Advertisement

GOP Gain Likely in County Under Redistrict Plan : Politics: Reapportionment may turn the thin Democratic advantage on legislative delegation into a 9-3 Republican stronghold.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Democrats could become an endangered species in the San Diego County delegation under a drastically new redistricting plan released earlier this week by the state Supreme Court, voting statistics show.

Democrats now hold five of the area’s 10 Assembly and Senate seats--a number that gives them a bare and fragile partisan majority. Four lawmakers are Republicans and one is an independent who recently defected from the Democratic Party.

Those kind of numbers have prompted Republicans to long complain that the political composition of the delegation is a product of a gerrymandered reapportionment engineered 10 years ago by Democrats and does not reflect the true conservative nature of San Diego voters.

But such Republican concerns faded into glee Tuesday as lawmakers compared the Supreme Court’s proposed new districts for San Diego County with current voter registration totals, a common indicator of whether a Republican or Democrat can be expected to win a particular seat.

Advertisement

The potential score, according to those numbers: Republicans 9, Democrats 3--give or take a seat. The new total includes parts of new Senate seats that would extend into the county.

“I think San Diego County will be sending more Republicans to the Legislature,” declared a buoyed Assemblywoman Carol Bentley (R-El Cajon).

Lamented a deflated Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Rancho San Diego), whose political future is now up in the air because the court would move his district out of the county:

“There’s no reason for Republicans to do anything but cheer.”

Advertisement

The case of Bentley and Peace is the starkest example of what reapportionment will mean to San Diego County, especially in the Assembly, where Democrats hold a 4-3 advantage in seats.

Peace appears headed for a political no-man’s-land after having the political rug pulled out from under him by the court-appointed “special masters.” The panel of three retired judges redrew his district, which now stretches along the border from the South Bay and takes in all of Imperial County.

The proposed district gives Imperial County its own Assembly seat; slices away his South Bay power base and plunks that into a new minority-dominated district; and puts Peace’s new home just within the borders of an East County Assembly seat that has 31% Democrats and 54% Republicans.

Districts with 40% or more Republican voters are considered a near cinch for the GOP to capture, since their voters are more reliable in getting to the polls.

Advertisement

To win reelection, Peace said, he may now move into the new minority-dominated district where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 58% to 30%--the only Assembly seat where Democrats have an overwhelming edge.

But that would pit him against Assemblyman Pete Chacon (D-San Diego), who recently moved into the area. “They jammed all the Democrats into one seat,” said Peace.

A Chacon aide said his boss would be willing to take on Peace. “He’s in the (district), and he’s going to run,” the aide said.

Reapportionment also translated into bad news for at least two other Assembly Democrats, who were considered vulnerable even under voter registration numbers in their old districts--Dede Alpert of Del Mar and Mike Gotch of San Diego.

Advertisement

Most of Alpert’s coastal district, which included potentially sympathetic voters from La Jolla to the border, was taken away. She was given, instead, conservative Escondido and a new Assembly district where the Republican registration is a daunting 54%, against 31% for the Democrats.

Gotch (D-San Diego) would pick up much of Alpert’s district, but would also see a significant erosion of Democrats, which outnumber Republicans by a bare 44% to 42% majority in his existing district. The new coastal district drawn for him by the court would pack in 47% Republicans to 38% Democrats.

While the court plan dismantled familiar turf and could pit political brother against brother, it had a vastly different meaning for Republicans, who would have an abundance of electoral riches under it. Of the seven redrawn districts, six have an edge in Republican voters.

In Bentley’s case, the new lines would lump her in the same east suburban district as colleague Tricia Hunter (R-Bonita), where Republican voters outnumber Democrats, 47.5% to 40%.

Advertisement

Not to worry, though: There are plenty of Republican-friendly districts to go around.

“Tricia and I are going to sit down,” Bentley said. “We’re going to meet, and we’re going to decide what we’re going to do. Tricia’s district has been carved up all over the place, as was my district.

“We haven’t quite worked this out,” she said. “Somebody’s going to have to move.”

Under one scenario, Bentley said it could be possible for Hunter to follow some of her old territory and move into Alpert’s new district, where the Republican lawmaker could capitalize on the edge the party has in voter registration. Hunter could not be reached for comment.

Advertisement

That would leave open the new East County Assembly seat with a 54% Republican voter registration edge.

On the Senate side, Republicans gained what is tantamount to a new seat under the court plan. The so-called Interstate 15 seat would take in the eastern half of the county--starting roughly outside of Escondido and El Cajon--along with the eastern half of Riverside and all of Imperial County.

Registration there is 50% Republican, and Assemblyman David G. Kelley (R-Hemet) is said to be considering a run for that seat. The court maps would also extend into northern San Diego County the district now represented by Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), who is expected to retain his seat despite a 49% to 42% edge in registration for Republicans.

Republican majorities were secured for veteran Sen. William A. Craven (R-Oceanside).

Advertisement

The only Democratic majority would exist in a South Bay Senate district, now served by Sen. Wadie P. Deddeh (D-Bonita), who said Tuesday he will run for the new congressional seat being created in that area.

Although the popular Deddeh would most likely hold onto the seat if his congressional try is unsuccessful, the reapportionment would shrink his majority of Democratic voters from its current 51% to 47%, while raising Republican registration from 36% to 40%.

Sen. Lucy Killea (I-San Diego), who declared her independence from the Democratic Party this year, actually saw the number of Democratic voters increase 3% under the court-proposed plan. But Republicans still have the upper hand there, 46% to 40% for Democrats.


Advertisement
Advertisement