In an era of nonpartisan districting, what is a safe seat?
by Brian Leubitz
Much will be written about what brought Steve Fox to the Assembly. The unlikely Assemblyman from the normally solid Republican foothills of LA County was shall we say, not expected to win. The area's voting history made most observers inclined to believe that it would be a relatively easy Republican victory for Ron Smith, the Republican in the top-2. And that was shown in stark relief by Fox's website and the seeming lack of interest in the race by the usual Sacramento suspects.
Tony Quinn, an editor of the California Target Book and a former redistricting lead for the Republican Assembly caucus in 1971 and 1981, has a great take on the race, the 2012 election, and the role of the two parties in California going forward:
So what's the problem? Well, over the summer local Democrats put on a big registration drive in this middle class district, as they did across the state and using the new online registration signed up a whole lot of new voters. And guess who they were: loads of young Latinos, citizens and native Californians, who have learned to read and write, no thanks to the Republicans, and know who their friends are and who they are not. Because they were new voters, many were not on the precinct rolls, so they cast provisional ballots. And that is who manipulated the election, Mr. Smith. The new voters who voted.
It isn't a long article, and certainly worth a full read. Yet the point is there. If demographics really are destiny, where does that leave the Republican party. Perhaps this is the first in a number of calls for reform in the so-called GOP. Or perhaps it will go unheeded once again.
The Democratic Party did a good job on registration. Partially by using new tools, like the online voter registration, and partially by good ol' fashioned shoe leather. But, the Republicans have been doing much of the work of marginalization of their party all by themselves.
With the news that Jim Brulte is considering a bid to run the CA Republican Party, perhaps they can work towards a more practical future. Brulte has a history as a right-wing Republican, but that being said, he also know how to work within the system to get things done. It would take a Herculean effort, as the Republicans can simply not survive relying on the traditional voter base alone.
But, even with a somewhat pragmatic leader like Brulte, Quinn points out that the Democrats really left several seats on the table this election.
Democrats actually failed to make the gains they could have in this election; there are about half a dozen newly-elected Republicans in districts like Smith's who faced unknown and unfunded Democrats in 2012 but still had mediocre showings because of Latino turnout in their districts.
Of course, the answer isn't as simple as Latino turnout alone. However, with additional resources and targeting, 2014 and 2016 could mean the further marginalization of a party that once ran this state.
Vote Yes on Proposition 40: State Senate Redistricting Referendum
The Basics of the Proposition
This proposition is a referendum on the State Senate districts drawn by California's citizens redistricting commission. A "Yes" vote on Proposition 40 would indicate approval of the districts as drawn. A "No" vote on Proposition 40 would reject the districts drawn by the commission. The new districts would then be drawn by officials supervised by the California Supreme Court.
It sounds pretty simple, and on the surface there is. But there's a long, long story behind this proposition. It's an ugly story, and after reading the story it'll be very obvious why to vote yes on this proposition.
I'll be on KPFK's Uprising radio at 8AM to talk about the DOA redistricting measure. UPDATE: Stay tuned to KPFK for an interview with Matthew Fleischer about the money behind the Yes on 32 campaign.
by Brian Leubitz
Proposition 40, at this point, is not that exciting. But, once you understand what yes and no mean, I'm confident you'll vote yes.
If you remember back earlier in the year (see our redistricting tag), the Republican Senate Caucus was not a big fan of the new Senate district maps. So, they went out and spent a bunch of money, with the CRP, to get a referendum. They figured (or rather hoped anyway) that the California Supreme Court would just use the old maps for this cycle.
My last analysis of the California Congressional Districts was in May before the top two primary elections which will determine the two candidates who will face each other in the congressional elections in November 6th, 2012. The Republican turnout in these primaries was higher, mostly because it seemed that there were more competitive primaries on the Republican side, especially in Southern California. Also, the Los Angeles area Democrats did not turn out strongly because there were few competitive primaries in the heavily Democratic districts there such as CA-37 but Republicans had more competitive primaries in conservative districts such as CA-08. Another reason for the low Democratic turnout in Southern California is that many of the voters there are sporadic voters and tend to vote in high turnout elections such as the 2008 Presidential election or the 2010 Gubernatorial election. Democratic turnout though was high in Northern California where Marin County for example voted 76% Democratic while statewide the congressional races voted 51% Democratic and in 2008, Obama won 78% of the vote in Marin while winning 61% statewide. Low turnout for the Democrats caused problems such as CA-31 which is a swing districts but the top two vote getters were Republicans, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) lost by 2 points there but in 2014, this seat will be a prime pickup opportunity. The primary elections though did shed some light on other competitive races, such as CA-52 which usually leans Republican locally but the primary results suggest it may lean more Democratic.
Anyway, this analysis will only examine races that are competitive or potentially competitive. This analysis will not examine races such as CA-13 where Rep. Barbara Lee (D) is easily winning reelection or CA-37 where Rep. Karen Bass (D) is winning easily too in her 84% Obama district. The post will examine races pundits expect to be close such as CA-10, CA-26 and CA-52 for example.
This is my update on my post here http://racesandredistricting.b... that analyzes California's Congressional races. This post looks at how the races have changed since my January post.
On November 2nd, 2010, California voters passed Proposition 20 allowing a commission composed of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 4 Decline to States to redraw my state's congressional districts. Previously, the state legislature drew the maps. In the House of Representatives, the representatives represent voters in districts the legislature draws. In recent years though, states such as Washington and California have chosen commissions to draw districts without political influence. In California, the commission traveled around the state to hear public comments from citizens like me and talk to groups such as MALDEF. On June 10th, 2011, the California Redistricting Commission released their first set of maps for California after hearing public comments from meetings such as this one on May 20th that I attended. The guidelines set for the commission were to draw districts that follow the VRA, stick to county boundaries as much as possible and preserve communities of interest. They approved the final maps in mid August. Also, this is the first election year where all California Congressional elections will have a top two primary where all candidates run in the June 5th primary and the top two vote getters advance to the general election on November 6th.
Overall, the Commission's new Congressional map produces 28 Safe Democratic seats, five Likely Democratic seats, three Lean Democratic seats, four Tossup seats, one lean Republican seat, one Likely Republican seat and 11 Safe Republican seats. This totals to 36 seats expected to vote Democratic with 13 seats expected to vote Republican for Congress, suggesting Democrats could win 2-6 seats under California's new map.
Democratic activists hoping for big gains in the California legislature this year were dealt a serious blow after campaign finance reports released last Thursday raised troubling questions about Assembly Speaker John Perez's strategic priorities and the California Democratic Party's ability to achieve a two-thirds majority in the State Senate and Assembly.
Democrats would have to pick up at least two more seats in each chamber to achieve the super-majority needed to pass revenue increases over the objections of a Republican minority.
Yet campaign finance reports reveal that Speaker Perez, Sacramento Democratic lawmakers and PACs donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to safe Democratic Assembly districts while virtually ignoring new "swing" districts or defending others against possible Republican pickups.
Records also show that most of these donations were given to Allen and Butler during a three-week period last December, and that many Democratic Assemblymembers who donated did not give money to any other Assembly campaigns. The timing suggests a coordinated and conscious effort from leadership to funnel money to these candidates at the expense of other candidates running in more competitive districts.
But as Butler and Allen enjoy the largess of their colleagues in Sacramento while running in districts so safe a Democratic corpse could win, two other candidates running in swing districts which could potentially lead to Democratic super-majorities enjoy no such protection.
Even Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu, whose district overlaps much of AD66, gave $1,000 to Butler, but nothing so far to Muratsuchi.
Additionally, while PACs - including the Professional Engineers in California Government, the State Building & Construction Trades Council and the California State Council of Laborers - gave over $300,000 to Butler and Allen, many of them presumably at Perez's direction, Muratsuchi received only $11,900 in PAC money, including $1,000 from the California League of Conservation Voters - $6,800less than they gave to Betsy Butler.
A quick, and probably wildly inaccurate, summary of the decision.
by Brian Leubitz
I read the decision very quickly (you can find it over the flip), so I likely missed many of the finer points. Nonetheless, I figured I wanted to get this up quickly, so, my apologies for any errors. At any rate, today the Court decided a few issues:
1) They have authority to intervene and provide a new map if a Redistricting map is challenged.
2) The Commission map is the best map to use in the interim, as it does the best job of adhering to the goals set forth in the redistricting initiative, even if the referendum gets on the ballot.
The discussion at the hearing was sort of meandering, but touched on all of these issues. Starting with the Commission's map, the entire Court agreed that it was the best map to use both for June and November. Interestingly, there were two semi-conflicting decisions from Supreme Court precedence to choose from. Legislature v. Reinecke held that the 1972 maps, which were vetoed by Gov. Reagan, could not be used. Rather, the previous maps based on 1960 census data should be used. The maps proposed by the 1972 Legislature had only been presented in a "truncated" Legislative process.
On the other hand, Assembly v Deukmejian held that the maps signed into law Gov. Jerry Brown and put to a referendum by the Republicans should go ahead in 1982. The Court reasoned that
Although the Constitution of our state grants the power to initiate a referendum to 5 percent of the voters, it does not require that the effect of that referendum be articulated in a manner that does such serious injury to conflicting and equally compelling constitutional mandates.
In other words, there were competing Constitutional interests. The right to a referendum, which is provided in the state Constitution, and the principle of "One person, One vote." (OPOV) Using the old maps would have meant that districts would be out of balance. In 1972, the Court held that the never really approved, because they were vetoed, maps could not be imposed, the principle of OPOV had to take a back seat because it would be far more destructive to impose the fake maps than it would be to just accept disproportionate districts for two more years. At the same time, because the 1972 district netted 2 Congressional seats, the Court let those be imposed on an interim basis. So, apparently they weren't so odious or destructive.
On the other hand, the legitimately passed 1982 maps were put in place, for reasons both of pragmatism and of principle. The maps had been duly passed by the Legislature. While the right of referendum was an important Constitutional right, it was not so important as to throw the system into chaos. This was a 4-3 decision, with the dissenters basically calling the decision a wholly political one.
And with that in mind, the Court ultimately decided that the Assembly v Deukmejian was more applicable in this instance. The referendum situation ultimately bearing more similarity to the newer case than the older.
The court considered several maps in the case the referendum is put on the ballot:
The 2002 maps. They would have resulted in districts that varied by nearly 40% from largest to smallest. The court ultimately dismissed this as varying too far from the OPOV and not complying with the standards set in the 2008 redistricting initiative.
"Nesting ADs" - The Republicans also suggested just nesting assembly districts, which I suppose might present them with somewhat better chances to get to 1/3 representation. However, these districts did not in any meaningful way meet the listed requirements of the 2008 initiative (now Article XXI) and would "defer" too many voters from their new districts for too long.
The GOP Dream Plan - Basically, Republicans hired Anthony Quinn, an advisor to the GOP redistricting efforts in 1971 and 1981( and author one of five co-editors of the California Target Book) to come up with a set of maps when they first challenged the maps for legality, and now they want to try it again. The Court said this would take too long and would not yield a better map than the final option.
The Commission map - The SoS and the Commission argued that the commission map best meets the goals of Art XXI, is ready to be implemented, and would cause the least amount of upheavel. Ultimately, the Court agreed, adding that any new plan would not be vetted by the public at all and yield additional hardship
Now, while seemingly less interesting, the question of authority seems to have been a more controversial question. In fact, Justice Liu wrote a concurring opinion, but pointed out that the Court did not need to come to a decision on whether they have the power to intercede in a situation where the referendum is only likely to succeed. I'll not dwell too long on this issue, but if you are interested, read the concurring opinion down there at the end of the decision.
To put it as succinctly as possible, Justice Liu feels that the majority could have come to the decision of using the Commission's map without deciding that "under California Constitution, article VI, section 10, this court is authorized to issue an order to show cause and decide which districts should be used in the event a proposed referendum directed at a Commission-certified redistricting map qualifies for the ballot, even in the absence of a showing that the proposed referendum is likely to qualify for the ballot."
He felt that the decision could have been arrived at simply by looking at the superiority of the Commission's map as an interim map. Legally, narrowly tailored decisions are preferred, so this one went too far. Perhaps Liu is right that at some point in the future this decision could be abused for political purposes, but ultimately it is a question that will bear more importance in the future than it does for the 2012 Senate maps.
And so, as they say, that is a quick summary of the case.
As I mentioned earlier, the Supreme Court decided a few things on redistricting today. Obviously this is a major blow to the Republicans. Let the whining commence:
Republican State Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, a leader of the referendum drive, blasted the ruling as "shortsighted and disrespectful" of California voters who signed petitions and are awaiting the opportunity to vote on the commission's Senate maps.
"They kind of gutted the whole idea behind the referendum process," said Dave Gilliard, another leader of the drive to kill the maps.
Peter Yao, current chairman of the commission, countered that use of the commission maps is important to maintain electoral stability and that the challenge is based on "partisan self interest" that has "cost precious taxpayer dollars to defend."(SacBee)
Except that, as the court stated in the decision the power of referendum isn't the only constitutional right in question in this case. The power of referendum, which grants to 5 percent of the state's voters the power to put to a vote, does not override all other constitutional rights.
But whine as they may, the Commission's maps do present a very good Democratic opportunity to pick up that fateful 27th seat. With Sen. Blakeslee already saying he wouldn't run in the Commission's district, there are few routes for the Republicans to maintain 14 seats. Possible, certainly, but they'll need a pretty strong election cycle.
It is all rather ironic, really. Now that Schwarzenegger got his wish in the redistricting initiative, the Republicans are freaking out. While the Republicans (and ProPublica) whine that the system was gamed, six Republican appointees just finalized (mostly) the process.
As was said on Twitter by many Sacramento-watchers, what could the CRP have done with all the money they just wasted on this measure. It now seems rather hard to fathom that the CRP either has the resources to pass this measure, or would even want to. Who knows what other map is around the corner. This was really all about stalling the Commission maps for a cycle. It would have been expensive and unlikely that they could defeat the maps, and the CRP knew that. They were just hoping to hold on for one more cycle.
So much for that. I'll be posting a brief summary of the legal opinion shortly.
Court must decide how they want to intervene with impending referendum possible in June
by Brian Leubitz
UPDATE: Here is the decision in PDF. Basically the Court opted for the suggestion that I believe was made by Justice Liu to use the Commission's maps on an interim basis if the referendum does succeed in getting on the ballot. At the hearing, Justice Liu noted that it was at the very least one way of meeting all the goals of redistricting initiative. So, on that, we now know the maps we'll be voting on in June and November. More in a bit.
And dipping below 1/3 of the Senate would basically mean that the swing vote would no longer be a Republican, but a conservative Democrat. It is a prospect that would dry up funding from lobbyists, as who really wants to lobby an irrelevant politician? Whatever power they do have through the supermajority revenue measure would do little for them. They claim they gathered sufficient signatures, but that is far from clear. As of right now, the status of the initiative is that it had enough signatures to not be bounced at the random check stage, but not enough that it didn't have to get a more thorough check. The more thorough check won't be decided until mid to late February.
The problem with that is that it would leave precious little time to come up with some other map to vote on for the June "primary" election. The Supreme Court's hearing thus addressed which of many map options they could use, what the meaning of "likely to qualify" is, and whether they could use the Commission's map instead of drawing their own.
Supreme Court considers whether the referendum is "likely to qualify"
by Brian Leubitz
UPDATE: Well, I've had a bit of time to digest the hearing, and I'm still as unsure what they will do as I was at 9AM. There are essentially a few different options:
1) Don't intervene until there is more indication of whether the referendum will qualify. While there is great speculation in the political world whether it will qualify, the hearing itself didn't seem to really focus all that much time on this issue. "Likely to qualify" has some history as a term in the Court's jurisprudence, but much of it essentially comes down to a fluidity based on context. The Court could use this in many ways to justify one outcome or another.
2) "Intervene" now, but leave the map in place. Justice Liu brought up this suggestion. As there is a dearth of time to create a new map, and the map drawn by the commission represents the best attempt at trying to draw a map that meets all the goals of the legal requirements. This, as you would expect, would make the Republican proponents none too happy.
3) Intervene and have voters vote on the old map. This idea came up a couple of times during the hearing, and it just seems insane to me. The old maps had to be changed because we had population shifts. Thus, using the old maps would mean that people would have unequal representation in the Senate. Now, there is some legal precedence for this when there is a really good reason, but I just think this "solution" raises a lot more questions than it answers.
4) Intervene and have voters vote on a new map. Where do we start on this one. Well, you could have a special master draw the map. The Republicans wouldn't be guaranteed that they would like that one any more than they like the Commission's map. And, as a bonus, you get a process that essentially has no transparency because the judges and the special master just wouldn't have time to take any public comment.
The related system that came up was "nested Assembly districts", meaning just smush two Assembly districts and bam, you have a Senate district map. But that system would result in some pretty nasty Voting Rights Act questions, and then you are back at square one with having to design a new map.
I think that John Myers was right when he tweeted that the Justices were inclined to intervene. However, I just don't know that they have any good options to replace the Commission's map. We should have a ruling by the end of the month at the latest.
John Myers has been tweeting the hearing, and while he thinks that the Supremes are leaning toward intervening, I think it is still something of an open question. I have learned to never underestimate James Brosnahan.
That is a difficult question of fact, and not at all clear. The proponents did not turn in the usual cushion that would make it really likely to qualify. The number of signatures puts qualification at risk.
2) What alternative map would you use?
Using the old maps, one of the proponents suggestions, presents the question of equal representation. The other main alternative would be to hire one special master, and basically have that person draw the maps. Is that really what the voters wanted when they voted for the commission?
I wanted to give you an update on my congressional race.
On Monday, the LA Times reported some good news about California's redrawn Congressional districts. According to the Times, Republican "party leaders aren't happy about the situation. Some say privately that the GOP could lose up to five of its 19 California congressional seats."
However, the Times also quotes David Wasserman, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, who said "there are some Republican opportunities" as well. Specifically, Republican strategists have targeted my race because Congressional District 24 "has been made more compact and more evenly divided between Democrats and Republican voters." LA Times link
Without question, my district is the toughest Democratic-held seat to defend in California. The district has the slimmest margin of Democratic voters in the state.
During my time in Congress, I have developed strong relationships with the residents of my district. But the Republican playbook is to "nationalize" this race and try to distract voters from my solid record working as their representative in Washington and providing effective constituent services.
Already Karl Rove's SuperPAC Crossroads GPS has run a false TV ad criticizing me for supporting Healthcare reform. The National Republican Campaign Committee also ran a TV ad against me in the district that the Washington Post factchecker debunked, giving it "4 Pincocchios!"
There are at least three Republicans who have indicated they may run. Millionaire Abel Maldonado is running and has already invested $250,000 of his own money in the race. Tea Party favorites Tom Watson and Chris Mitchum are also running and they tied for first place in a recent straw poll, showing their ability to energize the Republican base.
Meanwhile, I'm not taking any chances. Our experienced campaign manager, Kris Pratt, is on the ground now and we're staffing up our finance and field teams so we can be ready for 2012.
I know there's a big bulls-eye on my race, so I'm reaching out to you and progressive activists across California. I hope you'll play a big role in my campaign. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or get involved at www.cappsforcongress.com
We need your help to organize in my district and raise money so we can communicate with voters. We need to win seats like CD24 to take back the U.S. House of Representatives.
So I hope you'll join me in 2012 and help us keep California's beautiful Central Coastal district blue.
Measure would put maps on the ballot in June, leave 2012 districts to the Courts
by Brian Leubitz
As I've mentioned here in the past, the Senate maps aren't so much biased, as no longer crazy incumbent protection rackets. And with that risk, the Republicans face the very real risk of losing their 1/3 superminority and thus becoming pretty much irrelevant. I've outlined many of the complexities of the situations if the measure does qualify, but let's go with complicated.
But that is a big if at this point. Scott Lay in his wonderful Nooner daily email laid out the situation for qualification:
As expected, the referendum of the state senate plan met the raw count requirement. With 51 counties reporting, 697,392 signatures were counted. Now, counties have until January 10 to conduct and report a random sample for validity. If fewer than 95% of the 504,760 required signatures are projected to be valid, the referendum fails. If the projection exceeds 110% of the required signatures, it qualifies. In between, it proceeds to a full count.
This will be a nail-biter, with the validity of the 209,163 signatures from Los Angeles likely being make-or-break. In contrast, paycheck protection/deception is on track to qualify with 920,569 signatures and a 70% validity rate (before Los Angeles has reported). Carrying forward the trend, it will have 648,000 signatures and won't need a full count. To avoid failure, redistricting petitions need 68.8% validity in the random sample. With 79.6% validity, a full count will be avoided. If a full count occurs, actual validity of 72.4% would be needed.
Typical validity rates are between 70 and 77 percent, so while the low-end 68.8 will likely be met, there is no guarantee. A full count could mean that we don't know whether this will be on the ballot until March. At which point, it would be nearly impossible to draw up some new set of maps. At this point, it seems tough to imagine a situation where we aren't voting on the commission's maps. If the June referendum winds up somehow tossing the maps out...well, more fun will surely ensue.
Party that put redistricting on the ballot decides it didn't work out for them after all.
by Brian Leubitz
Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the center of many of the so-called "good government reforms" of the past decade. The same is true of the redistricting initiatives. Our former Republican governor was all about the commission, and how it is going to make our districts more fair and competitive. Now, the competitive thing was something of a joke anyway, as we have already self-sorted to such a degree that it would be nearly impossible to draw more than 25% of districts competitive even if that was your main goal.
But other Republicans besides the Governator weren'ts always as excited about the commission. They had managed to hold off irrelevancy by getting some pretty rigged districts to allow them to maintain their super-minority 1/3+ in both legislative chambers.
The question of the districts for next year now goes to the courts, as they will now have to determine which maps we vote on during the June primary. They can either opt to go with the commission's maps or have a special master draw up a new Senate map. I'm sure you will be hearing something about this fairly soon, as candidates, elections officials, and activists are all needing to get an idea for what Senate district they are in.
So, thanks for that CRP, confusion and chaos, the hallmarks of a good Republican party.
UPDATE: Given the amount of signatures that the CRP folks turned in, checking the signatures is going to take a long time. They only turned in just over 700K signatures, and given standard validity rates, they will be around 103-107% of the target. According to California law, that means a more timely "full count."
With the minimum valid signatures for a referendum being 504,760, the Senate redistricting referendum would need a projected 555,236 valid signatures (110% of the number required) to quickly qualify.
But Gilliard said in an email this afternoon that he believes the final valid signature tally won't be above 520,000 (103% of the required number) and could be as low as 518,000 (103% of the required number). That would mean a full count... and much longer for the final verdict to be rendered.
And here's where we come back to the legal fight.
The original plaintiff, Orange County GOP activist Julie Vandermost, is also the proponent of the referendum. Vandermost's lawsuit, rejected on October 26 by the California Supreme Court, asserted that the existence of a redistricting referendum, under the process laid out by Proposition 11 and Proposition 20, compels the Court to draw interim Senate districts for 2012. (CapNotes)
So, we're talking about this measure possibly qualifying after the date that candidates can formally announce their bids for the district. Given those considerations, does anybody think that the Court could do anything but temporarily pick maps that already exist? And since using the old maps would violate the whole one man, one vote thing, what other maps are available to use for a June primary other than the commission maps?
Now, if the referendum does indeed kill the maps in June, the Court will need to draw up new maps. Whether the CRP will like those anymore is anybody's guess. That being said, it seems quite unlikely that the electorate will really over turn maps drawn by an independent commission based upon what is likely to be seen as Republican partisan BS. The June primary will be pretty awful for Democrats, but Republicans will probably have already selected their nominee. Even in these partisan conditions is a partisan argument really going to carry the day?
But, be prepared for "they're going to raise your taxes" ads threatening the end of the Republican veto.
And deceptive signature gathering practices abound...
by Brian Leubitz
Last week, I ran into Safeway to grab a few groceries and saw the various assortment of your typical signature gatherers. I'm always intrigued to see what they are pushing, and how hard they are pushing it, so I took a look.
It looked like the one who approached me had a couple of clipboards but she only asked me about one, a measure to "repeal the new districts proposed by the NAACP."
"Interesting," I said, "because that measure is in fact paid for by the California Republican Party. They have already pumped more than a half a million dollars into it."
"Oh, that's not what they told me. They told me it was from the NAACP and Equality California."
"Well," I said, "that just isn't true, and you probably shouldn't be telling people that."
I was in a bit of a rush so I ran in and grabbed my few groceries. As I was headed out, I saw the signature gatherer speak to another gentleman. I quickly told him that it was paid for by the Republican party and he immediately said no thanks.
That's when the story gets more interesting, as the other signature gatherer decides to tell me that it was Equality California that hated the Senate maps. I assured him that was not true and that I am in fairly regular contact with EQCA. He would not take no for an answer and kept telling me that Equality California was paying for this. That is somewhat laughable as it fairly well-known that EQCA is having some serious money issues and could not consider funding something like that even if they were against the maps. (Which, as far as I know, they are not.)
But, rest assured, dear reader, that it was the CRP and their friends that are trying to put the referendum on the ballot. The irony that their one time savior, Arnold Schwarzenegger, put this thing on the ballot is kind of funny. But, now the right-wing interests are out to get it:
The financial woes of the California Republican Party have been well documented. The state GOP had just over $200,000 in the bank as of July 1, but in recent days, it has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into an effort to repeal the new state Senate district lines drawn by an independent commission earlier this year.
The source of that money has been the source of some speculation in Capitol circles since it began moving late last week. Jeff Green, a spokesman for George Joseph, the head of Mercury Insurance, confirmed Tuesday that Joseph wrote the state party a $1-million check to specifically fund the state party's efforts to have those Senate district lines redrawn. (LA Times)
Joseph also funded last year's Prop 17, the skeezy insurance measure that would discriminate against drivers that dropped their coverage for whatever reason. If they do get the entirety of this million bucks to the signature gatherers, they have a decent shot at qualifying, but it is far from guaranteed. They have to get 504,000 valid signatures by Nov. 13.
Now, the California Supreme Court today unanimously said that the Senate and Congressional maps are valid under the state and federal constitutions. If the CRP is successful in gathering enough signatures, it will then be up to the Court to decide which maps the state should use in June when the referendum will take place. They could either have their own drawn up by a special master, or just use the maps the commission drew up. It certainly wouldn't shock me to see them just use the Commission's maps even if it does go to a referendum. And, of course if the referendum goes through, well, all hell breaks loose and the Court has to come up with a new map.
(Welcome to Rep. Lois Capps - promoted by Brian Leubitz)
By Rep. Lois Capps
Dear Calitics community:
After following your smart takes on California and national politics, I thought it was time I joined the conversation. Here's my first post -- an update on my congressional campaign.
First, thank you for many years of support. Without the help of grassroots activists, I never would have been elected to Congress. And I never would have been able to write the Nurse Reinvestment Act to address our nationwide nursing shortage, help get Health Insurance Reform enacted, protect our coastline from more offshore drilling, vote against the Iraq war, stand up for a woman's right to choose and provide more opportunity for the middle class. I'm proud of my record and can keep going, but my message today is about politics.
This election is different.
There has been a lot of discussion here about the redistricting commission and their new maps.
The new, final map makes my 24th district the toughest Democratic seat to defend in California. No other congressional district has lost as many registered Democrats as mine. For the past ten years, my district had an 18% Democratic registration advantage. Now the seat has only 3% more Democrats than Republicans.
Republican effort to repeal maps faces uphill battle
by Brian Leubitz
Field Poll's latest effort focuses on the question of the redistricting commission (full PDF here), and well, wait, that happened?
California voters are inclined to support the political maps drawn by a commission they created, but nearly two-thirds are unfamiliar with the work of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a new Field Poll shows.
The survey found huge majorities of Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisans unfamiliar with the 14-member panel and its work this year to craft new political boundaries for 80 state Assembly seats, 40 Senate seats and 53 members of Congress from California.(SacBee)
To the right, you can see the numbers, but one thing sticks out. Informed voters like the plan and aren't interested in repealing them. As in, they remember about the fact that they played a part in approving Prop 11, and don't really mind how it went down. That's really not good news for those who are trying to repeal the Senate and Congressional maps (the Republicans.)
Already we're hearing about spin on these numbers, arguing that claims of special interests getting preferential treatment will inspire voters to kick the maps back to the "independent" (as in, vastly more Republican than the state as a whole) judiciary.
Unless some sort of major funding (as in tens of millions) comes in, these maps look pretty solid to survive. Good luck to the Republicans in their effort to play the good government hero against, um, well, those evil nonpartisan good government organizations.
After their fallen savior, Arnold Schwarzenegger, set up the redistricting commission and pushed it through the electorate, Republicans were admittedly a bit worried. Well, it seems they are in an all-out panic as they are concerned that Democrats could get a 2/3 majority in the Senate. They are already gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot, and they have raised a decent amount of cash for that effort.
But there is some concern on their side that the maps would be used for 2012 even if they do get it on the ballot. And so, a lawsuit:
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is an Orange County businesswoman but it was prepared by attorneys for the group Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) , which is backed by the California Republican Party and Senate Republican Caucus.
"We think there are serious constitutional flaws in the Senate plan related to what the commission was required to do and what they ended up doing,'' said Dave Gilliard, the political consultant behind the group. "There were numerous examples of cities and counties being split between districts irrationally and without explanation.'' (LA Times)
Except there is one, giant, gaping whole in their logic: somebody had to be split up. In every redistricting process where you have to divide every district equally, you have to split some geographic or political community up somehow. That's just the numbers. This year Sacramento County drew the short stick, but it is always somebody. It seems a big stretch to say that the commission didn't follow the new rules requiring consideration of boundaries, especially as that was third down the line, with Voting Rights Act considerations trumping all else.
Of course, they are bringing the VRA up in this legislation, but considering the lengths the commission went to in their process on the VRA, anything more than a few minor tweaks seems unlikely. But, facing irrelevance, the Senate Republicans are pulling out all the stops.
Former Governor Joins Effort to Overturn Commission's Maps
by Brian Leubitz
While Arnold Schwarzenegger was all over the place in his effort to pass the redistricting measure on the ballot a few years back, his fellow California Republicans were very mixed on the subject. Some supported it out of team jersey loyalty, while others just weren't comfortable with an unknown entity.
It seems that discomfort lingers, as the Republican Senate Caucus, along with some other rich Republicans, is attempting to kill the maps. They now have a brand new, and high profile, ally:
Wilson and other GOP leaders have sent out a fundraising appeal to help finance a referendum drive that would give the state's voters a chance to repeal the maps drawn by a Citizens Redistricting Commission. The GOP leaders say in a five-page memo to several thousand potential donors that the new districts could help give Democrats a two-thirds majority in the Senate. ...
"The state Senate lines drawn by the California Redistricting Commission virtually guarantee a Democrat Super-majority in the California State Senate in 2012," the mailer added. "A successful drive to put a referendum on the June 2012 ballot is the best way to prevent this from happening." (LA Times)
But the problem for the Republicans is that even a victory at the ballot doesn't mean that they'll get what they want. If they do get an initiative on the ballot, the district lines will be tossed to the judges. And while there are more Republicans on the Court, they aren't really the idealogues that the Republicans really want. And they are very process-y, which would seem to indicate that they would prefer something similar to the maps as drawn by the commission.
But, right now they are sitting at just $92,500, and they are going to need a lot more money fast to get the referendum on the ballot.
GOP plans for an attack on the maps, dreams of a brighter past.
By Brian Leubitz
As we mentioned earlier, the Redistricting Comission was scheduled to vote on their maps today. Despite some public pressure on the GOP Comissioners, the vote remains unchanged and it passed:
The first voter-approved California Citizens Redistricting Commission finished its No. 1 job this morning and adopted new maps for Congress, state Assembly and Senate and the Board of Equalization.
The boundaries will be in effect for the next decade until the 2020 Census triggers a revision.
Passage was never really in question despite grumbling from a few corners. The Several commissioners expressed frustration with some of the maps but conceded that wholesale perfection was unattainable in a state with so many competing interests. (I confess, I couldn't hear everything that was said. The webstream kept cutting out; perhaps the site was overtaxed.) (Lisa Vorderbrueggen/bay Area News)
But don't think redistricting could be done easily here in California. Already one commissioner is alleging that other commissioners held secret meetings in violation of the rules laid out in Prop 11. The other commissioners are denying the charge, and perhaps this is an instance of trying to provide something for the inevitable GOP lawsuit. But in any case, it looks like the Republicans aren't going to limit themselves to a lawsuit.
"A referendum will be filed with respect to the Senate lines and possibly the congressional lines," said California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro. "The California Republican Party will wholeheartedly support those efforts when they come about."
He said the redistricting commission's actions "have been unfair if not unconstitutional."
GOP lawmakers and activists have formed a committee called Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting to launch a petition drive to overturn the state Senate lines, according to Republican political consultant Dave Gilliard. The new district boundaries could give Democrats the two-thirds majority in the Legislature needed to pass taxes.
The Senate Republican Caucus has voted to endorse the referendum drive, according to Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga. (LA Times)
You'll have to forgive me when I let out my cry of shock upon that news. Unfair! Unconstitutional! Just plain outrageous! Of course, other than the trumped up charge of back room deals (because that would be sooooo different than past redistricting plans), the is no real evidence if anything running contrary to the intent of the proposition. On the contrary, on the whole, these commissioners went bode and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to make this a transparent and open process. The meetings were all webcast, and they traveled the state to hear from as many people as possible.
Of coursem if this does go to a referendum, we then toss it to the Supreme Court which hardly represents the will of the people of California. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to believe that the Court would come up with anything much more favorable to Republicans. But, if the GOP wants to attack their own creation, I won't be the one to wipe away Arnold Schwarzenegger's crocodile tears.
Redistricting Commission votes on final maps today
by Brian Leubitz
"Paying off" is really a loaded phrase. Sure, the redistricting commission has done a ton of work, and they deserve rich praise for that. But, as noted last week, it is something of a fool's errand. The districts are too large, and so they are constantly fighting competing interests that ensure few will be really satisfied when the time comes. But, today is the day when the work of the Commission will "pay off."
Be that as it may, today is the day that the Commission will vote on its final maps. They have already tentatively approved the last visualization, and it appears that they have the votes for passage. However, over the last few days, they have been receiving testimony of disgruntled groups. Some are more serious than others. Notably, MALDEF has suggest rejection of these maps because they underrepresent the Latino community. Many other localized, and valid, concerns have been raised. But, the feeling from the meetings is that the Commissioners feel that this is the best they could do.
The GOP has been putting public pressure on one of the 3 supportive Republicans to change their vote, but that seems unlikely. If it is approved, expect to see the GOP quickly file papers for a referendum. They are terrified that they might lose their superminority in one or both houses of the Legislature. However, whether they have the money is seriously in doubt. As of last reports, they had less than a quarter of a million dollars in the bank. That's not enough to throw a good party, let alone put a measure on the ballot.
But at some level, there has to be a sense of fatalism to the complaints:
If it's all just grumbling, then perhaps the lessons of this redistricting process -- the first of its kind in California -- will improve future efforts. The ultimate reality of redistricting is that the lines have to go somewhere; but keeping the criticism at a low level will no doubt help remind voters why they chose the new system in the first place.(John Myers)
With lines that nearly touch a million, there are going to be some very tough choices. That is inevitable. And people will be disappointed. Peter Schrag, in a brilliant column, over at the California Progress Report points out that pretty much everybody is going to be disappointed in one way or another. And, despite the potential for Democrats to take 2/3 majorities in each House, it may not be enough:
But maybe the biggest frustrated expectation in this set of political reforms could be the hope of the left that Democrats may at last get the two or three additional seats in each house to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to raise taxes without Republican votes.
Democrats may get the seats, but don't count on the votes. The Republican minority, in rigidly blocking any road to tax increases or, as this year, even a ballot measure giving voters a chance to extend the expiring taxes that the legislature itself approved in prior years, also protected Democrats from the voter backlash against the tax increases that they might have voted for. California Democrats have also voted for corporate tax loopholes.
If any new competitive districts produce those marginal Democrats, how eager will they be to vote for boosts in the vehicle license fee, the sales tax, or the gas tax? How willing would Gov. Jerry Brown be to sign such tax increases? In his last terms as governor his austere heart was always in thinking small for an era of limits. He stiffed the universities and never trusted big institutions.(Peter Schrag)
But for today, let's keep an eye on the Redistricting Commission. They are likely to get a few legal challenges, and perhaps that referendum. However, the redistricting task is a huge one, and they've done their best in a thoughtful process. You can watch the meetings live at their website and check out the maps here. The meeting is today at 9AM in Room 4203 of the State Capitol.