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California Members will get the first glimpse into their political futures later this week, when the state’s independent redistricting commission releases its first draft of the new Congressional district maps.
After the maps are released Friday, a second round of regional public hearings and additional releases of updated maps will follow, before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission announces the final maps on Aug. 15.
That will complete what is likely the most open redistricting process in the state’s history — one that incumbents at the state and federal levels have been cut out of.
Gone are the days when Democrats could count on Michael Berman, brother of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), to solidify their political safety. And there are no more meetings between advisers for the Congressional delegation and state legislative caucuses to draw maps that make everyone happy.
Doug Johnson, a redistricting expert and fellow at the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, said the new maps could result in a “continuing trend of retirements.”
“We’re also likely to see a number of state legislators challenging incumbents,” Johnson added.
Not unexpectedly, the process was met with anxiety by the state’s Congressional and state-level incumbents. California Speaker John Perez (D) and many other legislators opposed the ballot measures that handed control of the process to 14 citizen commission members selected from across the expansive state.
“There is obviously some apprehension because it is such an unknown quantity,” Perez spokesman John Vigna said. “We’re hopeful and pretty confident that [the commissioners] want to put out a good product.”
Like hundreds of other Californians, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) sent the commission a letter asking that it consider keeping Marin and Sonoma counties within the 6th district. The Northern California district, which begins at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge and jets north into wine country, could look drastically different.
“I urge the Commission to keep it intact, to maintain the Marin-Sonoma pairing that has served residents of both counties so well,” Woolsey wrote.
Woolsey, who is likely to retire and is expected to announce her plans this month, was the only Member to send a letter, but insiders said incumbents have attempted to influence the process in other ways.
Two insiders told Roll Call about a commission hearing in LA where some 50 supporters of Rep. Laura Richardson (D) showed up, asking the commission to keep the 37th district intact. Richardson’s Congressional office declined to comment on the redistricting process, and a message passed on to her campaign was not returned.
But Richardson was not alone, the insiders said, as supporters of other incumbents around the state followed suit.