Redistricting could threaten Condit’s re-election bid

By Steve Lawrence Associated Press Writer
Friday August 31, 2001

SACRAMENTO — The area known as “Condit Country” would move north under a congressional redistricting proposal released Thursday, further threatening Rep. Gary Condit’s re-election chances. 

Sen. Don Perata, the Democratic chairman of the Senate elections committee, said Condit’s district would shift north and take in heavily Democratic areas in Stockton. 

The new district, Perata said, would still include Condit’s home in the Modesto suburb of Ceres and be one in which he could run for re-election if he wanted to. 

But Tony Quinn, a California political analyst and former Republican redistricting consultant, said such a new district would put Condit in unfamiliar territory among more liberal Democratic voters who wouldn’t support someone tarnished by scandal. 

“It kills him,” Quinn said. “They are voters that he doesn’t know and don’t like him.” 

The conservative Democrat’s political future, and whether he would have a friendly House district in which to run next year, have been subjects of intense speculation in the months following the May 1 disappearance of Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy. 

Under the map reviewed Thursday by Condit’s staff, he would gain new voters in San Joaquin County, but lose voters in eastern Stanislaus County, which has always been part of the district. 

“You never want to lose any of your base,” conceded Mike Lynch, Condit’s chief of staff. 

But he added that under the plan the proportion of Democrats would increase significantly, from 46 percent of the district to 51 percent. Republicans, meanwhile, would decline from 39 percent to 35 percent. 

“It’s a good thing for any Democratic candidate in the district, certainly it’s a good thing for Gary,” Lynch said. 

State Senate Democrats plan to unveil the congressional redistricting plan in the next day or two that would help Democrats hold on to embattled Rep. Gary Condit’s district, a key senator said Thursday. 

“It’s a perfectly fine district; it just moves north,” Perata said. 

Another Democrat, however, would appear to have a better chance of success in the new district, Perata said. 

Condit has admitted having a relationship with Levy, and the controversy surrounding it has eroded his political standing in his district. A weekend poll showed Condit’s constituents giving him high marks for his performance in office, but only 27 percent said they’d vote for him again. 

Forty-six percent of the voters in Condit’s current district are Democrats, and 39 percent are Republicans, but the district has a history of ticket splitting. 

Condit was re-elected with more than 67 percent of the vote last year, but President Bush carried the district with nearly 53 percent. It was the only Democratic-held House district that Bush carried in November. 

Perata characterized the changes in the Senate’s plan as a way of helping keep the district in Democratic hands whether Condit runs for another term or not. 

His district would have to undergo some surgery no matter what because the new districts must be nearly equal in population and Condit’s seat is nearly 7 percent over that ideal population figure now. 

Copies of the Senate’s plan were being sent to members of California’s congressional delegation and it could be made public Friday or Saturday, Senate aides said. 

Spokesman Kam Kuwata said Assembly Democrats may also propose their own congressional redistricting plan. 

Lawmakers are required to redraw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years to reflect population changes revealed by the federal census. 

Democrats are in control of the process this year because of their majorities in both houses and the presence of Democrat Gray Davis in the governor’s office.