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The California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved new district lines Friday, setting off what is expected to be more competitive Congressional races than the state has seen in decades.
The final draft of the new Congressional map shuffles the delegation’s lineup by moving incumbents into new districts and, in at least three cases, forcing Members to run against each other.
Republicans feel the map has improved for them since the first draft was released June 10, but Democrats stand to pick up two to four seats under the new map, with some experienced Democratic analysts predicting that gains of five to six seats are possible.
The 14-member commission approved the final plan Friday but must vote again Aug. 15 after a two-week public review period. Although the plan still awaits final adoption and there are likely legal challenges that could complicate the process, state legislators and other elected officials have already announced Congressional bids and Members are already staking out their turf.
According to a newsletter from Democratic redistricting expert Paul Mitchell, who breaks down the data on his Redistricting Partners website, “A preliminary look at the data ... will show some fun potential pairings and political drama.”
Rep. Janice Hahn (D), who won a special election just this month, was drawn into the new Compton-based 44th district that Rep. Laura Richardson (D) has said she will run in. Richardson lives in the neighboring Long Beach-based new 47th district, but her current district was split between the two, and she’s chosen to run in the one with higher African-American and Democratic voting age populations.
A big chunk of Hahn’s current district was drawn into the district of 19-term Rep. Henry Waxman (D), whose Westside Los Angeles district was stretched to the south along the coast to pick up the Beach Cities and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
To the east in Orange County, Republican Reps. Ed Royce and Gary Miller were drawn into the 39th district, and GOP strategists expect the two to face off next year. Royce has more money — $2.8 million in the bank to Miller’s $1 million — and insiders said he is the early favorite.
In northern LA, Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman were drawn into the same San Fernando Valley district. This was expected, though Democrats had hoped to avoid a Berman-Sherman showdown and neither has indicated he will back down. The other valley district is heavily Latino, and Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cárdenas (D) has already announced he is running there.
Those incumbent battles will highlight the new California Congressional landscape, but there is plenty more movement happening among the state’s 53 districts. Rep. David Dreier (R) has been drawn into a heavily Democratic district, while both parties have their fair share of competitive districts to defend.
How big of an advantage Democrats receive from the new map will depend on the outcome of races that already look to be tossups based on past presidential performance. The open 21st district in the Central Valley, where Rep. Jim Costa (D) could run, is one example. Costa resides in the redrawn 16th district with Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D) and freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R), though Denham will likely run to the north in the open 10th district, which leans Republican.
Cardoza’s district could be competitive as well. However, if he decides to retire, as has been rumored, Costa would likely choose to run in the 16th district.
Other incumbents facing potentially competitive elections include Rep. John Garamendi (D) in the Sacramento-area 3rd district, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) in the open 52nd district, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) in the open 26th district, Rep. Joe Baca (D) in the 31st district and Rep. Lois Capps (D) in the coastal 24th district, which now includes the wine country featured in the movie “Sideways.” Capps is expected to face a tough challenge against former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado (R).
Several Members were drawn into districts in which they are not expected to run. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R) was drawn into Baca’s district but could run in the open 8th district, which heavily favors Republicans. After being drawn into the 15th district with Rep. Pete Stark (D), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) has said he will run in the open San Joaquin Valley-based 9th district, where a Republican could give him a tough race.
“After spending so much time in San Joaquin County, it truly is my home,” McNerney said in a statement. “That’s why I’m planning to move my residence to San Joaquin County and put down even more roots in this community.”
Republican Reps. Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock were both drawn into the new Sacramento-area 7th district, but McClintock told Roll Call on Friday that he will run in the 4th district, which has a strong Republican lean and includes most of his old district. Lungren’s district is competitive, and he already has at least one Democratic challenger in Ami Bera, who took on Lungren last year as well.
GOP Reps. Buck McKeon and Gallegly were drawn into the 25th district, but Gallegly can run to the west in the open 26th district, a moderate district that could be competitive.
Capping off the puzzle that is the new Congressional map is the situation with Democratic Reps. Linda Sánchez and Grace Napolitano. Both were drawn into the 38th district, so one is expected to move to a neighboring district. But which one? Napolitano could run in Dreier’s 32nd district, or Sanchez could run in the Long Beach-based 47th district.