Remap Could Bring GOP Supremacy : Politics: Court’s redistricting may upset Assembly and House balance. Several covet a Huntington Beach-based congressional district.
New political districts prepared for the state Supreme Court can be expected to produce dramatic gains for the Republican Party next year, possibly giving the GOP control of California’s congressional delegation and, for the first time in two decades, one house of the Legislature.
Lawmakers and political consultants working for both parties also said Tuesday that Latinos should see their fortunes rise under the plan. The Republican and Latino gains both would come at the expense of Anglo Democrats.
Democrats, who have controlled the Legislature since 1970, would find themselves squeezed out of a number of seats because the state’s population--and its political districts--are shifting increasingly from Democratic-oriented urban areas to Republican strongholds in the suburbs.
The shake-up caused by the new maps sparked widespread speculation and negotiations throughout the state Tuesday, as some lawmakers were forced to scramble for their political lives.
In Orange County, three incumbent congressmen and at least one assemblyman had been eyeing a district based in Huntington Beach. On Tuesday, an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Long Beach) said the congressman will move his residence to Orange County and run for the proposed 45th Congressional District.
After Rohrabacher’s announcement, Assemblyman Tom Mays (R-Huntington Beach) said he will seek reelection to the Legislature next year and abandon his consideration of a bid for Congress.
Mays might face stiff competition to keep his seat, however, because two other incumbent Assembly members--Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and Nolan Frizzelle (R-Fountain Valley)--also live in the proposed 67th Assembly District surrounding Huntington Beach.
“I’ve decided to go ahead and run for the 67th Assembly District,” said Mays, a former Huntington Beach mayor. “Those are the folks who sent me to Sacramento, and I just feel that I’ve got to stay with my base of support.”
The plan, released publicly Monday, was drafted by three retired judges appointed by the high court to break a deadlock between the Democratic-dominated state Legislature and Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who could not agree on how to redraw the boundaries to reflect population shifts reported in the 1990 U.S. Census.
The lines, possibly with some changes, will become law in January unless the Legislature and the governor agree to an alternate plan or lawmakers muster the votes to override a gubernatorial veto.
But the prospects for either of those possibilities dimmed measurably Tuesday when lawmakers for the first time saw the partisan political impact of the proposed boundaries. Republicans, for the most part, are happy with the lines and see no reason to bargain with Democrats for anything different.
Democrats hold 47 of the 80 state Assembly seats and 23 of 40 seats in the Senate, where there also are two independents and a Democratic-leaning vacancy. Democrats occupy 26 of California’s 45 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Within a year, however, if the court adopts the lines presented to it, Republicans could control the Assembly with 42 or 43 of the 80 seats, experts in both parties suggested. They might whittle the Democrats’ advantage in the Senate down to 21 to 19.
And Republicans could hold a majority of the expanded congressional delegation of 52 seats, which would represent a dramatic GOP gain of at least eight seats over what they hold today. Five of the seven new congressional seats are in Southern California and two are in the north. They appear to be split 4-to-3 in favor of the Republicans, based on registration figures in the proposed districts.
Besides Republicans, Latinos appear to be the big winners under the plan, drafted by retired judges George A. Brown, Rafael H. Galceran and Thomas Kongsgaard. Latinos hold a total of 10 seats in the Legislature and Congress. Under this plan, they could boost that to 14 in 1992.
Blacks now hold a total of 13 seats in the Legislature and Congress and are expected to retain all of them, with the possible exception of one Assembly seat in South-Central Los Angeles that is not heavily black and could go to another Democrat. Asians, who are not concentrated in sufficient numbers to control any one district, have no members in the Legislature and two in Congress. That is not expected to change.
The biggest losers stand to be Anglo Democrats, who could see their numbers drop by a dozen or more in Congress and the Legislature by the end of the next election season.
All this could happen because the proposed lines were drawn with one eye on keeping minority communities unified and the other on keeping representation of cities, counties and geographic regions intact. Political party registration, the court’s appointees said, played no role in the decision.
This differs dramatically from the situation nine years ago, when Democratic and Republican incumbents approved new districts that gave almost every sitting lawmaker a safe seat and locked in the Democrats’ control of the Legislature and the congressional delegation.
“This plan breaks down the Berlin Wall that essentially divided the state into Democratic and Republican pieces,” said Anthony Quinn, who helped draw the 1982 plan as a consultant to the Assembly Republicans. “This is a far more dramatic change in the political map of California than anyone could have expected.”
Although Democrats hold a 49%-to-39% edge in registered voters statewide, the election results under the new plan are not expected to reflect the same split. One reason is that minority-oriented districts tend to be heavily Democratic, leaving fewer of that party’s voters to spread around to other districts. Also, Republicans tend to vote in greater numbers than do Democrats.
Gov. Wilson and Assembly Republican Leader Bill Jones of Fresno issued separate, subdued statements praising the plan as fair and impartial. Privately, their advisers and rank and file Republican lawmakers were saying that they were overjoyed with the new boundaries.
Democratic leaders could not be reached for comment Tuesday. One Democrat--Assemblyman Steve Peace of Rancho San Diego--said after hearing a Democratic staff briefing on the plan that it was a “partisan gerrymander of gigantic proportions.”
“There is no reason for Republicans to do anything but cheer,” Peace said.
Because the court’s “special masters” paid no attention to the residences of incumbent lawmakers, the plan is replete with districts that lump two or three officeholders together. In the Assembly alone, 22 of the 80 seats include the homes of two or more incumbents.
This wrinkle presents a much greater problem for Democrats than for Republicans. For the most part, Democrats thrown together must either retire or run against each other. Republicans are more likely to find a vacant nearby district to which they could move and run in.
In San Diego County, for instance, where four Democrats serve in the Assembly, there would remain just one strong Democratic seat. At least two Democrats--Pete Chacon and Peace--would fight for it. But while two Republicans--Tricia Hunter and Carol Bentley--are thrown together in a single district, each has the option of running in an adjacent, heavily Republican district.
Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Ralph Frammolino and Dave Lesher.
Proposed Orange County Legislative Districts
Under a plan proposed this week, lawmakers would jockey for state Senate and Assembly districts redrawn to consolidate borders within Orange County. While all but one Assembly seat is now virtually contained within the county, another includes the homes of three incumbents.
67: Contains homes of Republican Assembly incumbents Doris Allen of AnaheimCypress, Tom Mays of Huntington Beach and Nolan Frizzelle of Fountain Valley. Mays, who represents the 58th Assembly District that includes part of Los Angeles County, had been eyeing a new congressional seat, but has decided to run in this district.
68: Includes much of Allen’s 71st District, but also borrows from the central 72nd District held by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove). The district’s Asian population would be 17%, compared to the 14% now in Allen’s district, and would have a minority population of about 40%.
69: Like the 68th District, was designed to maximize minority voting strength. Latinos make up nearly 65%, with Anglos comprising about 25%. Umberg, who now represents the area as part of the 72nd District, has said he will run for this seat.
70: Includes the coastal power base of incumbent 70th District Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), but no longer extends south into San Juan Capistrano. Instead, the new district takes in Irvine and parts of districts now represented by Frizzelle and Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange).
71: Includes most of the current 67th District now held by Conroy.
72: Includes much of the 64th District held by Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra), but adds Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills areas represented by Conroy. Johnson says he will run for this seat.
73: Includes coastal Orange County areas south of Laguna Beach now parceled between Ferguson and 74th District Assemblyman Robert C. Frazee (R-Carlsbad). Frazee could try for the new 73rd District or run in an all-San Diego County district that includes Carlsbad.
33: Combines much of the northern Orange County district represented by Sen. John R. Lewis (R-Orange), as well as some of the north and southeastern county districts represented by Sens. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) and Frank Hill (R-Whittier).
34: Consolidates the county’s predominantly Latino and Asian populations. Its core is made up of the district held by Royce, who has said he will seek the proposed 39th District congressional seat that would straddle Orange and Los Angeles counties.
35: Consolidates the base of Newport Beach Republican Sen. Marian Bergeson, who represents the sprawling 37th District that now stretches into Imperial County.
38: Existing 38th District based in coastal San Diego County would expand northward to include part of Laguna Beach. It could be tailor-made for incumbent Sen. William A. Craven (R-Oceanside).