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Remap Plans Would Add 4 House Seats in Southland : Redistricting: Democratic congressional delegation’s proposals include a Latino district in L.A. County.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With two days remaining before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment, the public got its first detailed look Wednesday at two alternative plans for Congressional districts that would place four of the state’s seven new seats in Southern California.

Both proposals, drawn by the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, would include a new, Latino-controlled district in Los Angeles County.

The plans foresee two additional seats in Northern California and one straddling Central and Southern California. That district would be centered either along the Santa Barbara coast or inland along the Sierra Nevada.

California’s seven new seats in Congress resulted from the 1990 Census, which showed the state’s population growing far more rapidly than the rest of the nation. The additional seats will boost California’s delegation to 52 and represents the largest gain of any state. The open seats are sure to touch off a statewide round of political musical chairs.

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The plans would give Democrats an edge, to varying degrees, in the majority of the current and additional seats.

A third congressional plan was in the works, but no maps of the proposed districts were available. Numerical descriptions of the seats showed that this plan also would create four Southern California seats, including the heavily Latino Los Angeles County seat.

Congressional Democrats said they hoped the Legislature would take the unusual step of passing all three plans and give the governor the choice of which version to sign.

“They each have their own appealing aspects,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles), who is heading the Democratic map-drawing. “We think each are fair plans.”

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But Republicans suspected that none of the three plans were serious proposals and that the Democrats eventually would amend one into a shape more acceptable to GOP lawmakers and the Republican governor.

Dan Schnur, an aide to Gov. Pete Wilson, described the plans as the Democrats’ “multiple choice” strategy. But he added: “They can send us three plans or 300 plans. All we’re looking for is one good one.”

Negotiations were expected to continue until the Legislature’s scheduled midnight Friday adjournment or beyond, and a number of members of Congress were in the state Capitol to look after their interests. Their presence did not go unnoticed by state legislators.

“I’ve never seen so many congressmen in one place outside of Washington,” said Assemblywoman Bev Hansen (R-Santa Rosa). “You can’t spit in this town without hitting a congressman--which isn’t such a bad thing.”

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Although the members of Congress have no official say in the shape of the districts, the Legislature traditionally has allowed the congressional delegation to take the lead in drawing the plan. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) said Brown would not be proposing his own congressional plan, and there was no sign that the Senate would make public a proposal of its own.

“We were hopeful that we could come up with a plan that would be signed by the governor, or, if we could not get a plan that could be signed, one where we could get a veto overridden,” Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Sacramento) said.

The state Senate and Assembly already have made public various plans for redrawing their own political boundaries.

For a series of hearings on the legislative and congressional plans, the Assembly hooked up a high-technology system providing two-way television between its Sacramento hearing room and remote locations around the state. But witnesses testifying from those sites Wednesday complained that they had not seen the proposed maps until just before they were asked to testify.

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“We were dealing with rumors until five minutes ago,” said a woman from Visalia who testified over the television link.

The real map-drawing, however, was not on television, but in the private offices of legislators and the governor, where politicians and their staffs remained holed up for most of the day with stacks of maps and statistical descriptions of cities and counties. There, they were hoping to come upon a formula that would attract enough Democratic support to ensure passage in the Legislature while providing Republicans enough hope for the future to obtain the governor’s signature.

Two of the plans released publicly did not seem to meet that standard. In those plans, just 23 of the 52 districts would have Republican voter registration as high as 38%--a benchmark many GOP lawmakers use to define a district in which they would be competitive. The other plan, known as “Plan B,” had 25 such districts.

All three plans create a district in central Los Angeles County in which the population would be more than 80% Latino, enough to ensure that Latinos--and Democrats--would control the outcome of the election.

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The plans also would create a new seat straddling the Los Angeles-San Bernardino County line in different formations, all of which would favor a Republican candidate. They also include a new, Democratic-leaning seat in San Diego County.

Two of the three plans create a Latino-oriented, Democratic-leaning district taking in all of Imperial County and parts of Riverside County. The other results in a new, Republican-leaning seat entirely within Orange County.

Two of the plans would create a coastal district along Santa Barbara and Ventura counties that would lean Democratic. The other plan has a Republican-leaning district with its base in the San Bernardino County desert but stretching north through eight other counties as far north as Alpine County.

In Northern California, all of the plans create two districts in the area bounded by Contra Costa, Fresno and Sacramento counties and the Sierra Nevada. In two of the three variations, one of the districts would favor Democrats and the other would lean Republican. The other plan included two Republican-oriented seats.

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The final product is expected to be a mixture of all three plans as well as ideas that have yet to surface publicly.

The uncertainty brought renewed complaints from groups hoping to comment on the plans. Arturo Vargas, a representative of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Foundation, said his organization had “grave concerns” about the process.

“We are intrigued by the proposals made today but we have no idea where the boundaries are,” Vargas said. “We do not have the information to make a meaningful analysis.”

Assemblyman Pete Chacon, a San Diego Democrat who chairs the Election and Reapportionment Committee, apologized for the problems but said the Assembly was doing the best it could.

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“It’s not a perfect process,” Chacon said, “But is anything perfect?”


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