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Senate OKs putting county in Filner's district

September 13, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

New district maps were approved Wednesday night by the state Senate 38-2 that tack Imperial County onto the South Bay congressional district of San Diego Democrat Bob Filner.

The proposal for the 51st would expand Filner's district to include Chula Vista, National City, the entire stretch of the border and Imperial County.

Last week the Assembly's redistricting committee released maps that added Imperial County to Susan Davis' 49th District.

La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Calexico and Bombay Beach were all going to be united in a district encompassing the high-rent real estate along the Pacific Coast and the entire stretch of California's border with Mexico.

Davis, a Democrat serving her first term in the House, was ready to run for re-election in the Imperial Valley, according to her spokesman, Aaron Hunter.

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While it is still possible she could, the proposal linking Imperial County with Filner's 51st is headed for an Assembly vote late today or Friday.

The one district Imperial County hasn't been linked to on any of the maps released so far is the 52nd.

For more than 20 years Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, has represented the county in the 52nd.

According to both proposals presented by the committee, Hunter would lose the largely Democratic and Hispanic voters of Imperial County and gain white non-Hispanic Republican voters of eastern San Diego.

Under the proposal that links the county with the 51st Filner would run for re-election in 2002 in a district split 51/29 Hispanic to non-Hispanic white.

Under the proposal that links the county with the 49th, freshman Davis would defend her congressional seat for the first time in a district split 55/28 non-Hispanic white to Hispanic.

Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo said he thinks districts should be divvied up for the benefit of the state, not for the benefit of one ethnic group or race. He said, though, a change of representation for the county could bode well for prospects here.

"Hunter hasn't been favorable to border economies. He hasn't supported (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and he hasn't pushed for the railroad line (to San Diego) to be reactivated," he added. "He has represented farmer interests, though."

Hunter wanted to continue representing the Valley, according to his spokesman, Michael Harrison.

"He's disappointed. He made a request to keep as much of his old district as he could," Harrison said. "He's very fond of the Valley."

Harrison added: "Hunter is still the Valley's congressman for the next 15 months and will continue to represent the district."

"He will continue to work on the Salton Sea. He will continue to work on infrastructure. He will continue to work on border issues," Harrison said.

With redistricting, Hunter's 52nd District would gain parts of Poway and eastern San Diego county to make up for the population loss of the Valley.

Once the committee's final recommendations are made, the new district map will be voted on by the Assembly.

The deadline for that vote was to have been Friday but the recent closures of state offices could push back that date.

A former professor at San Diego State University and former San Diego city councilman, Filner was elected to the House in November 1992.

In 1998 Filner was unopposed in his re-election bid.

In the 2000 elections he beat Assemblyman Juan Vargas for the Democratic nomination, then won the general election.

During his first term in the House, Filner sponsored a bill that amended the Clean Water Act. His supporters said the bill allowed San Diego to save billions of dollars while meeting environmental standards.

In 2000, he co-sponsored legislation with fellow San Diego representative Brian Bilbray — who later lost his seat to Davis — that curtailed the amount of sewage flowing into San Diego's South Bay from Tijuana.

During his second term (1995-96), Filner battled with Republicans in the House over Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

During his third term (1997-98), Filner reintroduced bills encouraging private sector funding for the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad and publicly battling with Duncan Hunter on the issue.

Filner worked to allow more mobile home owners to qualify for federal housing assistance.

Lately, Filner has sponsored legislation, including bills to create a $500 million border infrastructure fund to help pay for improvements in roads, highways and rail lines that are crucial for increased trade with Mexico.

But does Filner want to run for re-election in a 51st including the Imperial Valley?

El Centro's Mayor Pro Tem Larry Grogan said, "No."

"He doesn't want the Imperial Valley. He doesn't want any more Latinos in his district," Grogan said.

"If a Democrat from the coast doesn't want Democrats in his district, obviously they are the wrong kind of Democrats," Grogan added.

"Who said that?" Filner asked, then added: "I think people vote for their representative by their qualification, not by their race."

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