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Op-Ed: How and Why D.C. and Sacto District Maps Are Changing -- and What it Means Politically


By Lanny Ebenstein


The 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission has just released preliminary maps for Congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly Districts, and significant changes are in the works--especially in the Assembly District intended to represent Santa Barbara County.


Redistricting takes place every decade after census data are released. To their credit, the state's voters in 2010 passed an initiative that moved control over the crucial process out of the hands of self-interested politicians, giving it to an independent commission to ensure a fairer reapportionment, one that is based on real geographical factors and genuine communities of interest.


The newly-released Congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly lines for the coming decade are not yet final but provide a glimpse at the basic direction in which the Commission is moving.As a result of the deadlines required to allow candidates for Congress, State Senate, and the Assembly to declare their candidacies and run in the June primary, final lines will be announced next month.


Here is a look at how the preliminary redistricting would affect Santa Barbara:


Congressional District. At the Congressional level, the local district will shift to the south.


The current, 24th Congressional District, now held by Rep. Salud Carbajal, basically includes Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The new Congressional District would comprise merely the southern portion of San Luis Obispo County, all of Santa Barbara County, and add territory from western Ventura County.


This would make an even more liberal district than it currently is, based on the loss of the conservative northern portion of San Luis Obispo County and its replacement by the more liberal western Ventura County.


State Senate District. The state Senate District is even larger than the Congressional District.


There are about 760,000 residents in the Congressional District, but almost 1 million in the Senate District. The proposed state Senate District, which currently is identified as the 19th and is held by Senator Monique Limon, is similar to the projected new Congressional District but includes even more of western Ventura County.


It will also be a liberal district.


State Assembly District. During the past decade, the state Assembly District including the South Coast, now called the 37th and held by first-term lawmaker Steve Bennett, has also included western Ventura County. Northern Santa Barbara County has been in the State Assembly District including San Luis Obispo County.


Looking forward to the next decade, however, Assembly lines will change significantly, and there likely will be a new Assembly member representing Santa Barbara county.


As a result of the 2020 census, the average Assembly district in the state will have about 493,000 residents. Santa Barbara County has, of itself, about 446,000 residents--more than 90% of the population of an Assembly District.


The 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission has decided, at least preliminarily, that it is better to keep all of Santa Barbara County together in one Assembly District and add about 47,000 residents from southern San Luis Obispo County than to continue to divide Santa Barbara County between two Assembly Districts and join each with significant populations from either San Luis Obispo or Ventura Counties.


For this reason, it is all but certain that Santa Barbara County will have a new Assembly member following the 2022 election – not to mention a wide-open campaign for the post next year.


Bennett is a former longtime member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, and lives in Ventura. Fellow incumbent legislator Jordan Cunningham, who represents North County as part of the 35th Assembly District, lives farther north in San Luis Obispo County than the part of San Luis Obispo County that is proposed to be part of the new Assembly District including Santa Barbara County.


This means that, at least as the lines stand now, there is no incumbent Assembly member in Santa Barbara County on either the South Coast or in North County.


Several names are already being suggested as likely candidates for the new Assembly District: Santa Barbara City College Trustee Jonathan Abboud has already launched a campaign and Goleta School Board Member Luz Reyes-Martin may also announce a candidacy.

The most imposing candidate could be current 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart, who was interested in serving in the Assembly earlier in his career. In northern Santa Barbara county, Santa Maria City Councilmember Gloria Soto may run.

Beyond the work being done by the state commission, Santa Barbara County also has an independent board that is redrawing the maps for the five seats on the Board of Supervisors, as discussed in this space previously. Additionally, the lines for SB’s City Council also are to be redrawn and, for the first time, the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees also will be chosen by voters by district.


"The School District is also considering a proposal, stemming from a California Voting Rights Act notice, to increase the size of the Board of Education from five to seven members."



Lanny Ebenstein, the author of 10 books on economic and political thought, received his PhD from the London School of Economics.




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