Why Lois Capps is worried
November 22, 2010
California House Democrats, including veteran representative Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), are likely to face serious challenges to their long-held seats in the upcoming 2012 election. [North County Times]
The reason: Changes in California’s election code and political boundaries make the state’s Democrats more vulnerable than ever before.
“Preservation of incumbents isn’t going to happen,” said Gary Jacobson, a congressional expert and political science professor at UC San Diego. “There won’t be any gerrymandering, and senior incumbents may find themselves knocked off.”
California voters approved two measures in the past six months that will fundamentally alter congressional elections by giving an independent commission the power to redraw districts and placing the top two winners in a primary into the general election, even if they are from the same party.
The new political landscape, expected to be announced next summer, will make it more attractive for aspirants to challenge incumbents. It could also push veteran lawmakers into the same district, leading to awkward negotiations over who should remain in Washington.
California Republican strategist Tony Quinn estimated that the change in redrawing the districts alone could create as many as a dozen competitive districts in a state where successful challenges to incumbents are close to nonexistent.
In a further threat to incumbents, a state constitutional amendment passed in June creates the possibility that two candidates from the same party could run against each other in the general election.
Under the new rules, voters are allowed to cast ballots for any candidate in the primary, regardless of party. The top two winners progress to the general ballot.
Critics charge that Capps, first elected to Congress in 1998, benefits from gerrymandering with a district that has been drawn to exclude large populations of Republicans.
Capps has made no public announcement of 2012 plans.