Local GOP breaks with governor to oppose redistricting
Lawmakers divided over Proposition 77

By Jason Probst
Published September 25th 2005 in Auburn Journal
While the prospect of a redistricting proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot is seen as a key driver in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's statewide reform effort, local Republican leaders voted against supporting the measure at the Sept. 14 meeting of the Placer County GOP Central Committee.

Off the heels of November's election, where not a single incumbent in the 153 congressional and state legislative races lost, redistricting is seen as a move where the details may be more influential than the concept, in the end.

Despite the support of the California State Republican Assembly, committee members ultimately decided to recommend local Republicans vote against Proposition 77, which would create a three-member panel of retired judges, chosen by the Legislature, to redraw district lines.

After heated debate over the potential payoffs and pitfalls of redistricting, the committee secured a required two-thirds majority of 16-8 to send an official "no" recommendation to party members, a strong statement in opposition to Proposition 77. Congressman John Doolittle, R-Roseville, had asked party members to consider a neutral or no vote on the matter.

 The committee meeting, held at the Zinfandel Grille in Rocklin, considered the merits of redistricting and picking up state and congressional seats, weighed against concerns of bias playing into new districts' boundaries, should Prop. 77 pass. Josh Cook, chief of staff for Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, warned committee members that while Republicans are outnumbered in the state Legislature - the GOP holds 15 seats in the 40-member Senate, and 32 of 80 in the Assembly - they still have enough clout in both to maintain more than a one-third minority to prevent Democratic tax hikes.

 "If we go to redistricting before 2006 (elections) there's a real possibility we fall below one-third," Cook said.

With redistricting in 2000, based on the U.S. Census, the next redrawing would happen in 2010. Committee member Tom Hudson opined that the chance to improve the GOP's holdings may be too good an opportunity to pass up.

 "This is better than what we have now," he said.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle had mixed feelings about redistricting.

 "Taking that job out of the hands of state legislators is clearly a conflict of interest," Aanestad said. "Proposition 77 has got some problems, especially when it comes to the appointment of judges that would be charged with redrawing political lines. How will we be sure that fair and impartial people are named? The (state) senate is also looking into the bigger picture in that something like this could cost Republicans seats in the long run and it could threaten the Republican majority in Congress."

Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, supports it, said spokesperson Craig DeLuz. State Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, whose district includes Auburn, is opposed to redistricting, said Peter Demarco, Cox's communications director.

Like Aanestad, Cox is concerned about a "conflict of interest" among retired judges who will redraw district lines.

"Senator Cox supports using the most accurate census data to draw new legislative boundaries. This will be available following the 2010 census," DeMarco said. "Drawing new districts before this data is available will result in numerous legal challenges, which will only delay the process.

 "The proposal that is currently before the voters has already faced litigation questioning its constitutionality; should it pass it will merely produce more lawsuits. Senator Cox continues to support measures to bring more balance to the Legislature. Because of the many legal challenges it will create, he does not believe that Proposition 77 will achieve that objective."