A Wall Street Journal article by Patrick O’Connor last week pointed out just how skewed Congressional districts are across the country.
He cited the non-partisan Cook Report that identifies just 90 districts across the country that are considered competitive in 2014. That’s a tiny portion of the 435 seats and likely is reflective of the power of computing to gerrymander the redistricting that takes place every 10 years to either protect incumbents (that’s what happened in California after the 2000 census) or ensure that the majority party retains that advantage.
Nationally, too many districts are mirroring the California experience where the party primaries determined the eventual winners and the general elections became almost meaningless. Because primary elections, particularly in off years, tend to draw true believers at both extremes of the political viewpoints, the winners tend to be the most liberal and most conservatives. People with more moderate views typically do not survive the primary battles. That leads to elected bodies that are more polarized.
California citizens hoped to lessen the political effect when they approved both open primaries and a citizens’ commission to redistrict the state. That said, for this decade, Republicans in the valley need not bother to run in the Congressional district where the Democrats hold a 2-1 registration edge (48-24). Eric Swalwell mounted a successful challenge to 20-year Democrat incumbent Pete Stark within the party and likely will face a challenge from another Democrat, most likely state Senator Ellen Corbett, come next year.
It is a bit closer, but still unlikely for a conservative to win in the 7th Senate district where the registration is 44-31 in favor of the Democrats.
In the state Assembly, the seat currently held by Joan Buchanan will be up next year when she is termed out. Registration last year was 40-34 percent in favor of the Democrats. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich have publically declared their interest in the seat as has three-term Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer.
With no incumbent in the race, it would be an ideal time for a strong Republican challenger to take a shot. Historically, registration that close gives a Republican a reasonable chance in the race. Former San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson twice came up short against Buchanan. Sbranti already has formally launched his campaign with a slew of endorsements and, if there is a Republican preparing to run, that person is keeping a low profile.