirds majorities.
Approving the plans by that lopsided margin would prevent anyone from asking voters to overturn them.
Leaders of the state Legislature have agreed to scale back their plan to pull more than 170,000 Latinos from Rep. Howard Berman's district, but Latino voting rights groups threatened Monday to challenge the proposed congressional map in court.
The newly revised map would still drop 97,000 Latinos from Berman's San Fernando Valley district. &It would replace largely Latino neighborhoods in Sylmar and other parts of the northeast Valley with mainly non-Latino communities from Encino to the Hollywood Hills. The shift would address Berman's concern that a Latino candidate might oust him in a Democratic primary election.
"They're telling the Latino community: 'We do not want you to have an effective voice in the political representation of the San Fernando Valley,' " said Amadis Raul Velez, a redistricting specialist at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "It's not acceptable, and we're going to file a lawsuit if an effective voice is not returned to the Latino community."
MALDEF and the William C. Velasquez Institute, a Latino think tank, told state legislators in a letter Monday that the revised map would still violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act by diluting the Latino vote.
Under the earlier proposal, the Latino population in Berman's district would have dropped from 65% to 41%. The revised map would cut the Latino population to 54%.
Most of the Latinos removed from the district would end up in the territory of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who had lobbied hard against the earlier map. A Sherman advisor described the revised map as a modest improvement.
The boundaries of Berman's district are one of the most contentious issues facing state legislators as they struggle this week to reach agreement on congressional and state legislative maps. Redistricting takes place every 10 years to reflect population shifts in the U.S. census.
The jockeying over which congressional member will represent the nearly 600,000 Latinos in the northeast Valley has offended some Latinos in the area.
"It's causing very hard feelings and sad feelings in the Latino community," said state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), who is seeking reelection next year but is a potential contender for the congressional seat.
Alarcon said he agreed that even the revised map could run afoul of the voting rights law and prompt a court to draw the boundaries.
"Howard Berman has been a wonderful legislator for the Latino community, and we don't want him to abandon us," Alarcon said.
He also said Sherman has "fought vehemently and publicly to reduce the number of Latinos in his district. There are some fences that need to be mended. He needs to let the Latino community know that he supports them as a community."
Aides to Sherman and Berman said both Congress members were unavailable for comment.
Sherman has cast his fight against the proposed boundaries as an effort to split the Valley along north-south or east-west lines to enhance community representations; either solution would leave the bulk of Latinos in Berman's district.
Parke Skelton, Sherman's top political advisor, described it as a "geographically difficult district to run in."
"He sees it as a less-than-perfect solution, but a solution nonetheless," Skelton said.
As the Legislature moved closer to voting on new Assembly, Senate and congressional district boundaries, minority and women's groups Monday accused Democratic map makers of ignoring them and threatened to sue.
A conference committee of Assembly and Senate leaders could meet as early as Tuesday to review weekend revisions to the redistricting plans, setting the stage for house votes before Friday's legal deadline.
The revisions tweaked some boundaries, including the 9th Assembly District, represented by Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. But the changes were not enough to satisfy Latino, Asian American and women's groups who testified last week against the plans.
Latino groups remain especially opposed to the congressional plan, which they contend dilutes the burgeoning Latino population in the San Fernando Valley and their ability to elect a candidate of their choice. Under the revised plan, Latinos remain spread between districts held by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Mission Hills, and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks.
"We will file a lawsuit if changes are not made," vowed Amadis Velez, redistricting coordinator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who said the plans do not reflect Latino population growth.
Lawmakers must redraw the districts every 10 years to reflect population changes by the federal census. Democrats control the process this year because they hold 76 of the 120 seats in the Legislature.
But Democratic dominance has not stopped intraparty squabbling from breaking out since the initial proposals were released two weeks ago.
Responding to complaints by African American groups, the revised plan calls for Meadowview to remain in Sacramento's 9th Assembly District. Critics had charged that moving about 36,000 minority voters out of south Sacramento into the more rural 17th Assembly District would reduce the chances of an African American candidate succeeding Steinberg, who faces term limits in 2004.
"We consider this a victory not only for common sense but for the voting rights of all in Sacramento," said James Reede, co-chairman of the Sacramento-area 2001 Redistricting Project, who worked to stop a similar shift a decade ago.
The initial plan this year was intended to shore up the numbers of Democratic voters in the 17th Assembly District, represented by Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy. Under the revised plan, Matthews' district would now pick up Democratic voters by extending farther south to include all of Merced County.
The revised plan also appears to assure Republicans of maintaining the 30 Assembly seats they have been insisting on in return for providing the two-thirds votes that would head off a threatened GOP referendum challenging the plans.
Under the plan, the 26th district, represented by Democrat Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, would now have a Republican voting majority.
"(This) moves us closer to where we and the speaker (Bob Hertzberg) had agreed on," said James Fisfis, a spokesman for the Assembly Republican Caucus.
Cardoza earlier had a favorable Senate seat carved out for him - the 12th Senate District, currently held by Dick Monteith, R-Modesto. Monteith, who will be forced out by term limits next year, is expected to try to change seats with Cardoza next year by running for the reconfigured Assembly seat.
Such incumbency-protection trade-offs have angered Latino, Asian American and women's groups who charge they are being held back by the Legislature's "old boys' network." &"We're extremely disappointed, but they have until Friday to save the plans," said Lillian Raffel, co-chair of the Women's Political Committee, whose members include influential Hollywood political activists.
A group of Democratic assemblywomen complained last week that they were drawn into Republican state Senate districts, blocking their path to higher office.
Despite behind-the-scene negotiations, the revised plans did little to address their concerns. One relieved legislator was Assemblywoman Carol Liu, D-South Pasadena, who was drawn back into 21st Senate District, now represented by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena.
"I'm very pleased that the Senate reconsidered," Liu said. "However, I understand that the plan is not final until the Legislature passes and the governor approves it."
Conversely, the 19th Senate District that Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, had been eyeing received more Republican voters in the revised plan. Jackson was one of the plan's most vocal critics.
Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, has said the Senate plan enhances the futures of many more Democratic assemblywomen, including Matthews, Patricia Wiggins of Santa Rosa and Wilma Chan of Oakland.
The revisions also largely rejected suggestions made by advocates for Asian Americans, who contend many of their communities were fragmented to dilute their influence.
"If a community interest could be met without running against the (Democratic) party or an incumbent, they
California Democrats have told Congressional campaign officials that they expect no financing from the national party because the state's new map ensures the safety of their incumbents, according to Democratic leadership aides. Though party strategists had earlier suggested Democrats could reap as many as four additional seats from California, they are now expected to gain just one seat from a new, Hispanic-majority district in Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, the aides suggested the outcome of the state's redistricting process should ease concerns about whether Democrats can counter GOP gains elsewhere.
The safety of Democratic incumbents in the Golden State, they argued, would provide a financial windfall that could be used towards possible new pickups elsewhere in the country.
"I guarantee you that if this map is put in play, the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] will not spend one dime in California," one senior leadership aide said, citing discussions with California Reps. Howard Berman and Nancy Pelosi. "They told us no Member is in any danger."
Asked whether Pelosi had given party campaign officials the impression that no money would be needed in California, an aide to the lawmaker said, "I think that's a pretty reasonable interpretation of that map."
Still, the development appeared to take some delegation insiders by surprise.
Berman chief of staff Gene Smith, for one, said she had not heard anything about California's delegation swearing off money from the party, and was skeptical.
"I think it's a little hard to envision," she said.
The delegation's executive director, Pam Barry, echoed Smith. "It doesn't register with me," Barry said. "Everybody always needs money. I don't know where that [talk] could have come from."
The remarks follow the unveiling of a new California map last month that would bolster incumbents at the expense of possible gains for the Democrats throughout the state.
The bipartisan map enhances the party strength of virtually every House incumbent's district, including the ones served by Republicans, while using the state's one new seat to create a new Democratic district.
Legislators are drawing a new Hispanic-majority seat in Los Angeles, a Democratic stronghold, and a GOP-leaning seat in the Central Valley.
The only Member left in the lurch was Rep. Steve Horn (R), whose Long Beach-based district was eliminated. Horn said last week that he will retire in 2002.
"From a realistic, strategic perspective, we'll have to spend a lot less to protect what we've got in California, which is a lot more beneficial than if we had tried to draw in four new House seats," one Democratic campaign official said. The DCCC spent more than $12.5 million on California in the last cycle, a figure bloated by the state's wildly expensive media markets and the unusually large number of districts in play.
Democratic strategists say the money that was sunk into California, which helped the party pick up four seats there in 2000, can now be shifted to similarly inviting prospects in states such as Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, where Democratic control of the redistricting process has created new opportunities for the party.
Republicans, meanwhile, noted that the map would cut both ways. Because the map would protect incumbents from both parties, the GOP would also have to spend far less in California next year than they did in 2000.
"Democrats have been saying for months that California would put them over the top. This has got to be a huge disappointment for them," said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "We'll come back with 20 seats. We have to be happy with that. "When you look at the numbers, our Members will be less vulnerable, which means we'll also spend less money than we would have had to."
Not all Republicans are ebullient, however. Though most say the map exceeds their expectations from a process controlled by the Democrats, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), a chief GOP redistricting strategist, maintained that the "incumbent protection" plan is "not in the public's interest."
"I have always said it is wrong for incumbents to draw districts to protect incumbents of either party," Thomas said. "There will be no opportunity for the voters in California to defeat or elect a candidate of the party opposite to the one for which the seat was drawn. That is wrong."
The Democratic-controlled legislature is expected to approve the map this week, though some groups have threatened to file suit to block it.
For coastal protection activists, the business of realigning political districts for legislative and congressional seats was supposed to arrive with as much controversy as the changing of the tides.
But the plan to reconfigure the state Senate has crashed against Central Coast conservationists like a tsunami.
From Santa Cruz south to Oxnard, environmentalists have launched a last-minute lobbying campaign to rewrite the Senate map. They are fighting time, because the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year on Friday. Oddly, environmentalists find themselves battling some of their closest friends in the Legislature, including Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco).
The activists argue that in drawing new lines for Senate seats, Democratic leaders weakened the Central Coast districts by flooding them with inland residents less sensitive to coastal protection.
"I cannot find enough fingerprints at the crime scene to see who is involved," said Democrat Dave Potter, a Monterey County supervisor and vice chairman of the California Coastal Commission. "But it certainly acts and looks and smells like politics, and it certainly is going to be of great benefit to the development community."
Although they have generally endorsed the proposed Assembly and congressional lines, Central Coast activists say their complaint about the Senate plan hinges on the fact that "communities of interest" legally required to be protected during redistricting have been subdivided and could be taken over by inland candidates whose first allegiance would be to interests such as agriculture or development.
The Santa Barbara section of the district of state Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo), for example, would collapse, merging with the Ventura County district of conservative GOP Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks.
Likewise, San Luis Obispo County, which has been joined politically with Santa Barbara County for the last three decades, would be split off and merged with a new district that runs up the coast through Monterey County, bypasses neighboring coastal Santa Cruz County and finally ends up inland near the Silicon Valley.
"King City and Paso Robles and Atascadero really have little in common with Monterey," complained Das Williams of the Central Coast United for a Sustainable Economy, a research and advocacy group.
The redrawing of lines on the northern and southern coasts drew general praise from environmentalists because the districts there would remain mostly unchanged. Conservationists also praised the redrawn 23rd District of their ally, state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). It would stretch along the coast from Malibu to Oxnard.
Currently, the Central Coast is represented by Democrat O'Connell and Republican Sen. Bruce McPherson of Santa Cruz, both hearty environmentalists. Each will be forced out next year by term limits.
Because the two districts will have no incumbents, they became prime targets for realignment under a redistricting deal between Democrats and Republicans to maintain the current Democratic-dominated partisan lineup in the Legislature and Congress.
Such coastal issues as land use, planning and development are primarily handled by local government and the Coastal Commission.
But the coastal protection advocates say their interests must also be represented in the Legislature, since it can enact laws that affect air and water, ocean fisheries and sources of coastal pollution.
"Without doubt, the coast of California is the environmental conscience of the state," Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) testified at a redistricting hearing last week.
Her own political fate is also tied up in redistricting: The increased GOP voter registration in the new district all but destroys her chances of succeeding O'Connell in the state Senate.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature were taking notice of the intensified lobbying of environmentalists last week. Uncertain, however, was whether it would be effective.
"It's my top priority--one of my top priorities," Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) told the media.
When a reporter noted that coastal activists were upset at the Senate plan, Democratic leader Burton snapped, "Good for them!"
He said he did not anticipate any changes in the Senate's plan for the area. But, he insisted, for "people to believe that we don't care about protecting the coast is wrong."
Some Democrats, who asked not to be identified, complained that the coastal dispute would never have surfaced had Hertzberg not insisted that the Senate create a seat in the San Joaquin Valley for his good friend, Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced). They said the seat was a condition of Hertzberg's support for the Senate plan.
The speaker denied any such deal.
Jackson said it was a "grave mistake" to put a chunk of the California shoreline into the "hands of a guy like McClintock, who wants to drill offshore and wants to put nuclear power plants anywhere and everywhere."
McClintock is running for state controller next year, but if he loses that race he will continue to represent the newly conformed district for two more years. He brushed aside Jackson's attack, saying the realigned district is a carbon copy of a Senate district that existed 30 years ago.
"I think it would be hard to find two counties more similar than Ventura and Santa Barbara," he said. He defended his support of nuclear power plants, saying they produce "clean, cheap and abundant electricity."
The criticism of the Senate coastal plan is one of many disputes roiling the effort to realign the state's political districts. Both the Senate and House plans are under fire from the Asian American and Latino communities, which contend that their bases of support have been weakened.
At week's end, state Sen. Richard Polanco of Los Angeles, the Democratic floor leader, said he believed that a compromise would be reached to ensure approval of the redistricting plans.
In a rare fight between two Democratic members of Congress from Los Angeles, Rep. Brad Sherman on Friday accused Rep. Howard Berman of "stealing" the core of his district to shore up his political base at Sherman's expense.
But Sherman's aggressive lobbying against a proposed congressional map that would shift more than 170,000 Latinos from Berman's San Fernando Valley district into Sherman's appears to have backfired.
Instead of persuading state lawmakers to change the map, Sherman drew a stinging rebuke in Sacramento Friday night from a fellow Democrat who is a crucial player in deciding the final boundaries. "He has made himself irrelevant," said state Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda), the chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee. "He would like to have sort of a white-bread district and is having a real hard time understanding that the population of California is changing, particularly in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley."
He called Sherman "as self-serving as anybody I've met."
Berman, who has welcomed the new map of his own district, said he understood why Sherman might feel "a little nervous" about representing a new constituency, but believed his colleague could still be reelected.
"He should relax and enjoy it," Berman said.
The intraparty feud is part of the combat that erupts as politicians maneuver for advantage when lawmakers redraw congressional and state legislative maps. Redistricting takes place every 10 years to reflect population shifts in the U.S. census.
State lawmakers hope to reach agreement with Gov. Gray Davis this month on final maps that would take effect in the 2002 elections.
In Sherman's case, it's a struggle for political survival.
Under the plan proposed last week by leaders of the Legislature, he would lose a broad swath of largely white, non-Latino communities ranging from Sherman Oaks, where he lives, through Woodland Hills to Thousand Oaks and Malibu.
In their place, he would pick up from Berman the mainly Latino communities of Pacoima, Sylmar, San Fernando and other parts of the northeast Valley.
Berman, who lives in Mission Hills and is popular among Latinos, has long feared that the rapid growth of his district's Latino population would enable a Latino challenger to oust him in a Democratic primary--a problem that Sherman could face under the new map.
The Latino population in Sherman's new district would surge from 20% to 52%. But in Berman's new district, which would curve into largely non-Latino areas of Studio City and the Hollywood Hills, the Latino population would plunge from 65% to 41%. Latino civil rights groups have threatened a court challenge to block the change, saying Latinos should keep their dominant voice in electing the member of Congress in Berman's district, the 26th.
On the new map, Sherman's home near the Ventura Freeway would be at the end of a thin finger jutting into Berman's district. In an interview, Sherman called it a "stupid little stick" linking "my home in Sherman Oaks to Reseda."
"If I stand on my roof and throw a rock in any direction, it will land" in Berman's district, he said. "My hometown, Howard steals it. He doesn't give me my hometown; he only gives me my home."
Sherman spent most of the last week in Sacramento urging lawmakers to change the new boundaries. "Howard Berman stabbed me in the back," he was overheard saying Friday night on a flight home.
In the interview, he described the two interlocking, U-shaped districts as "bad for the San Fernando Valley." With constituents spread out among far-flung communities, the representatives will have less incentive to secure funds for community centers that would serve smaller portions of each district, he said.
"One of the reasons a congressman fights for a project in Van Nuys is because everyone who lives in the district will hopefully be grateful at election time."
And with immigrants counting on their congressman to deal with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, "to tell people that they have to go much further, just because of politics, on a bus . . . that's just imposing additional burdens on people," Sherman said.
Sherman added: "If you owned a couple pizza parlors in the Valley, and you wanted to serve the Valley with two pizza parlors, you couldn't possibly divide their territory that badly."
The congressional map was drafted by Michael Berman, the congressman's brother, a redistricting consultant to both the state Senate and to California's 32 Democrats in the House of Representatives.
"I do not feel that Michael Berman did as well for all his clients as he did for his brother," Sherman said. He described the consultant as "joined at the hip" with his brother and said he "tried to convince me that I should only care about my own political situation," which would be fine.
"He hasn't even addressed my concern that this is just bad public policy," Sherman said. "I don't think he believes that public policy should play any role in this."
Michael Berman could not be reached for comment. But Rep. Berman scoffed at Sherman's remarks. "Oh, Brad's not interested in his narrow political interests?" he said.
Berman also voiced little enthusiasm for Sherman's proposal to carve the Valley into either north and south or east and west districts; scenarios that would both leave the bulk of the Latino constituents in Berman's district.
"If Brad has a suggestion, he can give me a phone call," Berman said. "I'd be happy to talk to him."
But in Sacramento, Democratic leaders are discussing whether to ward off the threatened lawsuits by shifting even more Latinos from Berman's district into Sherman's, 24th District. And Perata dismissed Sherman's "high-minded protestations about bad public policy" as a cover for his "self-interest."
"There's a lot of considerations, and a variety of recommendations and suggestions," Perata said. "But not one of them that comes from Brad Sherman am I considering."
Rep. Steve Horn (R) this week became the first casualty of the California redistricting process, announcing he would retire in 2002 rather than run in a new, Democratic stronghold. Horn, 70, had been mulling retirement for several months before state Democrats unveiled their redistricting plan last week. The moderate Republican, who won a fifth term last year by less than 1,800 votes, raised just $4,000 for his re-election during the first six months of 2001.
But the Golden State's decennial remap cemented Horn's decision.
The plan, drawn by Michael Berman, a consultant to state Democrats and brother of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), eliminated Horn's base. It would move Horn's home and the bulk of his Long Beach base into the state's new 37th district, now represented by Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D).
The Orange County-based 45th district of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) would stretch up the coast to take in the rest of Long Beach and Los Angeles and parts of the Palos Verdes peninsula, home of ex-Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R).
Other areas now served by Rohrabacher would be split between the 33rd district of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) and the new Latino-majority 53rd, a Los Angeles based district with a 2-to-1 Democratic edge. Horn could have decided to move into the 53rd and run there, but he declined to do so.
"The redistricting process has created major changes in the areas constituting the 38th district," Horn said Tuesday in a statement, referring to his current district. "In order to remove any doubt about my plans, I want to formally announce that I will be retiring from Congress at the end of this term."
Horn was a top target for Democrats in Sacramento, who could approve the new House map before they adjourn, probably next week. Gov. Gray Davis (D) has signaled he would sign the bill.
Otherwise, state Democrats have sought to secure the bases of most sitting House Members - except, arguably, Rep. Gary Condit (D). Condit's new Central Valley district is 6 percent more Democratic and 6 percent more Hispanic than the district where he has won re-election handily since a 1989 special, but the embattled Democrat could face a strong primary challenge if he runs for re-election. Elsewhere, major beneficiaries include Reps. Doug Ose (R), whose Sacramento-based district is 6 percent more Republican than in 1991; Brad Sherman (D), whose district's voters are 29 percent more Hispanic and 9 percent more Democratic than 10 years ago; and Mike Honda (D), a Japanese-American, whose district's electorate is 12 percent more Asian than in 1991.
Other incumbents who would run next year in safer districts are Reps. Cal Dooley (D), Lois Capps (D), Elton Gallegly (R), Adam Schiff (D), David Dreier (R), Gary Miller (R), Jane Harman (D) and Susan Davis (D).
Democratic registration in Rep. Ellen Tauscher's (D) district would climb by more than 4 percent to 46 percent. But the additional Democrats may bring a more liberal bent to the 10th district, which could hurt the more moderate House Member. Forty-four percent of her constituents would be new to her.
Tauscher has claimed she was targeted as retribution by state Senate President Pro-Tem John Burton (D) because she has refused to back Burton's close ally, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D), for House Minority Whip.
Some House Democrats in currently safe seats were drawn into slightly more competitive districts, however, including Reps. Millender-McDonald and Roybal-Allard. While his district is 4 percent more Republican and has 13 percent more white voters, Rep. Richard Pombo (R), a conservative, could face opposition from moderate, suburban Republicans he previously did not represent in the Contra Costa area.
Notably, Rep. Berman, whose brother drew the lines, would run in a Los Angeles-area district that, while still reliably Democratic, is 6 percent more Republican and 24 percent less Hispanic.
House Democrats cheered Horn's retirement, saying it marked the beginning of a series of GOP departures stemming from Democratic-led redistricting.
"This is a bad day for the Republicans," said Mark Nevins, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press secretary. "Steve Horn was an incumbent they needed to protect in order to retain their narrow majority in the House. Without him, California becomes another in a growing number of states that are going the Democrats' way in redistricting."
However, Republicans, who had been bracing for much heavier fallout in the California remap, said the new map still would create a new GOP stronghold, far stronger among Republicans than Horn's current district, in the Central Valley. But the district is geographically and ideologically far away from Horn, thus making it an unattractive place for Horn to seek re-election.
The new 38th district, essentially an open seat, would be 47 percent Republican and 38 percent Democratic, a 16 percent increase in GOP registration from Horn's current district, and a 13 percent drop in the share of Democratic voters.
While Al Gore won the current 38th district with 58 percent, President George W. Bush would have carried the new Central Valley district with 61 percent, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
California gained a House seat in reapportionment.
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) "has to be extremely disappointed by this California map," said Jim Ellis, director of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's (R-Texas) leadership PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority or ARMPAC. "For 20 Republican seats to be protected is a very good place for us to start."
But, Democrats countered, their redistricting gains were limited by successes they enjoyed last November, when their nominees ousted then Reps. Kuykendall, Brian Bilbray and Jim Rogan and succeeded ex-Rep. Tom Campbell (R).
Democrats were also likely hampered by Condit's political woes following the disappearance of former federal intern Chandra Levy, causing state lawmakers to focus on protecting the Democratic edge in the Central Valley seat.
But some Democrats - especially those who had already announced plans to challenge Horn in the Long Beach-based 38th district - were forced this week to regroup. Gerrie Schipske, an attorney who narrowly lost a 2000 challenge to Horn, and state Assemblywoman Sally Havice were running.
"It's going to be a completely different set of candidates. They're obviously very disappointed. There's no place for them to go," said Roy Behr, a Democratic consultant based in Los Angeles. "They can't challenge Jane Harman. They can't compete in the east - those are ethnic districts - or in the south or west, where there are other [Democratic] incumbents."
Schipske said she now plans to challenge Rohrabacher. For her part, Havice said Tuesday that she still plans to run in the new, Latino-majority district, currently known as the 53rd.
"I'm doing the same thing I was doing before these boundaries were published. I'm preparing for the race," Havice said Tuesday. The new district "strengthens my possibilities of winning."
Leaders of Latino political and civil rights groups on Thursday hammered a longtime ally, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Mission Hills), over a proposed congressional map that would carve more than 170,000 Latinos out of his district.
A dozen leaders of Latino groups gathered in the lobby of Berman's district office on Sepulveda Boulevard to denounce him for supporting the proposed boundaries of his northeast San Fernando Valley district.
The map proposed by leaders of the state Legislature would replace the district's largely Latino neighborhoods in Pacoima, San Fernando and Arleta with mainly non-Latino communities in Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake and Burbank. "The Latino community is hurt and angry that Howard Berman would disassociate himself from a large segment of his constituency," said Armando Duron, counsel to the California Latino Redistricting Coalition. "We are disheartened."
The advocates praised Berman for fighting in Washington for the rights of immigrants and farm workers but called his support of the new congressional map a betrayal of his 432,000 Latino constituents.
Xavier Flores, a leader of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Mexican American Political Assn., said Berman's record "will not blind us to the fact that he is giving to our community with one hand while clobbering us with the other."
Also at the protest were representatives of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a Latino think tank, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino voting rights group.
Berman said he supported the boundary change and disagreed with Latino groups' argument that it would turn his Latino constituency into an "ineffective" force in two districts rather than a powerful voice in one. &Berman also said some of the protesters at his Mission Hills office had been political foes.
"I just don't think they represent the large, mainstream population of voters in the district or in the Latino community," he said.
It was the congressman's brother, Michael Berman, a redistricting expert, who drafted the new map. Michael Berman's firm, Berman and D'Agostino Campaigns Inc., is the redistricting consultant to both the state Senate and to the 32 California Democrats in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Berman said he and each of California's 31 other House Democrats paid his brother's firm $20,000 to draft the congressional map that state legislative leaders proposed last week. If approved by the Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis, the map would stand for 10 years.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other Latino advocacy groups have threatened to sue if the congressional map is adopted. They allege it would violate the Voting Rights Act by, among other things, lowering the Latino population in Berman's district from 65% to 41%.
For Berman, the new district boundaries offer a distinct political advantage. As the district's Latino population has surged in his nearly 19 years in Congress, he faces the growing threat of a Latino challenger in a Democratic primary. But under the proposed map, the threat of a primary challenge would shift to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), a non-Latino whose district would pick up the Latino communities dropped by Berman's.
Sherman has balked at the plan, which stings all the more because he is one of the Democrats who paid Berman's brother to draft it. Sherman traveled to Sacramento this week to urge lawmakers to shift some of the Latino constituents back into Berman's district, said state Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda), who heads the Senate redistricting committee. But Sherman's influence appears in doubt.
"He's got an interest, he's got a point of view," Perata said. "What he doesn't have is a vote."
Lawmakers are weighing whether to address the concerns of civil rights groups by shifting even more Latinos into Sherman's district, Perata said. That would give Valley Latinos a stronger voice in electing a member of Congress.
Minority community leaders demanded Wednesday that the Legislature abandon redistricting plans that would "slice and dice" the emerging political power of the expanding Asian American community in the west San Gabriel Valley.
Representatives of Asian American, Pacific Islander and Latino organizations zeroed in on the proposed "carving up" of Monterey Park, Rosemead, Alhambra and San Gabriel.
The comments came during the final day of public hearings on redistricting plans for the Assembly, Senate and Congress. The bipartisan plans, which would protect incumbents and preserve the Democratic-dominated status quo in the Legislature and House, must be passed by Sept. 14 to take effect for the primary election March 7.
Asian American and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing minority in California and constitute 13% of the state's population. There are now four Asian Americans in the Assembly--a record--but none in the Senate.
Since the early 1990s, the four valley cities have been united in a "community of interest" fashioned by the state Supreme Court for Assembly, Senate and House districts.
Kathay Feng, a Los Angeles attorney representing the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting, characterized the west valley region as the cultural and political heart of the Asian American community in Southern California. Only this year did the area manage to send an Asian American to the Legislature--Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park).
The area, Feng testified, constituted the "gateway for a new generation of Asian American communities outside the enclaves of Chinatowns, Koreatowns and Little Tokyos."
She endorsed the mostly unchanged Assembly boundaries for Chu's 49th Assembly District, but attacked lines proposed for the area by Senate and House map makers.
The Senate plan, Feng charged, would carve up the area's population and spin it off into four other Senate districts while the House map would divide it into three congressional territories.
She said the Assembly plan, which she called "a true balance of interests," would maintain Latinos at 42% of the Assembly district's population, while Asian American and Pacific Islanders would remain about steady at 41%. Latinos would represent 32% of registered voters and Asian Americans would constitute 28%.
Other Groups Join in Criticism &Representatives of other community groups agreed with Feng.
"You have basically sliced and diced the Asian community," said Alan Clayton, a demographer for the California Latino Redistricting Coalition, and a resident of Chu's district. He warned that the Senate and House plans may violate the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of the region's citizens.
"If I was a racist and wanted a map that would deliberately dilute the voting impact of the Asian Pacific Islander community, this is the map I would propose," said another critic, Joel Szabat of the Chinese American CEOs of the Silicon Valley.
John Longville (D-Rialto), chairman of the Assembly redistricting committee, said the complaints would be considered before a final vote on the plan. But he warned against the prospect of a wholesale overhaul.
"You definitely are being listened to. I cannot guarantee the results," Longville told witnesses at one point.
Senate and House boundaries also came under fire from Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, who complained that the city's port would be shifted to the proposed 25th Senate District. She said it should be returned to the proposed 27th Senate District, which includes more than two-thirds of the city.
Likewise, she said, realignment of House districts would put the port into the 45th Congressional District, which represents only 18% of the city. O'Neill said it should be moved to the 37th district, which encompasses 80% of Long Beach.
The proposed redrawing of congressional lines in Long Beach has already forced incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Horn into announcing his retirement. Horn's home--and the bulk of his district--was collapsed into the 37th district, now represented by Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald of Carson.
Helen Grieco, executive director of the California branch of NOW, charged in the hearing that all the maps were drafted by men and damaged opportunities for women candidates for the Legislature, especially the Senate.
"This takes us backward, not forward," Grieco told the all-male Assembly and Senate redistricting committees, noting that incumbents seeking reelection need women's votes to win.
Rep. Stephen Horn, a moderate Republican whose southern Los Angeles County district would be essentially eliminated in the new congressional map proposed by Democrats, said Tuesday he will not run for a sixth term next year.
Horn, 70, was first elected in 1992 to represent the district that includes Downey, Lakewood, Long Beach, San Pedro and Signal Hill.
Horn said redistricting had created major changes in the 38th District and that he wanted to remove any doubt about his plans for next year.
The proposed map, drawn by the majority Democrats in the California Legislature, essentially eradicates Horn's district, spreading his constituents among other Los Angeles-area districts represented by Democrats. Republicans have not protested the plan because it would create a solidly Republican district in the Central Valley, most likely preserving the GOP's 20 congressional seats in California.
"He's known for some time that the way the map would end up being drawn wasn't going to be favorable," said Stephen Horn Jr., the congressman's son and campaign manager. "It's simply a question of once the map actually had been drawn, he wanted to end the speculation."
Horn survived in his district by backing campaign finance reform, abortion rights, gun control, gays in the military and the Air Force's Long Beach-built Boeing C-17 transport. He came under fire from Democrats earlier this year for opposing price caps on wholesale electricity purchases during California's power crisis.
The congressman was previously president of California State University, Long Beach, for 18 years.