Tag Archives: California

The California Redistricting Quake is Coming

Assuming they formally adopt the latest version of the congressional redistricting map with few changes on Aug. 15, the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission will wreak havoc upon the Golden State’s congressional delegation. The state’s most senior and powerful members, other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8), didn’t receive particularly favorable treatment from the new map drawers and with such people as House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA-30), and Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA-28) all facing more challenging political situations, substantial change is on the horizon.

Despite the state not receiving at least one new seat in reapportionment (CA didn’t gain a new district for the first time in history; in the 1990 census, for example, seven seats were added), the redistricting commission created five new open seats. Two other incumbent members, Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) and Bob Filner (D-CA-51) are retiring and running for another office, respectively, meaning a minimum of seven California congressional districts will be open in 2012.

Mr. Dreier has few options. His home is placed in new District 32. In this seat, 50 percent of the voting age population is Hispanic; 21 percent non-Hispanic White; 15 percent Asian; 4 percent African-American. Politically, 47.3 percent are registered Democrat versus just 28.3 percent Republican. President Obama scored 61 percent in the new 32nd; Governor Jerry Brown 57 percent. The other seat that contains a large portion of his current 26th district is new District 35. This option is actually even worse for Dreier. More than 65 percent of the resident voting age population is Hispanic; just 19 percent non-Hispanic White; 8 percent African-American, and 7 percent Asian. Here, 48.5 percent are Democrats compared to 28.5 percent who register Republican. Obama carried 62 percent of the new district’s votes; Brown 57 percent. Additionally, state Sen. Gloria McLeod (D), who already represents a large portion of the new 35th in the legislature, has announced that she will become a congressional candidate.

The only conceivable scenario that places Mr. Dreier in a winnable district is if Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), currently paired with Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) in the new 25th CD, either retires or runs against his GOP colleague, thus leaving the new Ventura County based 26th district open. A large portion of Gallegly’s current constituency is in the new 26th, so spinning into this new district is an option for him. This seat shows a D-R registration breakdown of 41.2-35.4 percent, respectively. Obama posted 57 percent in the new 26th, but the Republican nominees for governor, US senator, and attorney general all carried the district. Without an incumbent running, Rep. Dreier could conceivably move to this seat and become competitive.

Another interesting story is the backdrop surrounding Waxman (D-CA-30) and Berman (D-CA-28). Back in the 70’s, when both men were in the California Assembly, the two joined forces to elect other Los Angeles area Democrats to various offices. Their political partnership was tabbed the “Waxman-Berman Machine” and utilized state-of-the-art fundraising and political communication tactics, as directed by Berman’s brother Michael, to dominate the mega-county’s political landscape.

Now, decades later with both reaching 70 years of age, Waxman and Berman find themselves in challenging re-election situations. The Waxman pairing with newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36) came about as a result of a new LA County Democratic political power base, the rapidly growing Hispanic community, flexing its muscle.

The original commission map paired Hispanic Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) into one district. Waxman had a winnable district to himself and Berman was paired with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA-27) because the huge Hispanic growth in western LA County led to the creation of a new Hispanic seat made mostly from the former’s current 28th CD. The Berman-Sherman match-up is already being termed a “shoot-out” because the intra-party campaign will become a political brawl.

After completing the public comment and lobbying phase of the process, the commission released the latest version of the congressional map. Under its confines, both Becerra and Roybal-Allard now get a safe Democratic seat and Hahn, the daughter of the late Kenneth Hahn who dominated LA County local politics during his tenure as chairman of the County Board of Supervisors and herself a longtime veteran of the LA City Council, is placed in a heavily minority district (new District 44). The bulk of her current district, the seat she just won in a special election last month, which includes the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the beach cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and El Segundo, now goes to Waxman. This will force Hahn to challenge Waxman in the Democratic primary if she wants to continue her new congressional career. It further means that Waxman will have to run a serious campaign for the first time since his original election to the House back in 1974.

But, that is not all. Though heavily Democratic, the new Waxman-Hahn district (#33) can conceivably vote for a Republican. In the very close 2010 attorney general’s race, a campaign decided in the Democratic nominee’s favor by less than one percentage point statewide, the GOP candidate actually carried the new 33rd by two points. Though a Republican victory here is unlikely at the congressional level, it is possible that Waxman, should he fend off Hahn’s challenge, could see general election competition, too.

In a 53-district state that featured only one incumbent defeat during the entire last decade, the new California map will feature serious primary and/or general election competition in at least 20 districts in 2012. Quite a change is coming.
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Weekend House Happenings

Much House political action occurred over the weekend while the debt-limit debate was grabbing so much attention. The release of the amended California redistricting map clarifies several Golden State political situations, assuming these new congressional boundaries are officially adopted Aug. 15 (we will have a full analysis of the substantial changes in the California map as part of tomorrow’s Redistricting Report). We also witnessed developments in Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

Now that the California map is becoming more entrenched, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-11) announced that he will seek re-election in the new 9th district, formerly referred to as the San Joaquin Valley district. While he represents some of this district today, his political base is on the Bay Area side of his current region. This territory now finds itself in Rep. Pete Stark’s (D-CA-13) new 15th district. Thus, McNerney could either primary Stark in a district more familiar to him, or be the sole incumbent in the San Joaquin Valley seat. He chose the latter. President Obama broke 57 percent in this district, so the general election outcome will clearly favor the Democrats. Mr. McNerney is vulnerable in the Democratic primary, thus making his re-nomination less than certain.

In the previous map, Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34) were paired with no adjacent escape district. That has now changed, as the map amendments give both their own districts. Becerra is placed in the new 34th; Roybal-Allard in the new 40th. Newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-36) now finds herself as the odd-member-out. Hahn has only bad choices in that she will almost assuredly find herself pitted against another incumbent. The most logical move for her is to run in new District 44, but that seat is only 10 percent Anglo and she will likely have to face Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) who is moving over from the Long Beach Port district (now the 47th).

Texas, the big winner in reapportionment by gaining four seats, also saw some congressional action over this past weekend. Former railroad commissioner Michael Williams (R), who left his position to run for the Senate, may make yet another course change. Originally abandoning his Senate bid to run for the new Parker/Tarrant Counties 33rd district, he now says he may move a bit to the south and run in new District 25. Former Secretary of State Roger Williams also dropped out of the Senate race and into House District 33 and his campaign war chest is robust. Michael Williams, should he make this second move, would find himself challenging area state legislators for the congressional nomination. It will be a safe Republican seat in the general election.

Turning to the Beaumont area, former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX-9 & 22) originally said he was thinking of launching a comeback in the new District 14, being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul (R), because there is a large amount of overlap between this seat and the one he formerly represented from 1997-2005. He then went on to clarify that he is also thinking about new District 36, which is not a direct overlay, but resembles a horseshoe that travels around his previous district. Republicans have a plurality of support in both seats.

In North Carolina, responding to the new redistricting plan that made Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D-NC-11) seat the most Republican in the state, the congressman made it clear over the weekend that he will run for re-election. Speculation was rampant that Shuler could become the athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, particularly after he received such a politically unfavorable congressional district. Rep. Shuler’s press secretary released a statement saying the congressman never wanted, nor was ever approached about, the AD slot at the University and he is unequivocal in his desire to run for Congress next year. The statement did not say he would run in new District 11, however. There has been further speculation that he could challenge Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) because much of Shuler’s Asheville Democratic base now resides in the 10th district. Ironically, McHenry’s district is slightly more Democratic than Shuler’s. In either place, Mr. Shuler faces a very difficult re-election campaign.

Finally, former Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1) made a statement over the weekend that he will likely run for his old seat in 2012 regardless of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s (D-HI-1) intentions. The freshman congresswoman is still a potential Senate candidate but is more likely to seek re-election. After his defeat in 2010, Djou said he would never run for another political office. He is also mentioned as a potential Senate candidate if former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) does not run.
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The House Open Seats

As we approach the midway point in the national redistricting process, it is a good time to check the status of the House open seats. Because reapportionment creates a dozen new seats, the incumbent-less district count is already 29. An average election cycle features about 35 open seats, although the last two elections have broken the 40 mark. Should the proposed maps in California and North Carolina pass, at least three more vacancies will be added to the 2012 total. And if Utah Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) along with Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) run statewide, as they are considering, then three more would be added.

To review, the following are the announced open seats:

AZ-6 Jeff Flake (R) Running for Senate
AZ-9 New Seat
CA-6 Lynn Woolsey (D) Retirement
CA-51 Bob Filner (D) Running for San Diego Mayor
CT-5 Chris Murphy (D) Running for Senate
FL-26 New Seat
FL-27 New Seat
GA-14 New Seat
HI-2 Mazie Hirono (D) Running for Senate
IN-2 Joe Donnelly (D) Running for Senate
IN-6 Mike Pence (R) Running for Governor
MO-2 Todd Akin (R) Running for Senate
MT-AL Denny Rehberg (R) Running for Senate
NV-1 Shelley Berkley (D) Running for Senate
NV-2 Vacant Rep. Dean Heller appointed to Senate
NV-4 New Seat
NM-1 Martin Heinrich (D) Running for Senate
NY-9 Vacant Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned
ND-AL Rick Berg (R) Running for Senate
OK-2 Dan Boren (D) Retirement
SC-7 New Seat
TX-14 Ron Paul (R) Running for President
TX-33 New Seat
TX-34 New Seat
TX-35 New Seat
TX-36 New Seat
UT-4 New Seat
WA-1 Jay Inslee (D) Running for Governor
WA-10 New Seat

Of the 29 open districts, 12 are new seats, nine current incumbents are running for Senate, two are running for governor, another pair are retiring from politics, one is seeking the U.S. Presidency, and one more is running for mayor of San Diego. Two members resigned their seats; one because of being appointed to the Senate; one due to scandal. Nine of the vacating incumbents are Democrats, six are Republicans. The two vacant seats split evenly, one from each party.

Most of the current seats will stay within the designated party control, but at least six (IN-2, Donnelly; MT-AL, Rehberg; NV-2, Vacant – special election Sept. 13; NM-1, Heinrich; OK-2, Boren; and TX-14, Paul) will likely join the competitive ranks.

With already a large number of open seats in the 2012 election cycle, it would not be surprising to see the total number approach 50 before filing closes in each of the states. Should this happen, added to the 97 members currently serving their first term, a full one-third of the House will have two terms of seniority or less in the next Congress.
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Election Tomorrow in California’s 36th CD

California's 36th CD (govtrack.us)

On Feb. 8, Rep. Jane Harman (D) announced that she would resign her seat in the House of Representatives in order to become the president of a foreign affairs think tank. Tomorrow, her congressional replacement will finally be chosen. In what was predicted to be a walk in the park for Democrats because of the district’s historical voting pattern, the race has instead become close. Although Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) should win, Republican businessman Craig Huey appears to be positioned to score an upset victory. Even if he loses, Mr. Huey may still be in play for the November 2012 election, however, as the proposed redistricting changes will make the seat more competitive.

When California changed their primary law to allow the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to qualify for the general election, the 36th district, a seat that gave President Obama 64 percent of its votes in 2008 and saw only one major Republican candidate get even 40 percent (President George W. Bush in 2004), was predicted to send two Democrats into the second election. Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), who represented most of this South Bay coastal region in the state Assembly and Senate before winning statewide, and Councilwoman Hahn were the favorites to advance to the special general election. When the primary votes were counted in late May, however, Craig Huey had slipped past Bowen and found himself winning the right to challenge Hahn.

For her part, Ms. Hahn — whose father, the late Kenneth Hahn, was the long-time Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chairman, and whose brother Jim was a one-term mayor of Los Angeles — is not a particularly strong candidate. She has twice lost bids for higher office, the 36th CD back in 1998 after Ms. Harman had vacated for an unsuccessful run for governor, and a 2010 Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor. Now, embroiled in controversy over her support for a highly suspect program that pays gang members and ex-convicts to act as gang interventionists, Hahn has become locked in a battle with an unknown Republican opponent in a campaign that she should win easily.

The current 36th district is highly Democratic. The new district, should the draft redistricting map be enacted into law, will encompass Palos Verdes Republican voters who previously were melded into another district. The new seat would still lean Democratic but will be much more competitive.

There have been no recently released polls for this campaign. Hahn has been conducting internal surveys but refuses to publicize the results, another indication that the race is trending much closer than one would expect. On the money front, Hahn has raised $1.1 million, while Huey banked $840,000 according to late June public disclosure financial reports. All of Hahn’s funding is from sources other than herself, including almost $300,000 from PACs and party donations, while almost $700,000 of Huey’s grand total is self-contributed.

Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, the real race in this southwestern LA County region will occur next year in the regular election. For the first time in more than two decades, several California congressional seats will enter the competitive ranks, and this particular district is likely to be among them.
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Tuesday’s California Special Election is Just a Beginning

The special election to replace Rep. Jane Harman (D), who resigned her seat earlier this year to accept a position with a foreign affairs think tank, will be held this coming Tuesday. Early voting is currently underway and the preliminary numbers surprisingly show Republican ballots almost equaling Democratic absentees according to the first tabulation. It is, of course, unknown for whom each person actually voted, but does provide an indication about the total turnout trend. With a 45-28 percent advantage in voter registration over Republicans, Democrats should easily win this seat. The candidates are Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Craig Huey (R).

Mr. Huey is even a surprise to have advanced into the run-off. In California’s new top-two primary system, political party is irrelevant in terms of qualifying for the general election. In a district such as this, it was originally believed that two Democrats would be squaring off on Tuesday but Huey pulled the upset.

Hahn’s campaign strategy suggests the race is close. She is running attack ads while emphasizing that she serves on the “non-partisan” LA City Council. This is a surprising approach for a candidate running in a district that so favors her own party.

Even if Huey loses but comes close on Tuesday, this race should be a key target in the regular election, assuming the proposed redistricting map is enacted. Under the re-draw, what will be the new 36th district becomes much more Republican than under the current boundaries, suggesting a high degree of competition for next year. So, as in the upcoming NV-2 special election slated for Sept. 13, whoever wins this CA-36 vote on Tuesday will effectively mark the beginning of their campaign season and not the end. We will have much more on this race in our Monday update.
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Hahn Attacking in California

The next special congressional election is two weeks away in California and Democratic nominee Janice Hahn appears nervous. The general election phase of this contest should be an easy run for any Dem, and was viewed as such ever since Republican Craig Huey slipped through the jungle primary election instead of the favored Debra Bowen (D), California’s Secretary of State. CA-36 is solidly Democratic. The worst number posted by the party’s presidential candidate since 1996 is 57 percent, and the region routinely elects liberals to virtually every political position. But Hahn isn’t acting like a runaway winner. She just aired a new ad attacking Huey as an “extremist politician” followed up with a more positive commercial about her own career. The latter ad surprisingly does not mention she’s a Democrat, instead choosing to emphasize that she has “never held partisan office.”

Several weeks ago Ms. Hahn, a Los Angeles City councilwoman who has previously lost a race for Congress (1998) and another for lieutenant governor (2010), surveyed the district but refuse to publicize the results even while tepidly claiming that she led Huey “beyond the margin of error.” These actions suggest that the CA-36 special election is much closer than anyone would have originally believed. Hahn will still likely win this race, but it’s probable she will under-perform the Democratic average.

Even if the councilwoman does prevail on July 12, the road to re-election may be quite difficult. The new Palos Verdes East seat, as the 36th has been named in the new redistricting plan, covers many of the same communities – Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance – but the new seat possesses a much more Republican complexion. While Barack Obama carried the new Palos Verdes East seat with 53.6 percent of the vote, under the old 36th district boundaries, the president’s number topped 64 percent. In the very close race for attorney general in 2010, an election the Democratic nominee carried by less than one percentage point statewide, the Republican nominee actually scored a 45-41 percent plurality within the Palos Verdes East boundaries.

While Ms. Hahn now surprisingly finds herself in a competitive race, it is likely she will face a difficult re-election challenge even if July 12 brings her success. The Palos Verdes East seat looks like another of the more competitive districts that the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission constructed.
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California Congresswoman Woolsey Retires

Today, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) formally announced that she will not seek an 11th term in Congress next year. Woolsey, a former Petaluma, Calif. city councilwoman before coming to Washington, first entered the House in 1992 replacing then-Rep. Barbara Boxer (D) who won election to the Senate that same year.

Ms. Woolsey becomes the 14th House member who is choosing to step aside in 2012, but only the second to retire. The other dozen are running for higher office. Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2) is the only other member who, so far, is voluntarily opting to leave politics.

Congresswoman Woolsey is one of the most liberal members of the House. She is the chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House and has consistently aligned herself on the far left spectrum of the Democratic Party. She came to fame for being the first former welfare recipient to win election to Congress. Since then, another member, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), also claims the same distinction.

The new California redistricting map radically alters Woolsey’s 6th district. Previously anchored in the Bay Area’s Marin County, CA-6 covered only the aforementioned locality and part of Sonoma. Under the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s 2011 congressional redistricting plan, the Woolsey district will now stretch all the way from Marin to the Oregon border, taking in a large portion of Rep. Mike Thompson’s (D-CA-1) current territory. The new North Coast district is heavily Democratic but has a considerably different constituency for Woolsey. The congresswoman would likely have held the seat, but she could have been vulnerable in a Democratic primary to a state or local official more familiar with the new district. It does not appear, however, that the re-map is the driving reason why the 73-year-old veteran representative will be walking away from her position.

Considering the major redistricting shake-up that is proving challenging for more than a third of California incumbents from both parties, Woolsey’s retirement is likely the first of several more. Seeing his district split six different ways, House Rules Committee chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26) is a retirement possibility. So are Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA-13), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34). While none of the aforementioned has specifically said they will leave Congress, their new districts will either be substantially different from their current seats, or politically unfavorable to them in a primary or general election. After years of representing safe districts, being thrown into a seriously competitive situation late in their careers may send some or all of these members packing.

Since the Woolsey retirement had been rumored for some time, two Democrats had already begun assembling a congressional campaign, and others will likely follow. State Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) said he would not run against the congresswoman, but was beginning to raise money for a federal race in case she decided not to seek re-election. Through March 31, Huffman had raised $123,000 for his potential federal campaign.

In addition to Assemblyman Huffman, author and leftwing activist Norman Solomon had also announced his candidacy, once again presuming the Woolsey retirement. He did not file a financial disclosure report in the first quarter.

Now that Ms. Woolsey has made her plans official, expect other state legislators, Marin and Sonoma County local officials, and individuals from the newly added smaller north coastal counties, to seriously consider making congressional bids. Regardless of who eventually wins the Democratic primary in the newly configured district, that person will succeed Ms. Woolsey as the region’s Representative. Should the proposed lines actually become the final district boundaries, rate the North Coast seat as “Safe Democratic.”
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