Blakeslee stays away from redistricting lawsuits

Central Coast state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, whose political future may hang on the redrawing of Senate boundaries, is declining to take a position on Republican activists’ continuing attempts to undo the work of the California Commission on Redistricting.

“Sam is currently spending his time and energy working on reform efforts and representing his constituents, not trying to influence his own lines,” his aide, Erin Shaw, wrote Friday in an email to The Tribune.

A GOP group that calls itself Fairness & Accuracy in Redistricting was set back this week when the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected its efforts to overturn new political boundaries that had been overwhelmingly approved by the redistricting commission.

However, Republicans have vowed to continue the fight through a referendum that would negate the boundaries and a lawsuit asking the federal government to reject the lines as a dilution of Latino voting power.

Republican officials have expressed concern that the new Senate districts favor Democrats and could give that party a two-thirds majority in the upper house, the margin needed to raise taxes or fees, according to the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert.

The state must redraw lines for Congress, state Senate and state Assembly every 10 years after the U.S. census in order to keep the population of districts equal.

Voters approved the citizens commission through a pair of ballot measures in 2008 and 2010. They wanted to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature, which, voters said, drew boundaries in a way that protected incumbents of both major parties, Republicans and Democrats.

The commission went through an arduous, yearlong process to select members, choosing five Republicans, five Democrats and four others. Commissioners held public hearings up and down the state, including one in San Luis Obispo. Then they created draft maps for public review before passing the final maps on a 13-1 vote.

Nonetheless, Republicans argued that the boundaries failed to comply with various state and federal guidelines.

Although Blakeslee is portraying himself as above the fray, he told the commission during hearings that the 15th Senate District should remain roughly as is.

The new lines appear to put him at a serious competitive disadvantage. According to the political website redistrictingpartners.com, his new district will have a 46 to 29 percent advantage for Democrats in voter registration. Its residents went nearly 2 to 1 for President Barack Obama in 2008.

There has been talk of Blakeslee seeking the congressional seat now held by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, but he has not taken formal steps in that direction. Another prominent Central Coast Republican, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, has announced his intention to run against Capps.