June 11, 2011 | San Francisco Chronicle | Original Article

Bay Area stable in draft of state political map

The first draft of California's once-a-decade redrawing of its political map ignited a chaotic game of musical chairs Friday, with analysts saying the shifting boundary lines could give Democrats at least three more members of Congress and two more state legislators.

With the release of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission's proposed maps for the state Assembly, Senate and congressional districts, several California politicians woke up Friday to find themselves living outside the district they would represent - or in one with vastly different demographics.

Some of them wasted little time in taking action: Within hours of the map's release, Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas announced he would run for a new congressional seat in the San Fernando Valley.

Most of Northern California's political landscape would remain comparatively stable, analysts said.

San Francisco, however, would become one state Senate district instead of being split between two districts.

Safer seat for McNerney

The East Bay congressional district that Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, lives in would shift east toward the San Joaquin Valley - a safer, more Democratic seat for him than his current district, analysts said.

"Every (incumbent) in the Bay Area has a seat if they want it," said Dave Wasserman, who analyzes the U.S. House for the Cook Political Report.

But proposals for Southern California, which had greater population growth in the past decade, were controversial.

"This is very close to a worst-case scenario for Latinos in California," said Arturo Vargas, executive director for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Although 3 million more Latinos live in California since political boundaries were last drawn, the proposed maps have fewer congressional districts with a majority of Latinos, Vargas said, citing an analysis done by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Vargas fumed at the commission for lumping some of Los Angeles' poorest Latino neighborhoods with "the billionaires" in Beverly Hills. "If you're a member of Congress, whose call are you going to take - the poor person's or the billionaire's?" Vargas said. "This is socio-economic gerrymandering."

In the Legislature, Democrats could gain one Assembly member and another in the state Senate, said Eric McGhee, who analyzes redistricting for the Public Policy Institute of California.

Other politicians will be looking for a home. Statewide, 11 of the proposed congressional districts would have at least two incumbent members of Congress living in them, and one Central Valley district could have three incumbents as residents, Cook Report's Wasserman estimated. Thirteen of the proposed congressional districts have no incumbents living in them, he added. California has 53 congressional districts.

Effort gets a B- and a C+

Republican strategist Tony Quinn, publisher of the California Target Book, said analysts who suggest Democrats could win at least three and as many as five more congressional seats "are smoking something." Quinn gave the commission "a B- for the political balance" and "no better than a C-plus" for shaping.

This is the first time that a citizens' commission, rather than lawmakers or the courts, have drawn the maps. The commission will prepare a second draft by July 7, with a final redraw Aug. 15. Until then, Commissioner Angelo Ancheta, a Santa Clara University law professor, invited Californians to tell them "where we went wrong." Changes are coming, even after the commission held 23 hearings across the state and received testimony from 1,533 people.

"I guarantee you that the lines will change" by August, Commissioner Cynthia Dai said. "We've flagged several districts with problem areas, and we've told our consultants we'd like them to work on things."

For California's incumbent politicians, "a good investment right now would be in moving vans," said San Francisco political consultant Jim Ross.

Drawing the lines

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will seek feedback from the public at these meetings this month:

June 25: San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., 2-5 p.m.

June 27: San Francisco's Fort Mason Center, Cowell Theater, 6-9 p.m.