By Kevin Yamamura and Jim Sanders
kyamamura@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Jun. 7, 2011 – 12:01 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 7, 2011 – 7:50 am

To secure Republican votes for the state budget, Democrats have enlisted business leaders, police officers and teachers.

Now they’re hoping for a boost from cartographers.

An independent mapping panel will release its first draft of new legislative boundaries Friday, shuffling incumbents into new districts and threatening some members’ best-laid political plans.

Democrats hope the redistricting maps will help shake free the necessary Republican votes for a budget that relies on taxes to bridge the remaining $9.6 billion deficit.

They suggest the maps could place key Republicans in more competitive districts and reduce the influence of anti-tax conservatives. At the least, the maps will provide more information about the makeup of future legislative districts after months of uncertainty.

“Of course it’s affecting the budget process – to say otherwise is like denying that money affects the stock market,” said Democratic strategist Jason Kinney. “Everyone knows what the (budget) end game is. But for folks putting up a tough vote, it’s hard to do the political math with so many variables unknown.”

Gov. Jerry Brown is negotiating with a handful of Republicans over a budget package that includes taxes, limits on spending, pension reductions and regulation changes that help businesses. Democratic legislative leaders say they intend to have floor votes by the June 15 constitutional deadline, possibly this week.

Based on drawings the commission issued last week, the new maps threaten to oust some members in 2012. In the Sacramento area, for instance, three Democratic Assembly members would end up in the same district.

The maps are far from final, but such possibilities make lawmakers nervous. Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, sat at his desk on the Senate floor last week watching a live webcast of a redistricting commission meeting, according to several legislative aides.

“Members are anxious,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, about the maps being released this week.

Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, who is involved in budget talks with Brown, said “there’s a possibility” the new maps will shift the budget dynamic.

“I think the members individually are going to have to weigh whether they can be more of a potential budget vote or not,” Berryhill said.

Several political analysts said hopes for a budget tailwind are overblown.

They say the maps could spark more uncertainty. They note that it remains too tough to predict future political outcomes, given that the state also has deployed a new primary system in which the top two candidates advance regardless of party affiliation.

And the maps being released Friday are only a first draft, with the final maps not due until August. The initial Senate maps will exclude district numbers – a key factor dictating when members have to run for re-election.

“Waiting for these maps to come out until voting for the budget is like not paying bills until May 21 because you were waiting for the rapture,” said Paul Mitchell, a Democratic consultant whose firm, Redistricting Partners, advises clients on the mapping process. These maps “probably raise more questions than they answer,” Mitchell said.

Steinberg said he’d rather see a budget vote before Friday’s map deadline.

“You don’t know until you see it, but I guess I worry that it will make an already complicated challenge a little or a lot more complicated,” he said.

“But it could also work just the opposite,” he added. “It could have some members on the other side, for example, who don’t see themselves voting for a fair and balanced budget think, ‘Maybe I ought to think differently.’ ”

The maps could cut both ways, making some Democrats more vulnerable and tax votes more difficult, said political analyst Tony Quinn, who worked on redistricting maps as a former GOP legislative aide. “It’s just too esoteric to draw conclusions,” he noted.

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