All across this nation, GOP-led states are carving up and contorting congressional districts to dilute and suppress the votes of “socialist” Democrats, and, more specifically, people of color. Officially known as “redistricting,” their aim is clear — to take back control of the House of Representatives in 2022 by any means possible, even if illegal, immoral, or unethical.
That’s no surprise to those following politics; the surprise is that our very own California Congressional District 10 (CA-10) may meet a similar fate, even if the result is due to pressure from delays in the process, not blatant partisanship. That’s right, California redistricting may replace currently purple CA-10 with a gargantuan, dead-red district.
And since candidates need not live in their district, the Fresno Bee sees this potential new district, now represented by Democrat Josh Harder of Turlock, as a magnet for the most Trumpy conservatives, with Devin Nunes suggested as one of the most likely. Harder’s ability to compete in the new district is labeled uncertain, but he would be running in a district that voted for Trump by 10 points.
In place of the current geographical area that includes all of Stanislaus and part of southern San Joaquin counties — a typical Central Valley constituency — the new district will reach from the north shore of Lake Tahoe to the southeastern corner of Inyo County and include parts of 13 counties, many scattered along both slopes of the Sierra Nevada Range dotted with small mountain towns and remote desert communities.
Obviously finding too few people to meet the required 700,000 or so needed, the commission’s Sharpie carved out a mangled rectangle that splits Stanislaus County and includes Modesto and Turlock but also regions south of Lake Tahoe and as far away as Lone Pine and Bishop, over and east of the Sierra Nevada range.
This new district, if approved largely as is, will dilute if not eliminate the voices of Stanislaus County residents, and those from south San Joaquin County, who since the 2012 redistricting have voted in a district of about 10,000 more Democrats than Republicans, and about 70,000 No Party Preference voters. Those nonaffiliated voters can make or break candidates, pushing them to appeal to a broader constituency than a candidate supported by a large party majority.
Consider that since 2012, we have had six years of Republican representation from Jeff Denham and three from current Congressman Josh Harder. Also, note that this district went for John Cox in 2018, and a majority supported the failed Gavin Newsome recall effort in September. These days, that’s about as purple as it gets.
It’s easy to see that, even if inadvertent, the redistricting commission will have failed to meet its mission to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians. This is evidenced by a letter to the commission, reported in a Modesto Bee editorial of 11/17/21, from leaders of local Black, Latino, Chinese, Jewish, Cambodian, Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh communities. The editorial reports,
“They are ‘incredibly alarmed’ at the prospect of dividing our Valley’s disadvantaged communities from each other by thrusting Modesto into a far less diverse district that would be 90% white, the letter says.”
That’s cause for concern, as is the possible loss of representation from Congressman Josh Harder. While his opponents incessantly claim him an outsider and a Pelosi puppet, Harder, who was raised in Turlock (where he now lives) and attended high school in Modesto, has a clear record of reaching out to all of his constituents. He makes near constant appearances at local events promoting food security and access to healthcare throughout the pandemic; he has worked across the aisle to secure more water for western Stanislaus County, and is striving to increase the number of physicians practicing in our region.
Contrast that with former Rep. Jeff Denham, who won three elections in CA-10, but after becoming a Trump faithful, attracted national media attention for his reluctance to face his constituents unless under tightly controlled circumstances. He lost to Harder in part due to backlash for his support and defense of Trump.
The proposed congressional district map shows a (very rough and bulging) rectangle that includes Modesto and Turlock but also encompasses cities and towns east of the Sierra Nevada. To get some sense of the scale involved, imagine a congressional district stretching from Modesto to Los Angeles. Sound absurd? Drive time from Modesto to Bishop, one of the cities in the proposed new district, is 4 hours and 23 minutes. Drive time from Modesto to Los Angeles is 4 hours and 39 minutes.
That’s what makes this potential redistricting so disheartening. With a healthy mix of party and no-party affiliations, we are able to weigh and support candidates we believe in, knowing full well that voter turnout hinges largely on voters’ faith that their vote makes a difference. If suddenly thrust into a huge, more-partisan district, the ever-increasing voter participation seen here in recent years may well wane if voters perceive their votes won’t matter.
That’s where you come in, because this is not a done deal. The commission is mandated to seek and heed public input before finalizing the new or revised districts, so it is critical that all voters concerned about these changes weigh in.
You can schedule a call with the commission, or, as I did, submit comments on line at this link wedrawthelinesca.org.
Comments on this draft will be taken through December 3, 2021. Exercise your rights, if you want to keep them.
Elaine Gorman says
Thanks Neil. I fear the loss of a SJ Valley supporter/advocate — Josh Harder.
Louise Kantro says
There needs to be some cohesiveness to a US Congressional district – and some common sense. I am opposed to this proposal and I am a long-time voter who has missed one election in over 50 years of voting.
Neil Selover says
Louise, If you’re opposed to this draft plan, please use the link in the last sentence of the article to schedule a comment call with the commission, or use the online choice to vote your concerns.
Bruce Frohman says
No matter how the lines are redrawn, we will see winners and losers. Protesting the proposed new districts is not helpful without a better alternative.
The argument complaining about the geographical size of the district holds no water. Look at Representation in Alaska. The officeholder may have a greater challenge in navigation. He will need to be able to deal with diversity to retain his seat.
An office holder should be required to live in his district.
Neil Selover says
This isn’t about protesting. The commission is required to seek citizen comments and to consider said comments before finalizing their draft. Comments may support or oppose the draft and the commission asks for specific recommendations. Changing the law on where an office holder lives is an argument for another day.
Justin Caremore says
adding in all that Eastside, perhaps tactics are with all the 2nd home and vacation homes, many of the rich may be able to cast more than one vote in the race…
at any rate, we have software now that could toss out contrived shapes like this easily if voters had any voice in this.
Neil Selover says
There’s no implication this was a “tactic.” The point of this piece is to make people aware of the draft plan and its impact on Central Valley voters, hence the link where folks can share comments or recommendations with the redistricting commission. For more background on the commission, made up of 5 Republicans, 5 Democrats, and 4 no with no party affiliation, just search for California redistricting for more on the process.
west sider says
Nice spin. You do realize that California has a redistricting commission that has equal representation between the parties and there is a long process that goes into the commission member selection process? This commission was supposed to eliminate claims of political bias. So of course you missed the real point. The central and south SJ valley does not have representation on the commission so as usual the valley always gets the shaft. Funny though you had to throw in the GOP but said nothing about states like Maryland were the Democrats are gerrymandering the lone GOP member out. The fact is both political parties use gerrymandering to their own advantage. History lesson for you. After Congressman Condit’s fall the Democrats gerrymandered the district to include a portion of urban Stockton that was heavily democrat which gave the victory to Cardoza. Under the old district Dick Monteith would have won. And the while the GOP will gain some seats this election cycle they really don’t even need them. 2022 is setting up to become the biggest blowout in decades. With Biden’s RCP approval at 42% and his approval rating at 33% to 36% in important swing states and among independents. Add to the Democrats are ten points behind the in the generic ballot. That hasn’t happened since 1981. The party in power typically loses seats during the off year election. Only a few times has that not happened. Only five seats needs to flip and more than 20 usually flip during these elections.
Neil Selover says
There isn’t a claim of bias by the commission, so I don’t think I missed the point, and it’s clear to those following this redistricting closely that the politically balanced commission has to grapple with California losing a seat, and the delays due to the 2020 Census being late. Regardless, as you also suggest, the Central Valley gets the shaft. That’s why the least we can do is contact the commission and make our case for a more cohesive district that better reflects valley voters.
Steve Ringhoff says
The mountain counties in the new proposed have reliably been 60-40 in favor of Republicans in the last general election for President and Congress. Harder would have to pull a 60-40 vote in his favor in Modesto and environs to offset that in the new proposed district and the registration does not bode well as it is about 50/50. Incumbent in mountain counties (McClintock) won 55/45 last time. Harder may also face a Dem primary opponent, an African-American Navy Flight Surgeon with Middle Eastern deployment with Marines.
Dayle Crook says
Harder is a rubber stamp for Pelosi’s far left policies and wreckless spending proposals. How does everyone like the direction that our country is going in under democrat rule? They are pushing far left radical agenda that will leave our country in third world status if allowed to continue. Trump had America strong and prospering and who cares about a few mean tweets? Most people would do the same if they faced an attempted coup for four years. Now that the election has been stolen (yes and there is a mountain of evidence proving it) the dems have an addle brained dementia patient in the leadership position and the decisions are being made by indoctrinated college grads who don’t have a clue how to run a country. I’ll take a businessman any day over a career politician.