Now that the California redistricting map is law, we can examine the various incumbent pairings and potential pairings that could exist. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission clearly did not pay heed to incumbency, since a huge number of sitting incumbents were placed in districts with a colleague.
District 4: Dan Lungren/Tom McClintock – Since the map was finalized Aug. 15, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) indicated that he may hop over into the new District 4 to challenge Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) in the Republican primary rather than stand for re-election in new District 7, where his home was placed. This would be a curious move, since District 7, which contains the majority of Lungren’s current territory, could certainly elect a Republican but likely would be at least moderately competitive throughout the decade.
New District 4, which begins in South Lake Tahoe and travels south down the Nevada border all the way to Yosemite National Park, is comprised of a preponderance of McClintock’s current CD. The fact that Lungren would even suggest such a move indicates he likely feels more comfortable doing battle against a Republican than facing a Democrat in a competitive general election, especially when winning the 2012 battle against McClintock would likely yield a safe seat until 2022. The new CA primary law that qualifies the two top vote-getters into the general election regardless of party means that the pair would likely face each other in both June and November, adding yet another caveat to the northern California political picture.
It is probable that Lungren will stay in District 7, because he would be a decided underdog to McClintock in District 4. The fact that Lungren would suggest taking on his Republican colleague in this configuration is quite surprising, however.
District 16: Dennis Cardoza/Jim Costa – This is another surprising situation. The commission map was not particularly kind to the Central Valley incumbents. Technically, three sitting members, Cardoza (D-CA-18), Costa (D-CA-20), and Republican Jeff Denham (R-CA-19) were all placed in new District 16. Each, however, has an adjacent seat in which to run. Denham will choose the new District 10, which is more competitive than his current district, but still one that he can win.
Since the map was enacted this past Monday, retirement rumors began swirling around Cardoza, suggesting that he would rather leave the House than run against his friend and fellow Democrat, Costa. The new 21st district, however, is a place where Costa could run – in fact, in contains the bulk of his current CD – but apparently the congressman does not want to face another close general election in a seat that is even more Republican. Costa only squeaked through in the last election 51-49%. Should Cardoza retire and thereby leave the new 16th district to Costa, the latter would become the favorite, though competition from a Republican is still a real possibility. This is another curious situation that has yet to be resolved. The GOP has a chance to gain at least one seat, probably the 21st, in this region.
District 25: Buck McKeon/Elton Gallegly – This is yet another situation where it appears a member would rather face a competitive primary than go hard against a candidate from the other party. The homes of Reps. McKeon (R-CA-25) and Gallegly (R-CA-24) were both placed in new District 25, which is comprised largely of McKeon’s current district. Gallegly also could run in the new Ventura County-based 26th district, which is a 50/50 D-R seat that only slightly tilts Republican.
Reports from the Gallegly camp, however, indicate he is looking more favorably at challenging McKeon than running in the marginal district, even though he would be the lone incumbent in the latter and currently represents a large portion of the territory. Based upon the draw in the new 25th, it is hard to classify Gallegly as anything but a decided underdog to McKeon, which makes it surprising to see him suggest he might take that option. Gallegly retiring, as he almost did two terms ago, is also a distinct possibility.
District 30: Brad Sherman/Howard Berman – The San Fernando Valley will see a major pairing as the area’s two veteran Democratic members will square-off. This is another of the California situations that could witness a major battle between the two in the qualifying primary and then in the general election, as the most likely scenario points to both Democrats moving into November under the state’s new election law. Sherman already represents about 50% of the new 30th District, as compared to Berman’s 20%, and he begins with more than $3.6 million in the bank, but that doesn’t guarantee victory. Berman is the more experienced campaigner and should command greater internal party support than Sherman. This race could turn into an epic political battle.
One other possibility, however, is for Sherman to hop over into the marginal 26th district. Particularly if Rep. Gallegly chooses to bypass the district, the 26th might become attractive to Sherman, if he thinks he can’t beat Berman. But, Sherman represents only a sliver of the current 26th, and he would be vulnerable to a Republican challenge. Thus, he has two difficult options.
District 38: Grace Napolitano/Linda Sanchez – The commission map drawers were also not kind to Rep. Linda Sanchez (R-CA-39). Regardless of where she chooses to run, she is likely to face a Democratic incumbent. Her home is placed in new District 38, but this seat is predominantly composed of Rep. Grace Napolitano’s current 38th CD. Napolitano has already announced her intention to seek re-election in the new 38th, thus forcing Sanchez into a difficult decision. She must either challenge Napolitano where she will be a decided underdog, or run in another seat. Her most likely option would be new District 47, the Long Beach seat, but she will face both state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) and probably a significant Republican challenger. It is possible that Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) could move here, too.
District 39: Ed Royce/Gary Miller – Something’s got to give in Orange County. The now-official map places the homes of Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) and Gary Miller (R-CA-42) in new District 39, a seat that largely favors Royce in terms of current territory. Royce could choose to move south and challenge Rep. John Campbell (R-CA-48) in new CD 45, but this would still subject him to a pairing with a Republican incumbent. For his part, Miller says he won’t run against Royce or any other incumbent, meaning he could be headed toward retirement. If Royce does move into CD 45, then Campbell would be forced into a pairing either against the former or moving into new District 48 to take on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-46). In any event, among the quartet of Orange County Republican congressmen – Royce, Miller, Campbell and Rohrabacher – expect one of them not to return.
District 44: Janice Hahn/Laura Richardson – The situation involving the minority-weighted new 44th District is also surprising. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36), who just won her seat in a July special election, has already announced she will seek re-election in the heavily Hispanic 44th District rather than face Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA-30) in the district that contains the bulk of her current seat. In this Compton-Culver City-South Gate CD, Hahn will have a white population that tallies only 9 percent, meaning she is vulnerable to a challenge from a minority office holder such as Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D), who has already announced his intention to run for Congress, and probably Rep. Laura Richardson, since she currently represents a large portion of the territory.
The new primary law cuts poorly for Hahn. She very well may be able to qualify for the general election by at least placing second in June, but in November she will be one-on-one against either a black or Hispanic opponent. In this situation, particularly since she currently represents such a small portion of the 44th, she becomes a decided underdog.
California is likely to dominate the 2012 US House picture because as many as 20 seats could become competitive either in the primary or general election, and in many cases, both. Watch in the coming days for even further developments.
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