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Hart Could Be Helped by Creation of District : Reapportionment: The plan would benefit the state senator in a bid for Congress. It is one of three circulating in Sacramento.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new congressional district that could boost state Sen. Gary K. Hart in a bid for a seat in Congress would be drawn along the coastal area of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties under a reapportionment proposal released Tuesday.

The proposed district would run from Santa Maria past the Los Angeles County line and include Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula and Ojai.

The map for the proposed district is one of three being circulated in Sacramento by congressional Democrats. The other two proposals have not been released.

Legislative analysts warn that all the proposed boundary changes are preliminary. They say there is a strong possibility that the plans may be challenged in court by minority-rights groups or the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Hart (D-Santa Barbara) is seen as having a good chance of winning in the congressional Democrats’ proposed district because the boundaries are similar to those of his state Senate district.

Hart, who narrowly lost in 1988 to Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura), has not announced whether he will run for Congress next year.

The proposed coastal district would be carved out of the existing congressional districts of Lagomarsino and Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley).

It would be one of seven congressional districts added in the state by the redistricting that occurs every 10 years to reflect changes in population documented by the U. S. Census. The district would include 572,000 residents, about 30% of whom are Latino and 5% black.

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Under the plan, Lagomarsino’s district would include all of San Luis Obispo County and most of the inland areas of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Gallegly and representatives of both Lagomarsino and Hart said they have not seen the map of the proposed new district.

Meanwhile, two proposals by Assembly Democrats to realign state Assembly boundaries would shift Port Hueneme and the beach areas of Oxnard out of the district of Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) and into the district of Assemblyman Jack O’Connell (D-Carpinteria).

In addition, the cities of Santa Paula and Fillmore would be shifted from O’Connell’s district to McClintock’s district.

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O’Connell described the changes as “minor tinkering.” But a spokesman for McClintock described the proposal as “an incumbent-protection plan” because it would give O’Connell more Democrats while shifting Republican voters into McClintock’s district.

“If you want to protect incumbents, that is how you are going to do it,” said Joseph Yocca, McClintock’s chief of staff. He predicted that the plan will be opposed by Republican lawmakers.

The boundaries for the congressional, Assembly and state Senate districts must be approved by the Legislature before they go to Gov. Pete Wilson for his signature. If state lawmakers cannot agree on new boundaries, the entire matter would be turned over to the state Supreme Court.

The new boundaries are to be in effect for the 1992 elections.

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Joseph Caves, Hart’s top legislative assistant, said he has not seen the map that outlines the proposed congressional district. But he said he is surprised and interested in the development.

Anita Perez Ferguson, a Democrat who lost in her bid last year to unseat Lagomarsino, said she also is interested in the new district.

Perez Ferguson said she believes that she would have a good chance in such a district because it would include Latino voters in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

She said she has no qualms about running against Hart, although she once worked on his staff. “My main objective is to change the leaders we have in Washington right now,” she said.

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Joseph Parra, a spokesman for Lagomarsino, said he has not seen the proposed plan but expects that the governor will only support boundary changes that are fair to both Republicans and Democrats.

Parra added that Lagomarsino is not concerned yet about the proposed changes. “To worry about it at this point is not that productive,” he said.

Gallegly said he is skeptical about a plan for a new congressional seat in Ventura County because the population has not grown fast enough to merit a new district. To be equal, each district must have about 570,000 residents.

“The growth or the lack thereof is a fact of life,” he said. “Those charged with the responsibility of drawing the lines have to live with the numbers.”

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He said he is not certain how the proposed changes would affect his district. “It’s a difficult and complex process with so many variables that have to be considered,” he said. “To try to speculate whether it will help or hurt me is something that you can’t spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about.”


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