Wednesday, August 24, 2011 | The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to redraw their district boundaries in a way that a local Republican Party leader said guarantees GOP victories in all five seats.
“I feel comfortable that, with those lines, the Board of Supervisors will continue to have all Republican members,” said Jon Fleischman, publisher of the conservative political blog FlashReport.org.
Although members of the Board of Supervisors are officially nonpartisan, Fleischman and county GOP Chairman Scott Baugh visited the offices of the five supervisors about a month ago “on behalf of the Orange County Republican Party,” Fleischman said.
Most of the attention during the months-long redistricting process has focused on the battle between the Latino and Vietnamese communities over representation in the newly drawn districts.
The system the board used to draw its lines pitted Latinos, who tend to vote for Democrats, against Vietnamese, who traditionally support Republicans. The two groups are concentrated in adjoining areas near Santa Ana, Westminster and Garden Grove.
Fleischman said he and Baugh wanted to make sure that the supervisors weren’t forgetting what traditionally is the most important factor for politicians in the redistricting process. They should be “considering political party registration,” Fleischman said. “We didn’t want that to be lost in the process.”
Republicans hold a registration edge over Democrats in the county, although the gap is narrowing and voters with no party affiliation are the fastest growing group.
In the end, supervisors sided with the Vietnamese, who tend to vote Republican, and created all districts that are likely to be won by the GOP.
Latinos had hoped for a district centered in Santa Ana and downtown Anaheim that might elect a Latino supervisor. But the board voted 4-1 for a plan drafted by the staff of Chairman Bill Campbell that aids Supervisor Janet Nguyen by adding Vietnamese concentrations from part of Fountain Valley to her 1st Supervisorial District.
The final lines are crucial for Nguyen, because she and Supervisor Shawn Nelson are the only supervisors eligible to seek re-election in the coming years. Term limits will oust the three other supervisors between now and 2014.
The lone vote against the plan was cast by Supervisor John Moorlach, whose 2nd Supervisorial District would lose part of Fountain Valley in order to add more Vietnamese to Nguyen’s district. The Fountain Valley City Council also opposed splitting the city between two supervisorial districts.
Moorlach declined to discuss Nguyen but said his colleagues “were having a great time chopping up” his district. “You gotta love politics,” he quipped.
He said he voted against the plan because “I just wanted to stay with my principles. I’m opposed to gerrymandering.”
The redistricting process takes place every 10 years after the national census.
At the state level, voters took redistricting power away from the Legislature in 2010. The Citizens Redistricting Commission was created to draw new boundaries for the state Assembly, Senate and Board of Equalization and for the U.S. House of Representatives.
The commission specifically was prohibited from considering party registration or how their new lines would affect incumbents. All discussions on boundaries, down to the smallest change on a single street, were required to be done in public.
The result was a sometimes messy process, but one that was also more transparent. The new statewide lines were officially presented to the secretary of state last week. the Republican Party and Latino groups said they were considering legal challenges to some of the decisions.
The Board of Supervisors, however, stuck with the traditional system of having their aides draw boundaries in private and present them from for supervisors to approve in public.
The new boundaries, which will receive a second hearing Sept. 6, create a district for Nguyen whose voting-age population is 29 percent Asian, 34.3 percent Latino and 33 percent non-Latino white. Because Orange County Vietnamese tend to vote Republican, Fleischman considers it safe for the GOP.
Latinos, who constitute about 40 percent of the county’s population, are generally concentrated in Santa Ana, downtown Anaheim and part of Garden Grove.
Passions grew so intense during Tuesday’s hearing that at one point, Denis Fitzgerald, spokesman for Anaheim Home Owners Maintaining our Environment (HOME), a volunteer watchdog organization, wound up in a shouting match with Nguyen.
Fitzgerald called the supervisors to task for not having a Latino on the board or in any top administrative position, then accused the Vietnamese who fled to the U.S. after the fall of South Vietnam of being “cowards” for not fighting North Vietnam.
Nguyen angrily interrupted, saying Fitzgerald’s comments were inappropriate and continued to berate him after he stalked out of the meeting.