10:00 PM PDT on Friday, May 6, 2011
By BEN GOAD
WASHINGTON – Inland Southern California’s congressional members don’t know what their districts will look like when a state panel finishes drawing new political lines.
But that isn’t stopping most of them from launching aggressive fundraising efforts in advance of what is expected to be a wild 2012 election season.
Reps. Ken Calvert and Darrell Issa both posted totals reflecting personal bests for the first quarter of an election cycle, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Rep. Joe Baca’s campaign account is also significantly larger than it was at this point in the last cycle.
Reps. Mary Bono Mack and Jerry Lewis, meanwhile, received slightly fewer contributions than they did from January through March of 2009. But Bono Mack’s total was still among the top three in the region and both camps expressed confidence in their fundraising abilities.
Campaign officials for the lawmakers say they are going about business as usual, despite the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing redistricting process. But amassing a large war chest could be vital for lawmakers who could find themselves in more competitive districts that contain constituents less familiar with them, Claremont McKenna College politics professor Jack Pitney said.
For lawmakers in that scenario, a large campaign account might serve as a deterrent to potential challengers eying a run at a newly formed district, Pitney said.
“Having a small war chest is like throwing chum in the water,” he said. “The sharks are going to come out.”
The redistricting effort is based on new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and will create new political boundaries to last through 2020. Politicians drew the lines in previous remapping efforts, leading to oddly shaped districts drawn to protect the incumbents of both parties.
This year, the independent, voter-approved Citizens Redistricting Commission will draw the lines and is under orders to ignore political ramifications – such as where incumbents live or whether the new lines might make a sitting lawmaker more vulnerable. Instead, the 14-member panel must draw the lines to better reflect “communities of interest,” described in Prop.20 as areas of “contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”
That would include people with shared agricultural or industrial concerns, or who use the same transportation systems or have access to the same local media outlets, according to language in the measure.
“We’re really interested in hearing from people about what area they identify with,” said Norco attorney Jodie Filkins Webber, one of five registered Republicans on the panel.
The commission is in the middle of a statewide tour, in which they are holding a series of public input hearings. One took place Thursday night at Norco City Council chambers and another is slated for next Thursday in Palm Springs.
Federal lawmakers are prohibited from interacting with the commission. But they’re paying close attention to the process.
“Obviously we have a keen interest in it, and so does every member,” said Issa’s chief of staff, Dale Neugebauer, who added that the outcome would determine the difficulty of each incumbent’s next race.
Issa, R-Vista, whose district includes much of southwestern Riverside County, led all Inland House members in fundraising through the end of March, raking in more than $193,000 for his campaign, the campaign finance reports show. That’s roughly twice as much as Issa had two years ago.
Neugebaur said the increase is the result of a combination of more aggressive fundraising this year and his increased stature in Congress . Issa has become one of the most visible and vocal House members since taking over the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee.
Calvert, R-Corona, has raised almost $143,000 for his campaign, topping his previous high-water mark in the first stretch of an election cycle by several thousand dollars. Democrats have targeted Calvert’s seat in the last two elections, and will surely take a close look at how the lines are redrawn – and how much cash Calvert can raise – as they decide whether to make a serious run to unseat him next year.
Similarly, Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, has had to fight off challengers in the last two elections, though she won by large margins both times. Her district, which includes Moreno Valley, Hemet, Murrieta and Riverside County’s desert communities, is certain to change significantly. The district saw enormous growth in the past decade, making it the most overpopulated one in the state.
Thus, Bono Mack must shed thousands of constituents in the redistricting process. She just doesn’t know which ones.
The new campaign finance reports show Bono Mack has raised roughly $111,000, as compared to the more than $153,000 she had collected at this time two years ago. Bono Mack’s campaign manager said she’s committed to raising the necessary funds.
“We’re going to work as hard as we need to work, whatever the lines may be,” Mark Troast said.
Troast noted that Bono-Mack raised an additional $37,000 in a separate legal committee account, bringing her total to about $133,000.
No crystal ball
To read entire story, click here.