Schaefer, Hart Plot Political Careers on New District Maps : Reapportionment: Latino leaders plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. They say the boundaries fragment their community.
Former Ventura County Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer is scrutinizing the Supreme Court’s proposed political map for options to revive her public career, and state Sen. Gary K. Hart is “very seriously” considering a bid for Congress.
Meanwhile, a coalition of Latino leaders in Ventura County contends that the court-drawn political boundaries fragment the county’s Latino community in possible violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The coalition expects to take its grievances to the Supreme Court next month.
Schaefer, a Republican from Thousand Oaks, said she is keeping open her options to run for the state Legislature or possibly for Congress in the new 24th Congressional District that lumps Thousand Oaks with Malibu, Calabasas and portions of the San Fernando Valley.
“I am very interested in both sets of maps,” Schaefer said Thursday. “I’m not going to preclude any of my options.”
Schaefer was defeated last year by Supervisor Maria VanderKolk in an upset that, according to friends and former aides, bruised her ego and touched off an occasional angry outburst.
She said she promised her family that she would remain out of politics for a full year. She declined to make any more definitive statements until the year is complete. “I am officially a private person until Jan. 4,” she said.
Hart, a Santa Barbara Democrat, is considering running for Congress in a newly proposed 22nd Congressional District that encompasses all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties except for the city of Carpinteria.
“He is looking at the congressional race very seriously,” said Joe Caves, Hart’s chief of staff. The 22nd District has a slightly higher percentage of Republican voters than Democrats. However, Caves said the popular Democratic incumbent should be able to carry a majority vote in the district.
Under the court’s redistricting plan, Hart’s 18th Senate District would cover the same area as the congressional district plus the cities of Ventura, Santa Paula, Ojai and other northernmost sections of Ventura County.
Hart is not up for reelection until 1994, so he could run for Congress without giving up his seat in the state Senate.
If he were elected to Congress in the new district, he would end his nearly decade-long representation of Ventura County. No part of the 22nd Congressional District reaches into the county.
The Supreme Court took over the state’s redistricting process when the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Pete Wilson failed to agree on a plan.
A specially appointed panel of retired judges drafted the maps for the high court, which has scheduled oral arguments on Jan. 13 and has indicated that it will adopt final district lines, incorporating possible changes, by Jan. 28.
A coalition of Latino officials in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties plans to join in state leaders’ complaint that some districts fragment the Latino community, diluting minority voting strength.
“In the Assembly districts, the Ventura County Latino community is divided three ways,” said Marco Antonio Abarca, a member of the Ventura County Coalition on Redistricting and Reapportionment. “Fillmore and Piru are in one district. Ventura and Santa Paula and Ojai are in another and Oxnard and Port Hueneme in a third.”
Abarca said Latino leaders have just begun to study the redistricting plans. “The way we see it, Latinos in Oxnard have a lot more in common with the people of Piru and Santa Paula than those in Thousand Oaks,” he said.
The Ventura County group is closely aligned with the Santa Barbara-based Latinos for Fair Representation. Both had wanted Latino communities in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria to be connected to those in Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Paula.
“The maps put out by the Supreme Court are a giant step backward,” said Bob Barber, a demographer for the Santa Barbara group. “Of all the plans, the Assembly districts are a terrible, terrible plan.”
The groups plan to meet in the next two weeks and begin to coordinate a strategy with leaders of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“At this point, we are not talking about a lawsuit,” said Abarca. “But if there is a lawsuit, what we are dealing with here in Ventura County would be one of the seeds of the suit.”