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The California Reapportionment Committee Turns Controversial

Audio

Aired 11/23/10

DWAYNE BROWN (Host): The makeup of the California Reapportionment Commission is now under way, but like most political issues in California, it's already turned controversial. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant, Leo McElroy. Leo, eight new members of this commission were drawn at random through a lottery process by the first members of the commission. We're talking about three democrats, three republicans and two not to state folks. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? But --

LEO MCELROY (Political Consultant): Right. Absolutely. How can you argue with the ping pong balls? And yet, they are arguing. There are all kinds of problems. For example, they looked at the eight and four of the eight are Asian American and people are saying -- oh my, who made the ping pong balls? Five of the eight are women, and so you've got men saying -- oh my -- you know -- women are taking over the process. And, amazingly, out of the first eight, who will choose the remaining six on an even break -- two, two and two -- none of the first eight are from Los Angeles and probably or very possibly, none of the final six are from Los Angeles. And there is already a rumor that somehow lawmakers who got a crack at eliminating people from the list somewhere back down the line, might have purposefully knocked out all the Los Angeles people just for the sake of invalidating the membership of this body in hopes that it would be thrown out and the legislators would get to go back to custom designing their own district.

BROWN: Well, voters approved this process a couple of years ago. It just went into effect currently. Why is it important that a citizen commission redraw the lines as opposed to the politicians?

MCELROY: I think a lot of people have seen the results over the last few years of lawmakers drawing their own districts which is districts that are absolutely rock solid for that constituency. We've had almost no seats in California turnover in terms of party registration. Republican seats stay republican. Democratic seats stay democratic. Whether it's in Congress or in the legislature, they have drawn a set of districts in which the other party generally need not apply. Ant the theory is that a redistricting that allows more competitive battles between the parties is likely to produce better legislators and quite possibly, less polarized ones.

BROWN: Well, what''s old is new is new again at the governor's office. Jerry Brown will take office again. Will the guy who actually created the concept of a chief of staff have to abandon that when he enters office on January 5?

MCELROY: Well he's certainly threatening to. I mean, nobody had a chief of staff before Jerry Brown came in and put Gray Davis in the job. And Gray kind of was Jerry's alter ego for a whole bunch of years in the governor's mansion. And now the governor is saying, well, maybe I'm not going to have a chief of staff. There's also some thought that maybe he will, but it will be his wife, Anne Gust Brown who is a pretty take-charge lady and who has had a major hand in the campaign.

BROWN: His wife?

MCELROY: Yeah, absolutely. And she probably would not get paid, so we'd be saving money on the deal -- how about that?

BROWN: Yeah, I get it. I get it. So, let's go on to this last item, before we wrap this thing up Leo. The state's next attorney general, still not yet determined.

MCELROY: Right. And, just like the reapportionment commission, the whole battle seems to be centering down in Los Angeles where a whole bunch of provisional ballots are yet to be counted. They have to go through them really slowly to figure out if they're legitimate or not. And the battle is that Kamala Harris' people are accusing Steve Cooley, the republican, of getting in the way of this and trying to invalidate a lot of those ballots, because provisional ballots tend to be democrat rather than republican. Of course, what's odd is Cooley's from Los Angeles and so are the votes and you would think he'd have an advantage there. Nobody knows what's going on, but then nobody knows who's the next attorney general either.

BROWN: And for some reason or another, I think you like it that way. Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy, Thanks.

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