Political Notebook

Supreme Court ruling spares Valley potential political turmoil

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld an independent redistricting commission approved more than a decade ago by Arizona voters — and at the same time doused a potential political firestorm here in California.

There was broad speculation that if the nation’s highest court had struck down Arizona’s redistricting commission, California’s would soon follow. And if that happened, it could have given Democrats who hold sway in Sacramento the power to redraw the state’s congressional lines, possibly as early as next year’s elections.

The speculation was rampant, and it was nothing but speculation, but the feeling was no part of California would likely see as much change under a partisan Democrat-led redrawing of congressional lines than the San Joaquin Valley.

Specifically, many people felt that Hanford Republican David Valadao would have been moved into the same district as Tulare Republican Devin Nunes. Along with Valadao would have gone a whole bunch of Republicans. Democrats can’t seem to beat Valadao with a 16-percentage-point voter-registration advantage, but how about 20 or 25 percentage points?

So it wasn’t a surprise that Tal Eslick, Valadao’s chief of staff, said on his Facebook page: “SCOTUS hands Voters a huge victory.”

Redistricting experts not only predicted the Valadao move, but said Democrats could also have gone after Turlock Republican Jeff Denham and also gerrymandered other districts where Democrats struggled to win last year. That included Fresno Democrat Jim Costa’s seat.

So, not only could Democrats possibly pick up two congressional seats in California, they might have also shored up the representatives in hotly contested districts.

Nunes was skeptical there were enough Democrats to actually do this, but other experts said they’d drawn up the lines and not only could it be done, but the districts didn’t look that contorted.

Now, it looks like nothing more than an interesting aside that consumed political junkies for several months and will now be forgotten as the 2016 elections will move ahead with the current congressional districts intact.