Heading into the 2022 elections, Democrats have a stranglehold on power in California: fifty-nine of 80 seats in the state Assembly and 31 of 40 in the state Senate, plus 42 of 53 in the U.S. House.
While slightly more competitive, the preliminary districts aren’t likely to change those numbers much, according to one study. Democrats are likely to keep 40 of 52 House seats, 62 Assembly seats and 31 Senate seats, says the Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC, analysis.
But those party breakdowns could shift in the final districts that the commission will be working on the next several weeks before adopting them just before Christmas.
Fredy Ceja, communications director for the commission, said that when seeking public comment, the commission didn’t ask for political affiliation. And he noted that the state constitution says that “districts may not be drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against an incumbent, political candidate, or political party.”
State Senate and Assembly
Democrats have a supermajority in the state Legislature, and, under the draft maps, that doesn’t appear likely to change.
According to the PPIC analysis, which uses data from the nonpartisan PlanScore site, 14 Assembly seats and 11 Senate seats are likely to change party control at least once in the next decade — a slight increase from 12 and 9 with the current districts.
The commission — which is discussing Assembly maps this week and state Senate districts the week of Dec. 14 — does not take into account the current district lines, or where incumbents live. That’s why the draft maps place as many as 29 state Assembly members and 14 state senators in a district with another incumbent.
Legislators would have to move to another district to avoid running against a fellow lawmaker, though enforcement of the law has been weakened. The final lines also will determine who can challenge incumbents and run for open seats.
One factor that is already influencing the potential partisan breakdown: legislators who are leaving voluntarily. Democratic Assemblymember Ed Chau of Monterey Park in Los Angeles County, for example, was appointed Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom to a judgeship. Chau represents the only Asian-majority legislative district not just in California, but the continental U.S., according to redistricting expert Paul Mitchell.
Also, Democratic Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin of San Mateo County, Rudy Salas of Bakersfield and state Sen. Sydney Kamlager of Los Angeles all are eyeing U.S. House seats. Assemblymember Marc Levine of Marin County is running for insurance commissioner, and fellow Democratic Assemblymember Richard Bloom of Santa Monica is running for Los Angeles County supervisor, while Assemblymember Jim Frazier, a Fairfield Democrat, announced Dec. 1 that he’s stepping down Dec. 31 to seek a transportation job.
Even with some departures, however, Republicans have no realistic hope of winning a majority in the Legislature. But getting rid of the Democratic two-thirds supermajority — which allows Democrats to pass tax increases or put constitutional amendments on the ballot without any Republican votes — is conceivably within reach.