By Josh Richman
Friday, December 23rd, 2011 at 10:51 am in redistricting.
As the California Republican Party continues to tout this week’s ProPublica article about Democrats influencing the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s work, there’s some pushback today from some of the state’s prominent political opinion writers.
CalBuzz, the site run by Phil Trounstine – a former Mercury News editor, communications director for Gov. Gray Davis and San Jose State University pollster –and longtime San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Barbara News-Press editor Jerry Roberts, called the study “misleading at best, dishonest at worst and fatally flawed in any case.” From that article:
In the course of their reporting, Calbuzz has learned, Pierce interviewed Eric McGhee of the Public Policy Institute of California, one of the state’s top non-partisan reapportionment experts, who explained to her that the gains forecast for Democrats represent a logical and expected result given a) demographic changes in the last decade and b) the criteria the commission was charged with using.
McGhee even emailed Pierce an advance copy of a 45-page analysis of the commission plan he co-authored with Vladimir Kogan of UC San Diego, which is scheduled to be published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy in a few months. Among its conclusions: given the gerrymandered districts used for the last decade, “it seems unlikely that it is possible to draw any plan that increases competition among congressional seats without also advantaging the Democrats.”
But when the ProPublica report published Wednesday – claiming that Democratic operatives had “managed to replicate the results of the smoke-filled rooms of old” (yes, they actually wrote that) – there was no mention of the detailed and comprehensive McGhee-Kogan research, nor even a reference to the facts, background and context on which it is based.
The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters wrote that Democrats did play politics in trying to influence the commission, but that’s to be expected and Republicans merely are upset at having fallen asleep at the switch:
While they concentrate on a couple of Democrats whose seats were protected by intervention of some clandestine front groups and, perhaps, the gullibility of commission members, they don’t mention the plan’s adverse effects on other Democrats, such as forcing a high-octane shootout looming between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in Los Angeles County.
More importantly, the article doesn’t mention that the Democrats’ creation of “community of interest” front groups could be effective only because the 14-member commission, as chosen by a convoluted process, was hypersensitive to that approach.
The Democratic members of the commission tended to be partisans, its Republicans tended to be of the go-along variety, and the supposed independents turned out to be mostly liberals inclined to draw districts that favor ethnic and cultural enclaves.
That tendency – coupled with underlying demographic and voter registration trends – had the combined effect of not only protecting most incumbent Democrats but giving them a chance to make congressional gains.