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
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.
The congressman has been silent on the redistricting proposals,
saying he would wait until they are finalized Aug. 15. The maps can be
viewed online at wedrawthelines.ca.gov, and comments can be e-mailed to
firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 916-651-5711.
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
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
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
- The Daily Triplicate