Neil Nisperos and Benjamin Demers, Staff Writers
Posted: 11/28/2011 05:51:35 PM PST

Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part series looking at the newly redrawn Inland Empire legislative districts for California’s Assembly. Sunday’s installment was Congress; on Monday we examined the California Senate.

When members of California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission compiled the state’s new political maps, they did so in hopes of ending gerrymandering.

An early look at Assembly races in this region seem to indicate they have succeeded in creating a more competitive atmosphere. The commission released the new maps in July.

Most notably, GOP Senate Leader Bob Dutton may face a challenging election campaign against Assemblyman Mike Morrell in District 40, and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly will face off against Big Bear Lake Mayor Bill Jahn in District 33.

In a change from past years, primary candidates for an office will be on one ballot, regardless of political affiliation. The top two vote-getters – even if from the same party – will advance to the general election on Nov. 6.

Here’s an early look at how some of the region’s new Assembly districts are shaping up:

Assembly District 33

This district encompasses most of San Bernardino County with the exception of its southwest corner and the Morongo Basin.

Donnelly already represents a portion of this area and is expected to run for re-election.

The Republican and former member of the Minuteman Project has made waves in his first term representing the 59th District.

Donnelly is in the process of getting enough signatures to qualify a measure for the statewide ballot to overturn the state’s Dream Act. The act allows illegal immigrants who are attending public colleges and universities to be eligible to seek financial aid.

Donnelly’s strong anti-illegal-immigration platform will likely appeal to many in this district as Republicans hold a substantial edge over Democrats among registered voters – 42 percent to 34 percent, according to consulting firm Redistricting Partners.

But Jahn has announced he will challenge Donnelly and is looking to appeal to Democrats as well as Republicans.

“California has huge problems that cannot be solved from the extreme right or extreme left … Our leaders need to work together to find common-sense solutions to the issues we face,” Jahn recently told media outlets.

Ron Wall, the chairman of the county Democratic Party, said he was unaware of any candidates from his party who have expressed interest in running for the seat.

Democrats could make some inroads in this district as 40 percent of its residents are Hispanics – who typically vote for the party’s candidates.

District 33 also includes Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs, Big Bear Lake and the vast majority of the High Desert.

Assembly District 40

This horseshoe-shaped district extends from Rancho Cucamonga to part of the High Desert through San Bernardino and into Redlands.

Dutton has already indicated that he will run for this seat, as he is termed out of the Senate and will hope to move to the Assembly in order to stay in Sacramento. Dutton has been a state lawmaker since 2002.

He represents the 31st Senate District, which includes several cities in the new Assembly District 40 such as Highland, Loma Linda and Rancho Cucamonga.

Dutton has served as the GOP Senate leader since 2010 and has been at the center of several state budget battles with Gov. Jerry Brown.

Morrell will challenge Dutton for the District 40 seat, but not before having to move.

The Republican recently said he is moving to another home in Rancho Cucamonga because his current residence isn’t in the 40th District. The new district lines cut his home out of the 40th.

Morrell, who owns a real estate brokerage firm, was elected to represent the 63rd Assembly District in November 2010.

Although both lawmakers are well known in the area, Morrell and Dutton could face a serious challenge from a Democrat as the party holds a 40 percent to 38 percent edge over Republicans among registered voters.

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