When the state’s new redistricting commission released its final maps of 177 congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization districts last month, it touched off a political frenzy.
The election lineups for 80 Assembly and 40 Senate districts appear to be working themselves out.
Democrats are likely to make gains, but with so many legislators forced out by term limits every two years and so many running for Congress, the net effect on incumbent lawmakers will be minimal.
The big action, it appears, will be in the state’s 53 congressional seats, prized by politicians for not having term limits. Democrats are likely to gain seats, and quite a few incumbents will be fighting for their political lives if they don’t retire.
Take, for instance, the new 21st Congressional District in the lower San Joaquin Valley. Its putative incumbent is Democrat Jim Costa, barely re-elected last year, and just 46 percent of the new district’s voters are registered Democrats.
Costa hopes that fellow Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza will retire so that he can shift seats.
While he frets, former state Sen. Dean Florez and his successor, Sen. Michael Rubio, may be headed for a primary matchup in the 21st Congressional District, with the winner facing Republican Assemblyman David Valadao in what is now a tossup district.
Another example: As Rep. Bob Filner steps down, first-term state Sen. Juan Vargas and his predecessor, Denise Moreno Ducheny, head for a showdown in San Diego’s new 51st Congressional District.
Los Angeles County, which is losing congressional seats, is ground zero for political angst.
The San Fernando Valley’s new 30th Congressional District, for instance, could see a duel between two veteran Democrats, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, while Republican Reps. Ed Royce and Gary Miller are forced into a similar shootout in the 39th Congressional District.
Freshman Assemblyman Roger Hernandez had to abandon his congressional plans in the 32nd District when Rep. Grace Napolitano decided to make it her new home, thus avoiding a clash with Rep. Linda Sanchez in the 38th District, but Sanchez still faces a challenge from state Sen. Ron Calderon.
The 44th District, which stretches through Compton to the Los Angeles port area, features a potential three-way contest that reflects its complex ethnic makeup — mostly Hispanic on paper but more likely, in realpolitik terms, to elect either a white or a black Democrat.
Rep. Laura Richardson, who is African-American, may run in the 44th District, but newly elected Rep. Janice Hahn, who is white, may have no choice but to run. Assemblyman Isadore Hall is another likely black candidate.
The district is so overwhelmingly Democratic that the top two vote-getters could both be Democrats and face each other in the November election under the state’s new “top two” primary system.
Dan Walters’ Sacramento Bee columns on state politics are syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service.