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Publication Date: Friday, September 07, 2001

Proposed new assembly district keeps Stasek, Lieber in race Proposed new assembly district keeps Stasek, Lieber in race (September 07, 2001)

District 22 would retain Mountain View, gain Cupertino

By Justin Scheck

The state assembly and senate are proposing to keep Mountain View where it is -- in 22nd assembly district -- and that's good news for Council members Sally Lieber and Rosemary Stasek, who plan to run for the assembly.

The proposal is part of a federal mandate that requires states to reapportion districts according to 2000 census data. The city of Mountain View could have been moved into another assembly district.

If the senate and assembly approve the plan, Mountain View's district would see little appreciable change other than the acquisition of the City of Cupertino.

The proposal bodes well for Lieber and Stasek, candidates for the seat now represented by Democrat Elaine Alquist, who must step down next year due to term limits.

Alquist said she is pleased with the proposal, since it keeps Mountain View in an assembly district wholly within Santa Clara County.

"I think it's also good because it allows two good women from Mountain View to run," said Alquist, adding that she does not plan on endorsing anyone running in the Democratic primary for the seat she will vacate.

In the past, Lieber and Stasek had expressed concern that the redistricting could land Mountain View in a district represented by an incumbent democrat -- such as Joe Simitian in the 21st -- which would make it difficult for new candidates to run.

Potential for controversy

Doug Winslow, a political consultant for democrats in California, Texas and Florida, said redistricting plans frequently generate controversy, as well as lawsuits.

Winslow-whose company, American Data Management, is providing voter information and printing services for Lieber's campaign-said the controlling party in state government, in this case the Democrats, tries in redistricting efforts to maintain seats in areas where it is strong, and reinforces areas where it has marginal support.

"I don't think there's any question that the democrats doing the mapping think about which candidates live where," he said.

He pointed to the case of Rebecca Cohn, the democrat from Saratoga who last year won an assembly seat in an historical republican stronghold.

Redistricting "tends to protect incumbents. ... Rebecca Cohn, who is in a marginal district, moves into a more strongly democratic district," he said.

Possible controversy

Winslow said the opposing party frequently takes issue with redistricting plans, both in legislative sessions and in the courts, if they view proposals as unfairly biased in favor of the dominant party.

While Winslow said he would not be surprised if this plan meets Republican opposition, state government officials have mixed opinions.

"The goal is to see that this does not go to the courts, and that we can get 54 out of 80 votes in each house. ... I have not heard negative comments on the assembly maps, so my hope is that maybe it could get through," Alquist said.

Alquist pointed out that prior to drawing up the draft of the redistricting plan, public hearings were held around the state to get input from concerned parties.

John Longville, the representative from San Bernardino who heads assembly's Committee on Elections, Reapportionment, and Constitutional Amendments-the committee charged with putting together the plan-said he believes the plan was formulated in a way that will minimize complaints.

"I've been saying since last year that I did not expect it to be a partisan battle this year, and so far it hasn't been," Longville said.

He said that a number of factors made it possible for this year's redistricting to be less contentious than 1990's, when lawsuits made it necessary for the courts, rather than the legislature, to draw up the plan.

Since 1990, term limits have been instituted that require assembly members to step down after three two-year terms. Longville said that, in the past, redistricting plans could be approved if a majority of incumbents were given districts they feel could ensure their reelection.

But now, he said, the fact that many members will be required to vacate their assembly seats changes the dynamics of the redistricting process.

"The other factor throwing things off is that with the last election we-the democrats-have done extremely well. ... The result is that we have an extremely large majority, so it's not really beneficial for us to go out and get more seats," Longville said, explaining that, if voter sentiment changes in the future and a republican majority is in place during the next redistricting, it could come back to bite the democrats.

"We (the democrats) had total control of the process, but we didn't go out and get additional seats for ourselves. We could have, but we didn't," he said.

He said the proposed plan aims to avoid splitting cities into different districts whenever possible, and has taken into account input from community meetings where residents voiced concerns.

But, Longville added, "There's no question that someone somewhere will file a lawsuit, because someone does with every redistricting. ... The question is whether it will be seriously contested."

He said that, while the plan will likely undergo some "tweaking" after upcoming public meetings and legislative debates, he has confidence that the plan the state assembly and senate approve will be similar to the proposal.

According to Kam Kuwata, the committee spokesman, the plan will be finalized by mid-September, after it goes through both houses and necessary changes are made.

"This is exactly like a piece of legislation. It can be amended," he said, explaining that, if there are differences in the plans passed by each house, changes will have to be made before the vote is finalized.


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