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Assembly proposal draws new lines for Imperial County

Kelley might be out

August 30, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Imperial County would find itself in a new Assembly district under modified boundaries proposed Monday by the Assembly.

Looking at the new boundaries, there's an obvious chunk taken out of the current district.

"I think it's drawn for a Democrat," said Assemblyman Dave Kelley, R-La Quinta. "I don't like being taken out of the Imperial Valley."

Kelley said the proposed boundaries cut the Coachella Valley in two, removing such areas as Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage from the current 80th District.

"I lose about 96 percent of the current district I represent," Kelley said, adding his district is now centered around Riverside County.

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There's little Kelley can do, however, though there will be several public hearings on the proposals.

He said with the Legislature controlled by Democrats, and the governor also being a Democrat, Republicans have been excluded from the redistricting process.

The proposed boundaries are also a disappointment to other local officials.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado said he could live with the proposal, although he had preferred an alignment toward San Diego.

"You have to live with what you have," he said. "I'm satisfied."

Looking at the proposed area's demographics, Tirado said efforts will have to be made to get more Hispanics registered to vote.

According to the information provided by the Assembly — at http://www.assembly.ca.gov/ — the proposed district includes:

· all of Imperial County, with a population of 142,361.

· 18.2 percent of Riverside county, with 281,054 of its population.

· a racial makeup of 253,555, or 59.88 percent Hispanic; 138,515, or 32.7 percent non-Hispanic white; 14,915, or 3.52 percent black; and 8,472, or 2 percent Asian.

· a voting age population of 157,684, or 53.2 percent Hispanic; 115,368, or 38.9 percent non-Hispanic white; 11,489, or 3.9 percent black; and 6,257, or 2.1 percent Asian.

· a registered voters breakdown of 66,900, or 47.1 Democrat; 49,920, or 35.2 percent Republican; and 18,081, or 12.7 percent decline to state. The area has 141,923 total registered voters, of which 49,337, or 34.7 are Latino.

El Centro City Councilman Larry Grogan, who'd testified during the Legislature's public hearings on redistricting, said he is "extremely disappointed" with the proposal.

He said he has no problem with the proposed area being majority Hispanic or majority Democrat.

"What does bother me is we have 280,000 plus voters outside of Imperial County who couldn't care less about the border," he said. "The basic grounds for commonality of community are not there."

Grogan said the county has much less in common with the area to the north than with the San Diego area.

"I'm not sure what we have in common with Riverside," he said. "These are not border areas. These are not areas with high unemployment."

He said he fears with a northerly alignment, the Valley's water becomes a future resource for the Los Angeles area.

"Now we're basically in their back pocket," he said.

Grogan also said because the proposed district would only have one-third of its voters from the county, the legislators would cater to that area with the most voters.

"I think we're really going to be shortchanged," he said. "It's damned disappointing. It really is."

Though a number of local government agencies, such as the Board of Supervisors, the El Centro City Council and certain chambers of commerce supported a westerly alignment, the Calexico City Council sided with a northerly alignment. So did the Mexican-American Political Association.

Local MAPA representative Danny Santillan said he is very pleased with the proposed district.

"It's the way MAPA was pulling," he said. "It will give a Hispanic a lot better chance of winning."

It is unknown when the state Senate will release its districting proposals.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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