Political shapes, fortunes shift in LA County as new maps for Congress, state Legislature released

As the once-every-decade process inched toward its conclusion, final maps were approved Monday, Dec. 20, that redraw boundaries for California’s elected seats in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

The maps opened the door for a rising Los Angeles County Democratic political star amid a generational shift among the region’s elected leaders. They also put a dent in the chances for a Republican favorite in one of the nation’s most hotly contested races.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia speaking at a press conference as U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh visited the Port of Los Angeles and discussed efforts to ease supply chain issues with port leaders and local unions from LA and Long Beach in San Pedro on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

The 14-member state independent citizens redistricting commission posted its final maps on Monday, Dec. 20, and after hours of public comment, commissioners unanimously approved them, ahead of a Dec. 27 deadline. They will be up for public review for the next three days, and the commission will certify them on Dec. 26.

On Dec. 27, they will be delivered to California Secretary of State’s Office.

The maps did little to loosen Democrats’ stronghold on L.A. County’s state and federal districts.

But they bring about strong shifts in a county that lost population, according to census 2020, and which also lost a congressional seat, too, because of the statewide population drop.

Assuming the final maps hold up, thousands of people will have new representatives in Sacramento and in D.C.

Most immediately, the maps have already prompted change in the Long Beach area, where Rep. Alan Lowenthal announced last week that he would not run for reelection.

Lucille Roybal-Allard is congresswoman for district 40

Joining him this week was Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, 80, who sent word to her constituents that she, too, would step down when her current term is complete.

Lowenthal’s current seat was expected to be folded into Roybal-Allard’s zone — creating a whole new district. But now, it’s clear neither will compete for that post.

Their departures appeared to clear a path for Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. He announced a run for the new Congressional seat last week. At first, it appeared he may have to face the prospect of competing with a fellow incumbent Democrat  — Roybal-Allard — for the seat. But not now.

As the redistricting commission reviewed its final maps Monday, Roybal-Allard  the first Mexican American woman ever elected to Congress — issued word that she would not return for a new term.

“… The time has come for me to spend more time with my family. Therefore, I have decided not to seek re-election,” she told her constituents in a statement.

The newly redrawn seat, if approved, will connect a sprinkling of Southeast L.A. communities such as Downey, Bell and Huntington Park on the north end to Long Beach and Belmont Shore on the south.

For Garcia, the new scenario could open up a clear path to Congress.

The scramble represents a larger generational shift in the party, as congressional House representatives assess the prospect of possibly losing a Democratic majority come next year during the midterm elections, said Jack Pitney, professor of Politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Lowenthal’s retirement is significant, too, in the sense that “whatever the real reason, he is making room for the next generation,” said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal speaks at Long Beach City College on the final day of campaigning against the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom, in Long Beach on Monday, September 13, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Meanwhile, Mike Garcia, R-Saugus, in recent years has secured his spot among a rising generation of Republican House members. But the final maps posted Monday pushed a significant portion of his GOP support — particularly Simi Valley — into a neighboring district to the west.

The maps prompted a sharp response from Garcia, who won narrowly last year in a highly contested race against Democratic challenger Christy Smith for the 25th Congressional District.

Congressman Mike Garcia was on hand to speak during the Veterans Day Event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday morning in Simi Valley. (photo by Andy Holzman)

Garcia’s current district includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Saugus and Lancaster.

“The Commission has shown they were not acting independently when they drew all of the Democratic incumbents into safer seats while making five out of the 11 Republican districts more vulnerable, but I know we will win in this new district regardless,” Garcia said in a statement.

Garcia added: “While I am sad to lose the residents of Simi Valley – who showed a tremendous outpouring of support to keep me as their Member of Congress during the redistricting process – and the Reagan Library, I am very pleased to represent Granada Hills, which is the city where I was born. It’s also great to welcome more of the Antelope Valley community into the 25th District.”

Either way, Garcia said he was confident he would win reelection in 2022.

Smith, looking to unseat Garcia in a rematch, welcomed the new map, emphasizing the closeness of the last race.

“Last year, just 333 votes separated me and my opponent in one of the closest congressional races in the nation,” she said in a statement. “With these updated maps, I am even more confident we will flip this seat next November and unseat Mike Garcia, who has voted against the interests of this community and in line with the extremist wing of his party at every turn.”

Dave Wasserman, senior editor of the Cook Political Reporter, listed Garcia as one of a few congress members in California who face tougher reelection fights. Others on that list included fellow Republican Tom McClintock, based near Sacramento.

The maps across L.A. County were generally good news for Democrats, local party leaders said. But there were some shifts.

On the Assembly side, much of the San Fernando Valley was broken up into three districts.

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas speaks during the announcement that CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) and L.A. Works will receive money from California to expand their volunteer outreach during a press conference at San Fernando Recreation Park on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 where CORE and Carbon Health have COVID-19 testing and vaccines. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valley Assembly members Luz Rivas and Jesse Gabriel appear to have eluded being pitted against each other.

But on the eastern end of the Valley the newly drawn AD44 appears to shift Assembly members Laura Friedman and Adrin Nazarian into the same district, which includes Burbank, North Hollywood, Valley Village and Sherman Oaks.

Commissioners noted that a goal in the San Fernando Valley was to heed the voices of public commenters to not allow districts to wander south of Mulholland — and to keep the Valley and its communities of interest as “whole” as possible.

The statewide independent commission system  was established by voters in 2008 through Proposition 11. The idea was to encourage good government reform and take election rule-setting from the hands of self-interested elected officials.

Paramount in the process has been the public input of communities of interest — groups united by common policy concerns. Public input was gathered from all corners of the region.

The commissioners were guided by the Voting Rights Act and the requirement to create fair districts and equitable districts. Indeed.

Despite that commission’s independence from the Legislature, there was no way to please everyone. There were still winners and losers among those communities of interests.

On Monday night, some public commenters decried the maps, including Armenian Americans community, who decried splits in a traditional communities of interest. Others decried dividing communities in the Antelope Valley and in the northwest San Fernando Valley.

On the state Senate Level, where the commission is tasked with creating districts with 1 million people each, state Sen. Susan Rubio’s vast San Gabriel Valley District 22 loses several heavily Asian-American communities, including San Gabriel, Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead and Arcadia.

Those communities will join Pasadena, Glendale, Altadena in state Sen. Anthony Portantino’s District 25.

Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) speaks during the Covid Facts Forum and Candlelight Vigil at Azusa City Hall in Asuza, Calif. on Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

Rubio’s district will extend into Pomona and eastward into San Bernardino County, where it will includes Ontario and Chino.

The addition of the heavily Asian American west San Gabriel Valley community into District 25 could be a boon for potential AAPI candidates, observers said.

Each district has an index called a “citizens voting age.

Each district has an index called a “citizens voting age population percentage,” measuring the percentage of a particular ethnic group — Black, White, AAPI, Latino — in that district. In the reconstituted 25th, Asians get a 30.3% CVAP, regarded as quite high.

“It could be a stronger district for an Asian-American in 2024,” said Alan Clayton, a mapmaker. “They’ve created a new district where the Asian community would have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their own choice…  .”

In the San Fernando Valley,  the areas now encompassed by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s District 18 morph into a new Senate District 20. The area, which  will be Latino majority, loses Granada Hills but includes Canoga Park, Winnetka, Reseda, the northeast San Fernando Valley, Burbank and parts of the Angeles National Forest.

To the east, a new neighboring District 27 stretches from Moorpark in Ventura County to Studio City on the west in L.A. County.

A weary committee wrapped up its work on Monday evening with bursts of resolve, relief and emotion.

“We have reached the finish line for the people’s redistricting process in California. When voters approved the Voters FIRST Act, it created a monumental shift in this decennial process,” stated Commission Chair Alicia Fernandez.

“As Californians, my colleagues on this Commission and I answered the call to serve for this great state we honor and love,” she added. “We conclude our map drawing responsibilities with pride in our final product. We started this process leaving politics out of the equation in hopes of achieving fairer and more equitable maps. I think I speak for my colleagues when I say mission accomplished! Thank you to all that participated in this process.”

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