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Officials of the California Republican Party and the Senate Republican Caucus announced this past week that they will support a signature-gathering drive aimed at overturning newly drawn Senate districts meant for next year's election.
The referendum drive announcement came mere hours after California's independent redistricting commission approved 80 Assembly, 40 Senate, 53 congressional and four Board of Equalization seats. The referendum drive will be led by a coalition called Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR, under the auspices of Republican political strategist David Gilliard. California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said the party will be raising funds for the effort and helping to gather signatures. Members of the business community also will be involved in challenging the maps.
The Senate Republican Caucus voted to support the referendum, but their vote did not call for committing any caucus or state funds. Sitting legislators will decide for themselves whether to commit campaign funds.
To qualify the Senate map for the June 2012 ballot, the drive needs 504,760 valid voter signatures. If it reaches that threshold, the California Supreme Court would draw district boundaries or decide which maps to use in next year's political races. A lawsuit opposing the newly drawn districts is reportedly in the works, but is not expected to be filed for two or three weeks. The initial focus of challenge is the newly drawn map of Senate districts, although the congressional map may be added later to the fight, Del Beccaro said.
Opponents argue that the redistricting commission, under the guise of keeping various "communities of interest" together, drew districts in a way that often ignored city and county boundaries, were not compact, and favored the Democratic Party or other interest groups.
Del Beccaro particularly is concerned about the possibility that Democrats could gain two Senate seats, enough to give that party the two-thirds supermajority necessary to raise taxes.
Two key Republican seats that could be jeopardized by the new Senate maps are those of incumbents Tony Strickland, of Moorpark, and Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo.