Veteran state Sen. Ralph C. Dills, whose lengthy tenure in the Legislature is being threatened by redistricting, says he will seek to keep his political career alive by running in a newly redrawn district next year that would include his South Bay home.
In the proposed Senate redistricting plan, the 30th District that the Democratic lawmaker has represented for 25 years would be shifted away from his Gardena-area political base and reshaped so that he would no longer live within its boundaries.
The plan raised questions about whether Dills, 81, could still win reelection if he chose to relocate in the district, which would stretch from Lynwood and Paramount into predominantly Latino areas in Southeast Los Angeles County.
Declaring that he is not the "retiring type," Dills said that rather than seek to hold onto the 30th District seat, he would run for the Democratic nomination in the 27th District, now represented by Sen. Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles). Greene, citing health problems, last week announced that he will retire when his current four-year term ends next year.
"I have no alternative" except to seek Greene's seat, Dills said in an interview. Dills noted that his Harbor Gateway home would be in the new 27th District, along with Compton, Carson and parts of Long Beach.
Dills' plans--and the entire redistricting process--may yet be put on hold if a disagreement between Gov. Pete Wilson and Assembly Democratic leaders over that chamber's new boundaries leads to a gubernatorial veto of the Legislature's reapportionment plan. Such a veto could result in the courts redrawing the state's political maps.
Regardless of the final shape of the Senate districts, Dills earlier this week said he still has a contribution to make to public life. In a speech Monday on the Senate floor, Dills said, "I don't think I'm necessarily over the hill."
Dills cited how two of his brothers--one a legislator and the other an assistant Assembly sergeant-at-arms--died shortly after retiring. Dills said he is uncertain whether retirement caused their deaths, but he added, "I don't think I want to take the chance."
Dills served in the Assembly for a decade in the 1930s and 1940s and was first elected to the Senate in 1966. Last year, he easily won a new four-year term. Even if he runs for Greene's seat and loses, Dills would still have two years remaining on his current term.
With an eye toward meeting new requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act, the Senate has proposed making Dills' 30th District 78.3% Latino. It would stretch from Paramount and Lynwood to Alhambra and include Cudahy, South Gate, Huntington Park, Maywood, Bell and Bell Gardens.
Greene's redrawn 27th District, meanwhile, also would be predominantly minority. Of the district's 746,000 residents, 45% would be Latinos and 41.3% blacks.
Dills, who is white, maintained that he would have a good chance at the seat because it would include about 300,000 of his current constituents.
Others regarded as potential candidates for the seat are Democratic Assembly members Teresa Hughes of Los Angeles and Willard H. Murray of Paramount, both of whom are black.
The scramble for Greene's seat was prompted by the veteran lawmaker's recent decision not to seek reelection. Plagued by a series of health problems the last few years, the 59-year-old Greene on Monday made his first appearance on the Senate floor in about two months. He told reporters that he recently had suffered a stroke, but declined to elaborate. "I had a stroke . . . and that's all I need to say. It's my personal health condition."