Review of newest California Congressional map drafts

California’s draft Congressional maps are changing fast. Saturday, Sacto Politico published our first distillation of the first draft maps issued by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. This include major implications for districts in the Central Valley, Greater Sacramento Metro Area, and Los Angeles. (For that story, see this link.) But now a few days later, the commission has released a revised set of maps with equally tantalizing changes.

Below is an update on the main map changes we are tracking. And remember the commission comprises 14 citizen commissioners: five Democratic seats, five Republican and four Independent. They are required to work in a nonpartisan fashion toward a deadline of Dec. 27 to finalize all maps – including State Assembly and Senate seats. And you can still submit your map input here.


Note: we aren’t diving into state assembly and senate redistricting because the changes aren’t expected to be as dramatic. But your local outlets may be covering interesting changes, such as this piece from the Elk Grove News. So check those outlets out and get involved.


1. Second round to Democrats


In terms of impact on partisan fortunes, the biggest map change is the returning of the blue city of Tracy to Democratic incumbent Josh Harder’s CA-10. Tracy had been lumped into a San Jose district. This helped take Harder’s district from +3 Biden in 2020 to +1 Trump. Returning the city of 90,000 to Harder’s district would swing things back to a slight demographic advantage for the two-term Harder, against whom the Republicans have yet to recruit a top opponent.


I had rated the first map as being an overall benefit to Democrats as it newly exposed Republicans Darrel Issa and Devin Nunes to plausible challenges, would shift Republican Mike Garcia’s CA-25 seat solidly blue, and would shrink the competitive map elsewhere for Republicans. Only Ami Bera’s suburban Sacramento district became more competitive for the GOP, and despite some small boundary-change benefits for freshmen Michelle Steele and Young Kim, both of their Orange County seats remain in play.


2. Titanic Central Valley battles ahead?


Once again, the Central Valley maps have changed dramatically. On Thursday, the commissioners spent more than two hours – including in private session – discussing the newest revisions there with staff. The first visualization maps put Nunes’ district in play and gave Republican incumbents David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy extremely long districts. At that time, mapping expert Paul Mitchell with the voting data firm Political Data Inc. saw a problem meeting the Voting Right Act’s need for two truly Hispanic minority-majority districts. Attempts to address this appear to have contributed most of the new changes.


With this version overall, Kevin McCarthy’s district goes back to something similar to its current boundaries, but King County and the remaining parts of Kern, Fresno and Tulare counties get chopped up differently between Valadao and Nunes. Interestingly, the latest boundaries would shift to more east-west than north-south as former Congressman T.J. Cox previously told Sacto Politico really should happen.

The result of these last changes could pit State Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D) of Bakersfield against Nunes in the Kings-Tulare-Kerns counties district. Valadao would have a more compact but less agriculturally predominant district to the north across Fresno and Tulare counties. Much needs to be settled on this map, but this could set up a third Valadao-Cox battle, provided Cox runs and emerges from a crowded primary field.


3. Loss of strongly Black district in L.A. – reversed

Due to flat population growth, Los Angeles needed to lose one house district. This happened; however, they did it by largely consolidating two highly African American districts into a single district. These were the districts held by Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), who is running for mayor in 2022, and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43). This resulted in just one district in Los Angeles with more than 30% African American voters. Thus many didn’t expect this to hold.


They were right. The latest maps now feature two districts with more than 30% black voting bases. The districts are called on the maps the 10Corridor (10CORR) and South LA (STHLA). However, in both districts, the Latino population surpasses the black population, but that is currently the case in the 37th and 43rd. Will that suffice? It probably will need to as there aren’t many other options given the overwhelming growth of Latino voters in and around those areas.


4. Purple(r) bruise in Sacramento County


If the first visualization maps gave Democratic incumbent Rep. Ami Bera a jolt, then the new draft added a tad more to it. His current district covers almost all of suburban Sacramento County, but the five-term pro-corporation moderate would lose all of his home base south of the American River including his hometown of Elk Grove. In turn, his district became purplish with the addition of a large part of conservative Placer County to the north, including Roseville and Rocklin.


But the newest maps have now also taken away the northeast suburb of Folsom. Long thought a conservative bastion, Folsom in 2020 went +7 for Biden and +3 for Bera. In fact, this was the first time Bera won Folsom in his six elections. Replacing Folsom in his new district would be conservative Lincoln in Placer County. For Bera, this means his probable new district will have gone from Biden +14 currently to +4 with last week map changes, to probably shaving an additional point off that this week.


Also noteworthy on Wednesday, Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin notified his supporters asking them whether in 2022 he should try to flip a Congressional seat, stay in the Assembly or attempt another longshot gubernatorial run against Newsom. This followed our speculation that he would be tempted to challenge Bera from the far right. Kiley would not respond to questions then, but his email confirmed his interest to climb the ladder. (For a review of Kiley and Bera’s pluses and minuses, see that original piece.)

Also worth a note is that while the Folsom change would hurt Bera, it could benefit Democratic newcomer Dr. Kermit Jones. They Navy veteran is challenging Republican incumbent Tom McClintock in CA-4 immediately to the east, and in the newest map, Folsom would move to this district and tangibly lower the Republican advantage in that district. For more on this, see the special Q&A with Dr. Jones in our next issue.


5. Garamendi: Man without a district? Or maybe not


As reported previously, the first redistricting maps left John Garamendi as the rare incumbent without a district. Of course, addressing incumbent preferences is not a commission consideration, but Garamendi’s CA-3 district was chopped up and divided among surrounding districts. This included his two key Democratic bases of Yolo and Solano counties going to separate districts.

But in what should be a big relief for Team Garamendi, the latest maps not only give Garamendi a distinct home district again. Plus it appears even more favorable for him over the current boundaries. This isn’t good news for Republican opponent Tamika Hamilton, as the newest district map center on Yolo County, adds all of Democratic West Sacramento, and part of Contra Costa County. The new district boundaries would keep Garamendi’s Walnut Grove hometown in the district.


Some future tweaking is possible as the commissioners did discuss in their Thursday meting a desire to keep all of Solano County together with Yolo County, and keep Contra Costa County more whole in a different district. These tweaks will all be dependent on making populations balance between districts elsewhere.


But the redistricting picture is coming more strongly into focus.


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