The citizens commission that’s been revising California’s political districts voted Friday to adopt its first set of maps, setting in motion the strong possibility that some established Democrats will have to run against each other to retain a seat.
While only elections will tell for sure, the final draft maps adopted by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission appear to create more districts dominated by Democrats while making those districts more competitive.
The maps put a number of incumbents into the same districts. In some cases, the incumbents are from the same party. They’ll have to decide whether to fight it out in a primary election, move to another district – or retire.
One of the mashed up districts is the 36th — the one Janice Hahn just won in a special election. Laura Richardson has represented the 37th Congressional district for the past four years. But redistricting puts part of her district in Republican territory, behind the Orange curtain.
"I’ve never lived in Orange County, I’ve never worked in Orange County, I’ve never run in Orange County. So no, I’m not going to run in that district," she said.
Instead, she says she’ll run in the newly configured district next door, which includes Hahn’s hometown of San Pedro plus Compton, Watts and Carson. Richardson, who’s black, says the commission defined that area as a “minority voting rights district.” These days, there are more Latinos than blacks. Hahn declined to say whether she’ll fight for a district where the Hahn name still holds weight: Hahn’s father Kenny was the area’s county supervisor for more than 40 years.
The 14-member commission of Democrats, Republicans and independents worked on the new political maps for months. They listened to testimony from 2,000 Californians and considered 20,000 written comments. Voters created the independent commission to draft more competitive and compact congressional and state legislative districts.
The California Republican Party has said the commission’s decisions were not transparent enough. The state GOP is talking about a lawsuit or ballot referendum to overturn the new maps.
Commissioner Connie Galambos Malloy of Oakland says the new maps create competitive, compact districts without regard to incumbents.
"We have created a new landscape with opportunities for new leadership from across California to emerge and I think it will really be over the long-term that we as commissioners are able to look back and identify the impact that these maps have made on the state of California," she said.
The commission takes a final vote to ratify those maps on Aug. 15.