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California Members ‘at War’ Over Redistricting

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican Rep. David Dreier's California district was essentially obliterated under the new lines drawn by a bipartisan commission, leaving him with few options if he wants to seek re-election.

A debate over how to respond to California’s new Congressional map has deeply split the state’s GOP delegation and is pitting two top-ranking Members — Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Rules Chairman David Dreier — against each other in the fight.

At issue is whether Republicans should pursue a referendum to put the new district lines, which could jeopardize as many as a half-dozen of the 19 GOP-held seats, before voters.

Adding to the drama is a mystery: a lawyer filed paperwork on Aug. 30 in California to pursue the referendum, but at a lunch meeting Thursday to discuss the issue, none of the Republican Members said they were behind the effort.

“Nobody’s really raising their hand, so if you can find that out, let me know,” one lawmaker said. “Everybody’s denying that they’re the one doing it.”

The question boiled over in August during a delegation conference call that devolved into finger-pointing and ended without resolution, according to three California sources with firsthand knowledge of the call.

The delegation “is at war,” one of the sources said.

Dreier and Reps. Elton Gallegly, Ed Royce and Gary Miller want to pursue the referendum and oppose the new district lines, these sources said. McCarthy and Reps. John Campbell, Dana Rohrabacher and Buck McKeon are against it.

Of course, the new district lines affect each of the California Republicans differently.

According to charts put together by Ron Nehring, a former chairman of the California Republican Party who is backing the referendum push, McCarthy’s redrawn district would become slightly more Republican — giving him a safe seat with a nearly 20-point registration advantage.

Dreier’s district was essentially obliterated under the new lines drawn by a bipartisan commission, leaving him with few options if he wants to seek re-election. The voter registration of his new district is nearly 24 points more Democratic than his current swing district, giving Democrats a 19-point advantage.

McCarthy was particularly exercised in his opposition to the referendum on the August conference call, sources said.

“I didn’t come down hard on anybody,” McCarthy said in a brief interview. When told about others’ description of him being angry, McCarthy said, “Hmm. That’s odd,” before departing into a closed-off corridor.

Dreier, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Gallegly and Reps. Jeff Denham and Dan Lungren also took significant hits in their district’s GOP registration numbers under the new lines.

Royce and Miller now share a district, forcing them to compete against each other.

The GOP registration increased by relatively small margins in the districts held by Rohrabacher, McKeon and Campbell.

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