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Calif. GOP Fighting Gerrymandered State Senate at a Cost to U.S. House


LOS ANGELES—The newly drawn lines of California’s 53 U.S. House districts that could cost Republicans as many as six of the 19 seats they now hold are likely to remain in place for 2012.  In contrast to what seems to be a successful petition drive to appeal similarly gerrymandered lines of state senate districts in a statewide initiative next year, there is relatively little support for the same movement to thwart the new U.S. House boundaries drawn by a citizens commission earlier this year.
 
The situation is due in part to the fact that some senior Republican House members from the Golden State are happy with the “safe” districts they ended up with and do not want to help their endangered colleagues get another chance to survive politically in ’12.
 
That  conclusion has already been voiced repeatedly to HUMAN EVENTS by several angry Republicans throughout their state party convention being held here Sept. 16 to 18.  As they move closer to the election year, many blame Northern California multimillionaire Charles Munger Jr. for heavily funding the statewide propositions that created the new mechanism for drawing legislative and congressional district lines—and many are just as hostile toward some of their lawmakers in Congress for not backing an effort to overturn them.
 
‘Dr. Frankenstein’s’ Redistricting Plan
 
“We got this so-called ‘nonpartisan’ citizens commission of 14 to draw the lines of the districts and Munger was the ‘Dr. Frankenstein’ who made it happen,” said political strategist Jon Fleischman, former executive director of the state Republican Party and editor of the much-read FlashReport political news letter.  Fleischman recalled how in ’08, Munger, son of billionaire Warren Buffett’s business partner, put $1.3 million of his own money behind Proposition 11 (which mandated redistricting of legislative districts by the citizens’ commission) and in ’10, sunk another $12 million behind Proposition 20, which applied the same mechanism to congressional redistricting.
 
Both measures passed and led to Republicans getting the short end of the stick in redistricting.  Under the plan enacted by the commission, the present 15 Republican-held districts in the state senate would almost surely be reduced to 11 and thus give Democrats a veto-proof state senate.  A group known as Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) was hastily formed to fight the plan, and led by veteran GOP consultant Dave Gilliard, promptly raised major dollars from the state Republican Party and senators themselves for a petition drive to overturn the new senate lines.
 
Under the Golden State’s complex election laws, should FAIR collect more than 504,000 certified signatures on petitions, the state supreme court would be charged with hiring a special master to draw new senate district lines.  Voters would then decide in a statewide initiative (presumably in June of next year) whether to accept the lines of the court-appointed master or those of the citizens commission.
 
“So at least [Republicans] would have a fighting chance with what FAIR is trying to do,” said Fleischman.  “But the same thing is not happening with regard to the new congressional district lines, which are just as bad, and that’s because some of our Republican House members are being selfish.”
 
Some Incumbents Like Their Districts
 
Under the new congressional district lines, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier loses the Los Angeles County district he has held for 31 years.  Republican Reps. Ed Royce and Gary Miller have their Southern California districts merged, and 13-term Rep. Elton Gallegly finds himself in the same district as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon.  Republican Reps. Brian Bilbray (San Diego) and Dan Lungren (Sacramento) must now run in districts where the GOP base was substantially diluted.
 
But there are no signs of major dollars behind a similar effort to overturn these lines as there is for the state senate lines.  Several sources insisted to HUMAN EVENTS that Republican Rep. and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy has quietly discouraged a number of the Republican lawmakers in California’s U.S. House delegation from contributing to such an effort, and reportedly feels that the commission-drawn lines should stand.  (Fleischman noted that the new lines substantially enhance GOP numbers in McCarthy’s 22nd District; McCarthy was unavailable for comment).
 
Other Republicans we talked to said that Rep. and conservative hero Dana Rohrabacher is also perfectly satisfied with the new lines and doesn’t want them overturned.  One source who requested anonymity told HUMAN EVENTS that at a meeting in Rohrabacher’s home in Costa Mesa earlier this month, he told fellow Rep. Royce he would endorse him over their colleague Miller, but also urged Royce not to support a move to overturn the new lines.  (Rohrabacher, whose Orange County district became even more Republican, will endorse Royce later this week).
 
There were others at the convention who insisted that the anger over the commission-drawn lines for the congressmen was overblown, and their plan not as detrimental to the GOP as portrayed.
 
“No, it’s not as bad as you’re hearing,” said veteran GOP operative Marty Wilson, who managed Carly Fiorina’s U.S. Senate bid last year.  “Sure, Dreier has a real problem, and it’s going to be hard when incumbents have to oppose one another.  But Bilbray and Lungren can win again in their districts.  And [Democratic Rep. Lois] Capps is in a really competitive race for her Santa Barbara district [against liberal GOPer and former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado].  And [Democratic Rep. John] Garamendi’s district in the north is also now competitive.”
 
Wilson’s view was a minority among conventioneers.  For the most part, party activists would love to see the second chance at congressional redistricting that they are likely to get with the state senate map.  But all signs say that the money and resources are not there to deliver it, and for this situation, Republicans do blame some of their own.