Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy would no longer represent San Luis Obispo County in Washington, and Democratic Rep. Lois Capps would likely face a tougher fight for re-election if tentative redistricting maps released Friday hold up.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission released its first draft of new congressional, state Senate and Assembly district boundaries. Voters created the 14-member commission and defined its powers in two separate statewide ballot measures.
Voters wanted to remove that power from the Legislature, whose Republican and Democratic leaders conspired to draw political boundaries in a way that protected incumbents of both parties, critics said.
The Constitution requires that the boundaries be redrawn every 10 years, after the U.S. census is conducted.
The commissioners were selected to represent geographic, demographic, ethnic, political and economic balance, among other criteria.
An oft-repeated goal of election reformers was to eliminate districts that are considered “safe” for candidates of one party. The commission appears to have done that with the coastal district represented by Capps, if not for the Bakersfield-centered district McCarthy represents.
The change in the district Capps represents would give her most if not all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and the mountainous, sparsely populated north end of Ventura County. Currently, the 23rd District snakes its way up the coast and goes into three counties.
While the district would continue to have a Democratic voter registration advantage, the Democrats would have a narrower lead.
Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, a Republican who announced earlier this year that he would run for Congress, told The Tribune on Friday that “the odds are a little bit better.”
But he cautioned that the commission recommendations are only “the first snapshot” of how the districts will look.
The commission will take its proposals around the state this summer for citizen input, and political observers have noted that there will be considerable pressure from the major parties to draw the districts in a way that is favorable to them.
Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo is another highly visible Central Coast Republican. When asked by The Tribune if he is interested in running for the congressional job in the reconfigured district, Blakeslee replied that his “sole focus remains on the job at hand: balancing California’s budget in such a way that protects schools and public safety and makes California competitive once more.”
The district now represented by McCarthy is another bizarrely drawn result of gerrymandering. It goes almost to the Pacific Ocean in Arroyo Grande and sprawls to Ridgecrest in the high desert 100 miles east of Bakersfield.
The new maps move the district McCarthy represents out of San Luis Obispo County.
At the state level, the 33rd Assembly District, represented by Katcho Achadjian, would remain mostly intact. It loses a slice of Lompoc but still encompasses all of San Luis Obispo County and much of northern Santa Barbara County.
The state Senate district represented by Blakeslee spreads over five counties from northern Santa Barbara County to a part of Santa Clara County. All of San Luis Obispo County is in the district.
In the new version, Blakeslee would lose Santa Clara County but continue to represent the coastal areas of Monterey County and Santa Cruz.
Blakeslee, Achadjian and Maldonado praised the commission. Maldonado said having the Legislature draw its own boundaries was “the biggest conflict of interest in government.”