California’s “independent” redistricting commission has done it again, drawing a new congressional map Monday that favors incumbent Democrats, hurts Republicans, and removes a district from Los Angeles, the weaker of the state’s political cities.
After the 2010 election, the nation’s first supposedly non-partisan redistricting commission managed to draw districts that favored Democrats, giving the party several new seats. As a ProPublica investigation revealed, they had gamed the process:
To get the districts they wanted, Democrats organized groups that said they represented communities, but really represented the party.
The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.
When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.
In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map.
The new district map approved by the commission, Politico notes, “boosts Democrats,” despite the party’s declining polls:
Final maps approved late Monday by the state’s independent redistricting commission create more challenging districts for Republican incumbents without substantially undermining the prospects of vulnerable Democrats. While Democrats are poised to absorb California’s overall loss of a House seat due to declining population, the emerging map could point to Democrats holding ground or picking up seats.
Multiple Republican incumbents could have tougher paths to defending those seats as their districts shift to the left, including Reps. Mike Garcia, David Valadao and Michelle Steel. The changes could be particularly challenging for Garcia, who won by just over 300 votes in one of 2020’s closest contests, and Valadao, a moderate Republican who has long defied the registration odds in his majority-Democratic Central Valley seat.
Democratic Rep. Katie Porter’s Orange County seat gets slightly friendlier in a boost to the rising progressive star and prolific fundraiser. Second-term Democratic Rep. Mike Levin was boosted by last-minute changes to his San Diego area district that prevented it from shifting markedly to the right.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes’ seat is set to become much more Democratic — an outcome predicted in draft maps that dropped shortly before Nunes announced he would resign to run former President Donald Trump’s media operation. While Democratic Rep. Josh Harder’s current post would become more challenging, political observers anticipate Harder shifting to a newly created and friendlier seat.
The state is losing a House seat, but the loss will happen in Los Angeles, which is typically treated by California’s Democratic political elite, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, as little more than voting fodder for upstate politicians.
The Associated Press noted:
The borders of each California seat shifted slightly to fit the requirement that they represent 760,000 people. But it was the LA-area seat held by Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard that was effectively eliminated, with a huge portion of her district folding into another in Long Beach. Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress, announced Monday she won’t seek re-election.
Nor will Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal, who currently represents Long Beach. The city’s mayor, Democrat Robert Garcia, has already announced plans to run for Congress. Garcia is a close ally of Vice President Kamala Harris and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The Los Angeles Times claims that Latino voters will have more clout under the new map — which is possibly the only good news for Republicans, given that the Latino community has been trending away from Democrats recently.
Left-wing Democrats have pushed for “independent” districting commissions across the nation in recent years as the supposed counterweight to gerrymandering by Republicans, who have been more successful in winning state legislatures.
Former President Barack Obama and his highly partisan former Attorney General, Eric Holder, have led a nationwide campaign for such commissions. As California demonstrates, they are vulnerable to Democratic Party manipulation.
In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a promise to use an independent redistricting commission before reneging and allowing the state’s Democrat-dominated legislature to redraw the map after the state lost a congressional seat in the Census.