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New Districts to Solidify Position for Incumbents

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County would lose one Democratic congressman and gain a new one under a proposed redistricting plan unveiled Friday.

Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) would hand off Oxnard and Port Hueneme to Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) under the new plan, while Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) would be edged out of the Conejo Valley portion of his district altogether.

The adjustments would solidify voting bases for all three incumbents and make Gallegly virtually untouchable to Democrats who have tried unsuccessfully to unseat him since his election in 1986.

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In redistricting at the state level, Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), a shrewd liberal once touted as an up-and-comer in the Legislature, would become a casualty of her own party’s redistricting efforts, being shut out of a Senate race she had hoped to enter next year.

“I’m feeling terribly disappointed and equally indignant,” Jackson said, vowing to fight the plan. If it is ultimately approved, she said, she will run for reelection next year to the Assembly, where she faces term limits in 2004.

Census Leads to New Districts

These are some of the local highlights of the once-a-decade redistricting process, in which lawmakers adjust state and federal political boundaries based on population shifts revealed by the census. After public input, the plans must be approved by the Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis.

Other proposed changes:

* The Santa Barbara coastline and Ventura, which are represented by Sen. Jack O’Connell (D-San Luis Obispo), would fall under the vastly reconfigured district of Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), one of the most conservative members of the Legislature. O’Connell has launched a bid for state superintendent of public instruction. McClintock’s new district would retain a 42% Republican to 38% Democratic split that would make a bid by Jackson in 2004 unlikely.

* Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who represents Beverly Hills and Malibu, would see her District 23 stretch deep into Ventura County, adding Oxnard and Port Hueneme. Democrats would outnumber Republicans 52% to 28%.

* Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) would see almost no overall partisan shift in her District 41. But her reach would extend into Ventura County, picking up Port Hueneme and half of Oxnard, and her district would gain thousands of Latino constituents. Democrats would outnumber Republicans 49% to 31%.

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* Assembly District 35, the seat held by Jackson, would pick up El Rio and the other half of Oxnard, allowing Democrats to pick up an additional 2% of voters and outnumber Republicans 44% to 33%.

* Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark), who feared he might be targeted by Democrats (who dominate his current district) because of his frequent criticism of the governor, instead would see his conservative base solidified thanks to the effort to bolster surrounding Democratic districts.

He is still mulling a possible run for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors instead of seeking reelection. He faces term limits in the Assembly in 2004 without the prospect of an open Senate seat.

Strickland’s Assembly District 37 would become about 5% more Republican under the new changes, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 46% to 35%. Strickland would give up constituents in Oxnard and Port Hueneme, his weakest areas politically. He would pick up Ojai, the Santa Clara Valley and about one-third of conservative Simi Valley.

* Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge) would see his District 38 become about 3% more Republican, gaining whites and losing Asians as it picks up Santa Clarita. Republicans would outnumber Democrats 46% to 36% in the district, which includes two-thirds of Simi Valley.

Of all the proposed adjustments, the apparent damage to Jackson’s political career has drawn the most attention and speculation.

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Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda), chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, rebutted speculation that Jackson had been targeted by leaders within her own party. Instead, he said, she was a victim of circumstance.

The Political Twists and Turns

Democrats had agreed to leave Republicans with 14 Senate seats, and Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) had urged the creation of a Senate seat that would be friendly to his ally, Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), who is facing term limits in the Assembly.

With O’Connell leaving his seat, the Senate could keep the partisan split it promised Republicans, honor Hertzberg’s request and avoid compromising a Democratic incumbent.

Jackson said she understands the politics at work, but believes the change forces coastal residents into a district with a senator who has widely different priorities.

“The people I represent care about the coast, the environment, reasonable gun control, their personal privacy, and a woman’s right to reproductive choice,” she said. “Mr. McClintock cares about none of these things. For the redistricting people to insult my constituents by making Tom McClintock their senator is absolutely appalling.”

Meanwhile, Hank Lacayo, chairman of the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee, said the congressional shifts will make it nearly impossible for a Democrat to take on veteran Gallegly. Gallegly’s district is currently split about 40% to 39%, with Democrats holding the edge. The newly redrawn district would be 46% Republican and 35% Democratic.

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Gallegly would pick up Republicans in portions of central Santa Barbara County that are now in Capps’ territory. He would regain a GOP majority in his district for the first time in a decade.

For her part, Capps would pick up Democrats in the swap. Sherman would pull out of Republican Thousand Oaks--giving those constituents to Gallegly--and would instead focus entirely on Los Angeles County.

Latinos Shifted to Democratic Districts

Herb Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University, said another interesting pattern is the shift of Latino voters into solidly held Democratic seats.

Kuehl’s district would become 10% more Latino under its new boundaries, and Jackson’s and Pavley’s districts each would become 9% more Latino.

Meanwhile, Strickland’s seat would be 17% less Latino. The Latino population would drop by 6% in McClintock’s district and 2% in Richman’s.

But Gooch said these shifts aren’t empowering Latinos in Ventura County. Oxnard residents are likely to have different priorities than Malibu residents. Instead, the new lines “make it less likely for Oxnard and the rising Hispanic vote to be counted by itself,” Gooch said.

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Lacayo disagreed, saying those residents have more in common with Democrats from neighboring counties than Republicans from within the county.

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