The Prelude to the Redistricting Battle

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County supervisors are expected on Tuesday to keep hashing out the details of a subcommittee intended to map out prospective political futures for a host of players across Orange County over the next decade.

Ostensibly, new district boundary lines are redone every decade at the county level to make sure that residents are getting fair representation.

But in reality, the redrawing of county supervisor district lines involves much more behind-the-scenes politicking because it also dictates political fortunes.

Last week, my colleague Adam Elmahrek reported that some county supervisors are worried about Chairwoman Janet Nguyen’s plan to have elected supervisors work on the committee.

That prompted some, like Supervisor Shawn Nelson, to comment that staffers might be a better fit to serve on the panel. Supervisor Pat Bates also worried aloud about the potential of serial Brown Act violations, which could then trigger a court-ordered solution.

Yet having staffers work on such panels doesn’t necessarily remove the politics.

For example, Nelson’s own chief of staff, Denis Bilodeau, is a local elected official. He’s a councilman in Orange. That puts him in play (at least in theory) in the district now represented by Supervisor Bill Campbell. That district will be up for election in 2012.

Other supervisors, like Bates and Nguyen herself, also have staffers with political ambitions. So the question facing supervisors is whether they can simply delegate the math of drawing new lines to staff without avoiding the politicking that often accompanies the effort.

If you want more on this, Matt Cunningham at Red County did a great job of highlighting the long-term impact that new district lines have had on political fortunes in recent years.

So as this process gets started, stay tuned because it should provide some great theater.



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