Redistricting in California
After the 2000 year census, the legislature was obliged to set new district boundaries, both for the state Assembly and Senate and for federal congressional districts (CDs). The Republican and Democratic parties came to an agreement to gerrymander the boundaries. It was mutually decided that the status quo in terms of balance of power would be preserved. With this goal, districts were assigned to voters in such a way that they were dominated by one or the other party, with few districts that could be considered competitive.In only a few cases did this require extremely convoluted boundaries, but resulted in preservation of existing strongholds: in the results of the 2004 election, a win by less than 55 percent of the vote was quite rare—only five of eighty Assembly districts, and two of 39 Senate district seats, and no seat was changed in the party of its winner, and neither was any U.S. Congressional seat.Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed placing the redistricting process in the hands of retired judges, which was on the November ballot as an initiative in a special election (called by the Governor on June 14, 2005), Proposition 77. The special election was held on November 8, 2005. However, the initiative was defeated, with 59.5% No votes. All initiatives, including those proposed by the Governor's allies and several independent initiatives, failed.The United States House of Representatives districts are less competitive than the state districts with only three out of 53 congressional districts being won with less than 60 percent majority.Considering the 10th CD in the San Francisco Bay Area, in earlier elections the almost evenly divided district was a focus of national attention, owing to its balanced electorate with a slight Republican edge in registration and a Republican advantage in electoral participation. The district had been held since its creation in 1990 by a Republican, Congressman Bill Baker, a former State Assembly member, for whom the district was designed. After several weak challenges to the seat by Democrats, the election was hotly contested in 1996 by a newcomer to politics, Ellen Tauscher, a candidate with sufficient funds of her own to be competitive against the incumbent. Receiving a great amount of grassroots support from local Democratic clubs and votes from moderate Republican women, her defeat of Congressman Baker was considered a great victory for what many consider a ""middle of the road"" Democrat. Her redrawn district is now ""safe"" (she won reelection with 75.6 percent of the vote in 2002) and subsequent full-term congressional elections drew no national attention to California.As desired by the two major parties, in the 2004 elections there was no change of political party in any of the district-elected offices at either the State or Federal level - no member of the State Assembly, State Senator, or U. S. Representative was not of the same party as their predecessor.Despite the supposed uncertainty for Republican prospects of dominance in the U.S. Congress in the November 2006 elections, no California seats in the House of Representatives were considered to be ""in play"" by national analysts within several months of the election, although a few Republican-held seats offered at least improved prospects for Democrats during this cycle. Republican Representatives Richard Pombo (11th CA) and John Doolittle (4th CA) each hosted President Bush in October 2006 for fundraisers, a rare event in California (and also rare for Bush in this election cycle) that may have been indicative of perceived insecurities in these seats (these Representatives had strongly supported the Bush Administration).In an unexpected turn of the 2006 elections in California, Democrat Jerry McNerney, although never having held an elective office, defeated incumbent Republican Richard Pombo, 53% to 47%. In 2004 the same pairing resulted in 62.5% for Pombo. There has been some demographic change in the district in the Pleasanton area, but not sufficient in itself to account for the difference, and the victory is considered by many (given the gerrymander of the district) to be an overwhelming repudiation both of President George W. Bush and of many of the stands taken by Pombo, particularly concerning environmental matters. This district was the sole exception, as none of the remaining 99 federal and state district legislative elections involved a change of party.Official California preliminary 2006 election returns are available at http://vote.ss.ca.gov/A California constitutional amendment to be presented to the electorate and designed to encourage competitive districts (but with significant loopholes included) was passed by the California Senate for transmittal to the Assembly on the last possible day for the 2006 election cycle, with Assembly Democratic legislative functionaries claiming that it was not received in time. Although this could have been corrected with little effort by additional legislation, the issue was killed for the 2006 electoral cycle, with some asserting that the death of the bill was not accidental .