Redrawn districts send pols scrambling
THIS IS THE map for the new Congressional district for the Valley.
When Sonoma Valley voters go to the polls next year, they're going to find some big changes in the districts they vote in and the candidates they vote for.
With next June's primary, voters will notice that boundaries for Congress, the state Senate and Assembly, have changed.
Some familiar politicians who have been on the ballot will be termed out, running in a new district or retiring - and in some cases, a combination of the first two.
In the new districts, Sonoma and Sonoma Valley will be in the same congressional district. But the city and the Valley will be in separate state Senate and Assembly districts.
This is because the districts were redrawn after the 2010 census by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The CCRC was formed as a result of Proposition 11 that voters passed in November 2008. Proposition 11 takes redistricting out of the hands of politicians and puts it in the hands of an independent panel.
The CCRC was composed of 14 members - five Democrats, five Republicans and four "Declined to State."
As an example, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, whose current district runs from Napa County - jutting into the Valley to pick up the city of Sonoma, and continues up through Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, will move into a more compact district that includes both the City of Sonoma and the Valley and runs east to Solano County and north to Lake County.
Thompson has decided to run in his new district. Earlier this week, he released a statement about his plans.
"I am extremely pleased and excited that the new district lines will reunite me with areas in Sonoma County that I have had the honor to represent in the past," said Thompson.
"I've always represented part or all of Sonoma County in both the State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. The district changes and transition will be seamless and the outpouring of support from communities in Sonoma County has been overwhelming and heart-warming. While I am sad to lose some areas of Sonoma County, I feel that I am going home in others, and I look forward to working hard on behalf of all of Sonoma County."
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, is retiring, and her current district runs from the Golden Gate, covers Marin County, most of Sonoma Valley and most of Sonoma County. The new district starts at the Golden Gate, bypasses the Valley and runs up to the Oregon border.
The City of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley will be in different Assembly districts. Sonoma will be part of a district that includes all of Marin County and includes Petaluma, Sebastopol and parts of Santa Rosa. Sonoma Valley is in a district that includes most of Napa County, part of Solano County and parts of Lake and Mendocino County.
Some of the Senate districts will stay intact until 2014 because of sitting senators. But in the new districts, Sonoma and the Valley will again be separated.
Sonoma will be in a district that includes Napa, Solano and Yolo counties while the Valley will be in a district that runs from the Golden Gate up to the Oregon border.
But having the city and Valley in different districts isn't such a bad idea, said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University.
"While it may be confusing to the voters, it's not necessarily bad for local governments," he said. This means there could be two legislators working on shared problems.
McCuan has been following the redistricting commission as it released its various maps.
"The first version was really crude," he said. "It was poorly thought out. But the final version demonstrates growth."
But, he said the maps are by no means perfect.
McCuan said the new districts sometimes put incumbent legislators in the same district, and he pointed out that Democrats Wes Chesbro and Mike Allen would be in the same Assembly district.
"A lot of politicians are up in the air about what to do," he said. Some might move to another district instead of butting heads with another incumbent.
McCuan wasn't surprised that Thompson decided to stay in his congressional district instead of moving to the coastal district.
"Mike got a lot safer," McCuan said. "Mike's a player in D.C., he was a player in Sacramento and this cements his position. This was designated a wine district by the CCRC."
"This is a pretty good fit," he added. "As a blue-dog Democrat, he has the ability to appeal to the ag vote to those on the east side of the district. It's solidly Democratic."
There will also be other changes in the 2012 primary where the top two vote-getters will face off in the November election - and in many cases, especially in the blue areas of the state, this means two Democrats could be facing each other, shutting out the Republicans altogether.
McCuan said the Republicans, who were in favor of the CCRC redrawing districts, are now challenging the new district lines in court because they're fearful it could create a super-majority for the Democrats in Sacramento in either the Assembly or the Senate. And he said if the challenge doesn't hold up in court, the Republicans are prepared to take it to a ballot initiative.
One initiative certain to be on the ballot next year is one that alters term limits.
Currently, someone can serve three two-year Assembly terms and two four-year Senate terms. An initiative could change that to 12 years total in either the Senate or the Assembly.
"In early polling, this looks like it could pass," McCuan said. "It did well in focus groups."
To see all of the districts statewide, see swdb.berkeley.edu/gis/gis2011/.