10:00 PM PST on Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

The next election is never far off and two Inland Southern California lawmakers already are taking steps toward a possible future candidacy.

Last week, Assembly members Wilmer Amina Carter and Paul Cook opened campaign committees to run for state Senate.

Cook, R-Yucca Valley, plans to run for the 31st Senate District next year. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, currently holds the seat but has to leave office next year because of term limits.

Carter, D-Rialto, plans to run for the 32nd Senate District in 2014, when state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, will be termed out.

The wild card is this year’s redrawing of California’s political map by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Cook and Carter even could find themselves in the same Senate district.

Baca the trendsetter

Most of Inland Southern California’s congressional delegation broke from tradition during last week’s State of the Union address, crossing the aisle to sit with members of the opposing party in a nod to the recent calls for increased civility in Washington.

But Rep. Joe Baca is a stickler for tradition. So as Inland GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, Mary Bono Mack and Ken Calvert found seats next to Democrats, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sat alongside a House Republican, Baca took the same seat he always does: the aisle seat closest to the door through which the president enters on his way to the speaker’s rostrum.

Thus, Baca, D-Rialto, was well positioned as always to get a handshake from President Barack Obama, and a signature on his official program.

But Baca insisted that his seating choice wasn’t an affront to the speech’s theme of bipartisanship. Far from it, he said. As it turns out, Baca has for the last couple of years crossed over to the right (Republican) side of the aisle, where there are fewer lawmakers jockeying for position to get a word in with the Democratic president.

Thus, Baca reasoned, he really was ahead of his time.

“I was the first one to do it,” he deadpanned following Tuesday’s speech.

Redistricting lobbying

The detailed Census 2010 numbers aren’t yet out but lobbying on the local level is already under way as Riverside County supervisors prepare to redraw their district boundaries.

The Hemet-San Jacinto Action Group believes the San Jacinto Valley should remain in one supervisorial district, president Eric Gosch said last week.

The action group commissioned a study from Claremont’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government that used population estimates to show how much each district must change.

Gosch gave a presentation on the report to the Hemet City Council last week and plans to do the same before the San Jacinto City Council on Thursday.

The report showed Supervisor Jeff Stone’s 3rd District, which includes the San Jacinto Valley and southwest Riverside County, gaining nearly 200,000 residents over the past decade. Based on the institute’s estimates, Stone’s district will have to give up nearly 63,000 residents.

On the flip side, the 1st and 2nd districts, represented by Bob Buster and John Tavaglione, respectively, will have to gain residents. Buster will need to pick up 29,400 residents and Tavaglione must gain 43,000.

UNION ALLIES

Republican Assembly members Paul Cook and Brian Nestande raised some eyebrows last Thursday when they showed up at a union rally to protest proposed budget cuts.

Both GOP caucuses publicly favor a cuts-only approach to solving the state’s budget mess. And Republicans and public-sector unions often are at odds.

But the union that organized last week’s Capitol protest, UDW Homecare Providers, is on friendly terms with both lawmakers, as well as with state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, another rally participant who represents part of Riverside County.

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