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Redistrict Plan Boosts Clout of Minorities : Politics: Tentative proposal by judicial panel would also give San Diego County an additional congressional seat.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Diego County would gain a congressional seat and greater clout for its minority voters under a tentative plan released Monday by a state Supreme Court panel chosen to wrestle with reapportionment.

The new congressional seat would become the county’s fifth and have a 69% minority population--a concentration of Latinos, blacks and Asians living in National City, parts of Chula Vista and other communities in the South Bay, according to maps and a lengthy legal brief released Monday by the three-judge panel, or “special masters” as they are called.

The new district, if adopted, would most assuredly touch off a scramble among politicians seeking to become the newest face in the county’s congressional delegation.

Within hours, the proposal began fueling speculation by some insiders that Sen. Wadie P. Deddeh (D-Bonita) and Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Rancho San Diego) could gear up for a run, if Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-San Diego) doesn’t move in from the coast and claim the district as his own.

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Farther north, the masters also appeared to redraw a congressional district more to the liking of Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego), who barely survived an election scare last year and has been working behind the scenes on reapportionment to shed some of his coastal constituents in favor of more conservative voters inland and to the east.

The Republican incumbent’s existing district embraces La Jolla, an area he angered by publicly criticizing La Jolla Country Day School in 1988 for dismissing former fourth-grade teacher Sharon Rogers, the wife of Will Rogers, the former skipper of the guided missile cruiser Vincennes. School authorities let her go after a bombing of her van raised fears of terrorist attacks on the private school.

Under the plan released Monday, however, Lowery would lose a hostile La Jolla and apparently gain more philosophically compatible ground in North County, including all of Escondido.

He would lose the conservative stronghold of La Mesa, however, to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Coronado), whose district would be pushed farther into East County.

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State officeholders could also suffer considerable disruption--or good fortune--under the special masters plan. In the Assembly, there were striking changes that appeared to create an open seat near or along the northern coast.

The district now represented by Assemblyman Robert C. Frazee (R-Carlsbad) would apparently be split, leaving the veteran lawmaker to tend to a smaller area that takes in most of his hometown of Carlsbad, as well as Encinitas, Escondido, Vista and San Marcos.

The northern half of Frazee’s old district, which would include Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and a small part of Carlsbad, would become a separate seat stretching north into the Orange County towns of San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo.

On the south, the masters took Peace’s rambling Assembly district, which stretches from Chula Vista to Jacumba along the international border, and put it completely into Imperial and Riverside counties.

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Peace now appears to be lumped with Assemblyman Pete Chacon (D-San Diego) into a new, minority-intensive district that the panel said “resembles very closely” one suggested by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund--prominent players in the reapportionment process.

The newly constituted Assembly district is a microcosm of the proposed new congressional seat, encompassing the same minority neighborhoods but featuring a 76% minority population because of its smaller size. Currently, the highest minority Assembly district concentration is in Chacon’s district, which has 53%.

A Peace aide said Monday, however, that about 60% of the proposed minority district is an area that Peace now represents.

Still, the change may spur Peace into looking at a run for the State Senate or Congress, said the aide, David Takashima.

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“He has to consider those options, (but) these are just lines,” he said about the bare-bones plan released Monday.

The masters’ plan also appears to have melded together portions of districts now being represented by Assemblywomen Tricia Hunter (R-Bonita) and Carol Bentley (R-El Cajon).

And it had what looked like bad news for Assemblywoman Dierdre Alpert (D-Del Mar), who would be pushed farther inland from a hospitable coast to face conservative voters, ranging from Mission Valley to Rancho Bernardo.

On the Senate side, the masters’ plan represents a mixed blessing for the San Diego delegation in the upper house.

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Deddeh, a veteran South Bay politician, could see his Senate district redrawn to take in the more conservative areas of El Cajon and La Mesa.

Sen. Lucy Killea (I-San Diego), however, lost those conservative areas and gained a greater share of the city of San Diego and the coast, adding Imperial Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla--areas where she will probably do better in her reelection attempt next year.

Although making conscious decisions to strengthen minority voting power in San Diego, the court panel did say in its brief Monday that it rejected a plan--proposed by the Mexican-American group and used by the state Senate--to combine the Latino population of the county with that in Imperial County.

“We considered this alternative but eventually rejected the concept,” the panel wrote. “Though there are a large number of Latinos in both San Diego and Imperial (counties), they are widely separated and do not constitute a single geographically compact minority group.”

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“Further the interest of urban Latinos may be different than those in agricultural Imperial County. Finally, to connect them with anything but a narrow corridor along the border in Southern San Diego County would dilute the existing minority population in our proposed (South Bay) Assembly District,” it wrote.

The court also noted that its plan for what appears to be Deddeh’s Senate seat would reunite the city of Chula Vista and create a 55% minority district.


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