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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Shock and Awe

Despite the holiday, the ProPublica story continues to get its fair share of ink.  The long tail of this story will likely be the drip, drip, drip of stories from the commission hearings of incumbents or candidates putting forward organized testimony.  Stories like this one identifying an Assembly candidate Tyler Diep as… wait for it… yes…. a participant in an… OMG…  Yes!.. Caught red handed in… you guessed it…  a public redistricting commission hearing!

And, no thanks to the bumbling Redistricting Commission, you have to actually use a site called “Google” to find his written testimony and it takes almost 10 seconds to scroll to page 20 where Diep discusses the Vietnamese community and its desire to stay whole in the redistricting process. 

Sorry to pick on Tyler, but this is just one of the hardly amazing stories that is hardly tough to find on the commission’s website.  And there are countless stories out there just waiting to be told about legislative leadership, organizations, individuals from both parties, candidates and incumbents trying to get something they wanted out of the commission.

News?  Probably not.  But it does give us something in an otherwise news-dead holiday season to gab about. 

Speaking of the holidays…   Christmas and Hanukah have passed by, but you still have time before Armenian Christmas on January 8th to get that special gift for Assembly Candidate Adrin Nazarian, Sen. Joe Simitian or Congresswoman Jackie Speier (Yes, her mom was Nancy Kanchelian).   If you go to Zazzle site using this link you will be able to view a collection of iPhone cases with the maps of all CA Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts.   Even if you don’t have an iPhone (yet) this will be a fun thing to keep in your office or give to a candidate you are supporting.  And, no, these lines do not change in the event of a successful Senate referendum or Congressional lawsuit. 

And in the holiday spirit, if you use this link to go to the store we will donate our merchant profit of 15% to the Tim Hodson Foundation at Sac State supporting the Capitol Fellows program.  Tim was a friend of Redistricting Partners and provided some valuable assistance when we started this adventure.  His passing was a great loss and we could not find a more fitting holiday gift than to support the program he loved.


California Redistricting: Democratic theatre or marionettes?
Pasadena Star-News
Scott Lay, education lobbyist and scribe behind Sacramento insider newsletter, The Nooner, perhaps summed that up best: "(P)eople that speak in public comment are usually organized by some other individual or organization. Only the crazy folks show up on their own." According to ProPublica, the smart folks might hire Paul Mitchell, a Democratic political consultant whose name has been inseparable from the redistricting process. By association, ProPublica implicates Mitchell, incidentally a friend of Lay, as a driving force in securing Congresswoman Judy Chu's redistricting interests through his consulting work for a community non-profit, The Asian American Education Institute.

CA redistricting commissioner: Dem manipulation charges “dead wrong”
San Francisco Chronicle
At least one member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is strongly refuting allegations that the Democratic Party manipulated the outcome, saying that the recent ProPublica account of state redistricting  ”just doesn’t match the process we went through.” “As a commission, we ran a very transparent process, so some of the allegations made in the story are easily disproved by a look at our website and the criteria we used,” said Connie Galambos-Malloy, one of four “decline to state” voters on the 14-member commission. “If the voters investigate, it’s clear that most of the allegations are dead wrong.”

The politics of redistricting in California
The Los Angeles Times
We're stunned. It turns out that Democratic Party politicians acted like Democratic Party politicians. They tried to game California's redistricting process to protect and expand their majorities in the Legislature and the state's congressional delegation. They met secretly, they sent each other notes and they gave testimony without revealing their affiliations. They made the redistricting process so — and it hurts to say this — political. Actually, no, we're not stunned at all. We may be dismayed, but that's nothing new. The question isn't whether Democrats acted like Democrats or politicians acted like politicians, but whether their cynical, business-as-usual approach to decennial redistricting so undermined the reformed process as to make it illegitimate.

Voting Rights are Local Rights
Urban Habitat
Social justice groups were able to shape the Commission, drive the discussion, and create outcomes that will have ramifications for the next decade. Their success can be measured in the number of majority minority districts created. According to analysis by Paul Mitchell of Redistricting Partners, the old map provided for 19 majority minority Latino districts, whereas the new map provides for 29, and one that is over 50 percent Asian. In addition, the Commission preserved several districts that, while not majority minority black, are likely to continue electing representatives from that community. “These lines provide a 20-year correction—finally reflecting the true electoral strength of minority communities,” says Mitchell.

Crybaby GOP can't face its real problems
Appeal Democrat
It's now all but official: The crybaby-of-the-year award for 2011 has to go to the California Republican Party for its sustained gripes about redistricting. The GOP's latest weeping jag began when the investigative-reporting service ProPublica, mostly published on the Internet, sent out a lengthy story titled "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission." What this report didn't note was the fact that some Republicans also tried to bamboozle the independent, bipartisan panel made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, with a few independents tossed in for good measure.

More smoke than fire in remap report
Press Democrat
Eyes-only messages, private meetings, public misdirection. ProPublica's account of redistricting in California has the elements of a classic Cold War spy story. According to the investigative reporting foundation, Democrats secretly manipulated the new Citizens Redistricting Commission to expand their majority in the state's congressional delegation. The article describes strategy sessions convened by House staffers, consultants hired to draw favorable districts and ersatz community groups formed to give testimony at commission hearings.

A Redistricting Consideration
Berkeley Political Review
With the census taken every ten years, states must redraw their state and congressional districts to reflect population changes. This process is no mere bureaucratic exercise: the drawing of districts has profound effects on the balance of power between parties within states. Recently, Californians have attempted to remove partisanship from redistricting by creating an independent Citizens Redistricting Committee. When the final maps for the state were released in August, however, they faced intense opposition from the California Republican Party.

Republicans' Misplaced Masochism
NBC Bay Area
California Republicans are a strange breed of masochists. They keep beating themselves up over the wrong thing. The recent ProPublica story that accused Democrats of fooling the redistricting commission has occasioned a round of Republicans masochism. GOP voices, when not denouncing the Democrats, are asking why they didn't do more to swing the redistricting commission, just like the Democrats. They should stop. If it's true that they didn't spend a ton of time and money trying to game the redistricting commission, they were wise not to do so. It would have a waste.

How Will the Political Landscape Change in California in 2012?
While January 1st marks the beginning of the new calendar year, for many political wonks Friday, December 30th is a date that holds more meaning. That day kicks off the official start of the new election season in California. Hold onto your hats, voters, candidates and observers, it is going to be an uncertain ride. Politics and elections in California seem to have become sadly predictable. Members of the public feel, in many cases, that donations carry more sway than votes. Incumbents, who are typically well-financed candidates, generally win re-election.

Redistricting Bombshell - Just The Tip Of The Iceberg
Flash Report
Yesterday’s bombshell report released by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism website, entitled "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission," systematically lays out the Democrats' manipulation of what should have been an open and transparent process, It also demonstrated exactly how the redistricting maps were corrupted by partisan activists working in cooperation with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

California GOP Leaders Say 'Probe More' Into Democratic Meddling With 'Non-Partisan' Redistricting
Human Events
Earlier this year, some California Republicans—notably House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy—made it clear they were content to go along with an ostensibly “nonpartisan” redistricting plan that would cost the GOP five of the 19 U.S. House districts it now holds in the Golden State. But recent revelations of a scheme by state Democrats to influence the citizens commission on the shape and population of California’s new congressional district lines has now put that plan into legal question and begun to rally state Republicans to shout: “Scrap the plan and investigate further!”

ProPublica Redistricting Report: GOP Manipulation They Missed in OC
Liberal OC
Last week, ProPublica released an investigative report entitled How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission. In their story reporters, Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson, alleged that Democratic elected officials, in particular the California Congressional delegation, manipulated the redistricting process. In a press release California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said; “The article charging California Democrats with manipulating California’s Redistricting Commission is pure fantasy.” His comments to  the San Francisco Chronicle were less censured and in character calling the report: “complete bulls..t, an absolute f..king fabrication."

Editorial: Republicans play the victim card on redistricting
Republicans in California are shocked — shocked! — that politics was going on in this year's political redistricting. A detailed article released online Wednesday by the investigative-reporting shop ProPublica — "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission" — reported on how Democratic operatives, organized out of Washington, used a variety of sub-rosa angles to try to influence the Citizens Redistricting Commission. That independent board, created by voter initiative, for the first time this year drew new political district boundaries without making incumbents' interests the top priority.

Answering Your Questions on Our California Redistricting Story
Earlier this week, we reported on efforts by California’s Democratic congressional delegation to influence the state's redistricting commission. As we detailed, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and others to testify in support of district lines that coincided with the party's interests. In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for a Democratic-friendly map. Here are the most common questions about our reporting -- and answers.

Dan Walters: California Democrats didn't cheat on redistricting, but they played politics well
The Sacramento Bee
California political junkies are all atwitter about an article on the website ProPublica about a clandestine campaign by Democratic apparatchiks to influence the state's redistricting commission congressional map-drawing. Republicans are crying foul, while Democrats say it's pure fiction. Republican state chairman Tom Del Beccaro claims that the article "systematically lays out the Democrats' manipulation of what should have been an open and transparent process. It also demonstrated exactly how the redistricting maps were corrupted by partisan activists working in cooperation with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."

ProPublica Report Assumes You Can Take the Politics Out of Redistricting
California Moderate Party
Redistricting is perhaps one of the dryest topics in politics, but at the same time the once-a-decade act of redrawing district boundaries to account for population shifts has major implications for party representation in state legislatures and in Congress. Reform groups like California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and California Forward worked years to take this responsibility out of the hands of lawmakers and assign the task to an independent citizens commission because of the inherent conflict of interest – representatives were literally choosing their voters instead of allowing voters to choose their representatives.

Chicago-style politics in California
Sign On San Diego
It’s been a topsy-turvy year for California’s redistricting process – reformed by voters via ballot measures to try to stop parties from divvying up seats after the decennial census in ways that protected incumbents and ensured mostly die-hard partisans got elected. The bipartisan 14-member commission that voters established to oversee the redistricting of 177 congressional, state legislative and Board of Equalization seats faced fire early on from Republicans, who cried foul over the partisan history of a key consultant and one commissioner.

Why the ProPublica Remap Yarn is Nonsense
The pseudo investigation by Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson of New York-based ProPublica, purporting to expose “How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission,” is misleading at best, dishonest at worst and fatally flawed in any case. All you really need to know about their over-reaching piece is this: the reporters studiously ignored documented research and statistical evidence they were provided that conflicted or undercut their conclusion — that projected Democratic gains in the state’s House delegation are the result of a secret and nefarious partisan manipulation of the political naïfs on the commission.

The gaming of the California map
The ProPublica story "How Democrats Fooled California's Redistricting Commission" continues to bounce around the Internet, generating outrage, bemusement and just plain curiosity. In any case, the gaming of the California congressional map raises lots of political questions that aren't easily answered--and the outcome will likely have an impact of future redistricting reform efforts in California and in other states. The Empire public radio blog in New York, sees "something violently Californian about the whole thing," and views the state as a cautionary tale.

ProPublica’s Redistricting Scoop
John Hrabe
ProPublica released a bombshell report Wednesday about the political shenanigans at California’s independent Citizen Redistricting Commission. Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson have the story here. The Pulitizer Prize-winning team at ProPublica doesn’t realize the major story they’ve stumbled upon. National media outlets lavished praise on the piece, describing it as “explosive,” “startling” and “exceptionally researched.” Charlie Mahtesian, national politics editor at Politico, tweeted, “Newsroom consensus: ProPublica piece on Calif is prob the single best piece of redistricting reporting all year.”

San Diegan counters redistricting criticism
Sign On San Diego
San Diego’s Republican on the state redistricting commission called a report claiming manipulation of the process by Democrats “totally unreliable” and “a very sloppy piece of investigative journalism.” Gil Ontai, an architect from San Diego, said in an interview Friday that the commission was unfairly portrayed as naive and unable to distinguish between AstroTurf activism and genuine grassroots public testimony. “We were very, very conscious when we began the public input process that there would be a propensity for the political parties to stack the deck,” Ontai said.

ProPublica gets played on California redistricting by @DavidOAtkins
The organization ProPublica wrote a recent article about supposed Democratic influence in Calfornia's non-partisan redistricting process, alleging that the it was subject to undue influence from Party interests. Their argument essentially goes that because Democrats attempted to lobby the non-partisan Commission, that necessarily the Commission did what the state Democratic Party wanted. The supposed evidence for that claim lies in the fact that the maps, at least for Congress and State Senate, are fairly advantageous to Democrats. Conservative interest groups have been latching onto the ProPublica story to claim the process was rigged.

ProPublica Ignored Expert Advice When Producing Redistricting Story
Roots Wire
That's pretty damning. Nowhere in the ProPublica article was this analysis ever mentioned or hinted at. One would assume that if the authors were interested in serious journalism, they would have included this perspective in some form. Instead they were pursuing a "Democrats are bad too!" story intended to balance out their reporting on genuine ways Republicans monkeyed around with redistricting in other states. Like Politifact, ProPublica put their desire to placate Republicans ahead of getting the story right. Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, Carla Marinucci spoke to one of the Decline to State commissioners who dismissed ProPublica's charges as "dead wrong".

Disturbing redistricting report demands scrutiny
Mercury News
The nonprofit investigative foundation ProPublica is reporting that congressional Democrats conspired to influence the independent citizens' panel that drew new district lines in California. If it's true, it would mean the good-government reform of redistricting in public was undermined by one of the parties whose past actions behind closed doors led to demands for reform in the first place. A full investigation is needed -- not to undercut the independent commission, but to figure out how to shore up the system for the next redistricting round in 10 years.


New state Senate district includes all of Solano County
Daily Republic
Solano County has a new state Senate district dubbed the “Wine District,” but its new senator likely will be the old one. Incumbent Lois Wolk, D-Davis, remains in a district with Solano County. With the clock ticking on the June 2012 election, no one else has entered the race. Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan said he has heard of no names of potential candidates. “Not a soul,” Reagan said. “She is about as much as a shoe-in as you can be,” said Matt Rexroad, a political consultant and Yolo County Supervisor.

New Assembly district shift could favor Solano County
Daily Republic
The most significant benefit to Solano County in the new 11th Assembly District may be that it doesn’t include Davis. The town-and-gown community is nearly half the size of Fairfield, but packs a greater political punch. Davis politicians have long dominated the region when it comes to Senate and Assembly district seats. In Assembly District 8, Solano County’s district until the lines were redrawn, a Davis politician has held the seat since 1996. The three politicians — Helen Thomson, Lois Wolk and currently Mariko Yamada — made it to Sacramento by way of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Director presses for water district redistricting options
Ramona Sentinel
Ramona Municipal Water District Board of Directors will address redistricting and whether additional options should be developed by an outside firm when it meets on Dec. 27. Division 2 Director Kit Kesinger had submitted an agenda item on redistricting for the board’s Dec. 13 meeting but it was received too late to be on the agenda. A redistricting proposal prepared by Shepherd and Staats Inc. of Vista received preliminary board approval, by a 5-0 vote, on Nov. 8. With the five RMWD divisions split among a population of 33,568, each division was balanced with approximately 6,700 residents.


New lines indicate hard contests in 2012
The Press-Enterprise
For the past 20 years, most legislative elections in Inland Southern California have been ho-hum affairs. Republicans dominated the region, and Democratic caucuses had better prospects elsewhere. Beginning next year, however, the Inland region – and particularly its Riverside-San Bernardino core – could see major Assembly and State Senate campaigns thanks to this year’s redrawing of political lines by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. In a report earlier this month, the Public Policy Institute of California listed three Assembly districts – the 40th, 60th and 61st – and one State Senate district – the 31st – as potentially highly competitive in 2012.

State Senator Not Running for Open California Seat
Roll Call
National Democrats were dealt a blow today, losing a top recruit in a competitive open seat in California. State Sen. Michael Rubio announced he will not run for the 21st district, leaving the party without its highly touted candidate for the new Central Valley-based seat created in redistricting. In a statement, Rubio said that he and his wife recently had a baby who was born with Down syndrome. “It would be easy to continue my candidacy for Congress with thoughts of being engaged in the difficult issues that face our nation today,” Rubio said in a statement. “But my family needs me more today than Congress does.”

Wasserman pleased with his first year
Gilroy Dispatch
That’s the increase of email newsletters that go out every month from Mike Wasserman since he stepped into office about a year ago as Supervisor of Santa Clara County’s District 1. “No matter where I go, the No. 1 comment is on the newsletter: they’re finding out more about the county than they ever did before, because I’m reporting about county government, what the county is doing, what laws and regulations they’re passing. It’s a tremendous educational tool,” Wasserman said.

California legislative races to watch: Part 1
The Sacramento Bee
With just five months until the June primary, legislative contests around California are starting to heat up. While candidates can't begin the formal process of filing for office until Friday, when candidate papers can first be pulled, many legislative hopefuls have already spent months raising cash, securing endorsements and plotting their path to potential victory. The decennial redistricting process and first election under the state's new top-two primary system has produced a new list of competitive state legislative districts that are being closely watched by political junkies on both sides of the aisle.

House races beginning to take shape
The Press-Enterprise
Days away from a pivotal election year, Inland Southern California’s congressional races are beginning to take shape. The region is seen as a vital battleground between Republicans, who have long dominated traditionally conservative Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and Democrats, who want to pick up some of the 25seats they need to wrest control of the House from the GOP. The combination of a first-of-its-kind redistricting process and a new top-two primary system that allows members of the same party to compete in general elections has added new wrinkles to the region’s House races.

Choi to Run for Mayor in Irvine
Liberal OC
Termed out Irvine City Council member Dr. Steven Choi is a candidate for mayor in the 2012 election and it brings up all sorts of fun to look forward to in the coming election cycle. Choi, who embarrassed himself and the city by wearing a Photoshopped image of then Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Stalin in 2009, was the subject of voter fraud charges from former Assembly candidate Jerry Amante, then Mayor of Tustin.  Choi and his entire family were registered to vote from a rented condo/apartment in Woodbridge while the city councilman was still clearly residing in a posh Woodbury home.

An In-Depth Look at Democrats Running for AD-69
Liberal OC
AD-69, currently occupied by State Rep. Jose Solorio, is the lone assembly seat where the Democratic candidate should win in a walk.  Currently, there are three declared candidates for the seat and they include, in order Tom Daly, Orange County’s clerk-recorder and former mayor of Anaheim; Michele C. Martinez, Santa Ana city council member, and Julio Perez, a labor activist from Anaheim. Now there have been no polls conducted as of yet and no campaign reports listing how much money has been raised by each of the three candidates as of yet.  So other than a list of endorsements, there is no way to ascertain which of these candidates is “the leading candidate for AD-69.”

New 3rd District county supervisor candidate emerges; fundraising committee papers filed by Karen Brooks
Representatives with the Elections Division of the California Secretary of State's Office confirmed Tuesday that former Republican Assembly candidate Karen Brooks has filed the necessary paperwork to establish a committee aimed at raising funds for her attempt to fill Humboldt County's 3rd District supervisor seat in 2012. Brooks declined to comment on the filing Tuesday, which lists her husband Mark McGowen as the committee's treasurer. According to the Humboldt County Clerk/ Recorder's Office, Brooks has filed additional paperwork stating she intends to run for the seat.

New year brings new risks for California politicians
The Los Angeles Times
Ask most people what's significant about Dec. 30 and you may get a puzzled look. But politics junkies know that's the official start of California's next election season. It opens on a markedly altered stage, set with a new primary system and different voting districts. Lingering uncertainties about some of those districts, thanks to a federal lawsuit and a possible state referendum aimed at overturning them, are adding to the drama. Not since term limits for state offices took effect in the mid-1990s have California politicians faced such risks to their careers.

You Can Go Two Years Without a State Senator
NBC Southern California
Every 10 years, someone points out that certain Californians are about to go two years without anyone representing them in the state Senate. And every 10 years, experts dismiss this as not a big deal. The lack of representation is produced by the every-10-year redistricting process -- and the fact that state senators serve four year terms. That means that only half of state senate seats have elections every two years. So the newly determined districts -- set by redistricting -- phase in for the senate, with half of the new districts picking someone in 2012 and the other half in 2014.

A wild year ahead forecast for several hot local races
Redistricting and retirements will shake up the local political scene in 2012, with a slew of lawmakers jumping at the chance to run for higher office and new faces hoping to join the ranks of the elected. Political junkies are already getting the popcorn ready for two races in particular: the congressional contest expected between Democratic state Sen. Michael Rubio and Republican Assemblyman David Valadao and Karen Goh's attempt to keep the 5th District Kern County supervisor's seat she was appointed to last year.

Democrats may have a candidate in SD-31
The Press-Enterprise
Riverside business attorney Richard D. Roth said this week that he is “very, very strongly” weighing a candidacy for Riverside County's redrawn 31st Senate District. Roth, a retired air force general and Democrat, said he will announce his decision after the holidays. The district extends from Corona to Moreno Valley. “I'm very seriously considering such a run. I'm talking to my friends and business associates and giving some thought to the matter,” Roth, 61, said in a brief interview Wednesday.

California Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton to step down in January
The Sacramento Bee
Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton said Friday that he will step down in January, and Sen. Bob Huff expects to replace him as the legislative session kicks back into gear.Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said Friday morning that the minority caucus must still vote but that he has enough commitments from colleagues to take over the job."I have the signatures for that, which signifies intent, so I anticipate that happening," Huff said in a phone interview.

Assembly Candidates Line Up More Endorsements
Although the election is not until June 5, endorsements and support continues to roll in for candidates of the 38th Assembly District seat currently held by Cameron Smyth. Republican Paul Strickland is the lastest candidate to make the announcements. Strickland, a member of the William S. Hart Union High School District, said  he is pleased to announce the support of board colleagues Gloria Mercado Fortine and Bob Jenson.

Bell mayor may run for Assembly
The Los Angeles Times
The rookie mayor of Bell, swept into office as a reformer in the midst of the city's massive corruption scandal, has taken out papers to run for Assembly in southeast Los Angeles County. Ali Saleh, a clothing shop owner with little experience in politics, became one of the faces of community discontent in Bell after The Times revealed that city leaders were paying themselves enormous salaries, taking generous benefits and loaning the town's money to City Hall colleagues.