It seems only logical that impartial citizens, not vested public officials, should be responsible for redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of political district boundaries.
Politically motivated redistricting is what gave us the term “gerrymandering” — the creation of often contorted districts designed to ensure the success of certain parties or candidates, often guaranteeing the re-election of incumbents. It’s inherently fairer to let independent citizens draw the lines, and that’s the process voters chose when they approved the Voters First Act in 2008.
Still, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission hasn’t exactly done Del Norte County any favors. If its proposed new maps stand, a Republican-leaning county will find itself in Democratic-leaning legislative districts. We’ll lose GOP state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, a frequent visitor to the North Coast who has made a real effort to understand our issues.
But the Democrats who have represented us recently are also in touch with Del Norte, especially seven-term Congressman Mike Thompson. A moderate “Blue Dog” Democrat, Thompson has done well by the North Coast, and he’s no stranger to Crescent City. He was pushing for much-needed dredging of our harbor’s federal channel even before the March tsunami deposited more silt in our boat basin. Since that disaster, Thompson has played a key role in providing vital assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A couple of years ago, Thompson was a key player as the Local Transportation Commission gained approval of nearly $19 million for coming improvements to U.S. Highway 199.
He’s been a useful advocate anytime the federal government and Del Norte have crossed paths.
Local voters recognize his value. He consistently outpolls Republican opponents here.
Alas, redistricting may cost us Thompson as well.
While Del Norte would still be in California’s First Congressional District, Napa County would not, and that’s where Thompson resides when he’s not in Washington, D.C. Come next year, we could be electing a rookie U.S. representative to replace a powerful congressman who has been well-tuned to our concerns. It would likely be another Democrat because the district won’t change much despite losing Napa.
Thompson could choose to run again in the First District anyway. While the law requires state legislators to reside in the district they represent, there is no such law for members of Congress.
We wouldn’t look favorably on an out-of-district congressional candidate under normal circumstances, but Thompson would be an exception. He’s already represented the North Coast for 13 years, and could make a strong case to voters for why he should continue to be their congressman. He’d almost certainly get our endorsement.
Mike, if you’re game, so are we.
LaMalfa, meanwhile, has been far from silent. He told a Crescent City audience Thursday that statewide challenges to the redistricting may be in the offing, in the form of lawsuits or a new ballot referendum or both.
We’re not holding our breath because frankly the citizen redistricting process has been a breath of fresh air. We’ll take it over gerrymandering any time, even if we aren’t pleased with some of the outcomes.
Shortly after the March tsunami devastated our harbor, our three key political representatives — Thompson, LaMalfa and Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro — were on the ground here, assessing the damage for themselves and promising quick action that they’ve been delivering on.
It’s a bit unnerving to think that we could soon lose two out of three, including one of the most powerful congressmen to ever represent Del Norte.
— The Daily Triplicate