Ducheny hopeful to represent county

September 17, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

As the two branches of the state Legislature debated redistricting proposals into Thursday night, Denise Moreno Ducheny snacked on tortilla chips in El Centro anxiously awaiting their vote.

Ducheny, the Democratic former Assembly member from San Diego and four-time state budget chairwoman, announced in August she would run for a state Senate seat in a district she expected to include the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

If Thursday's decision by the Legislature is not overturned by a judge, the district she will be running in will be the one she expected.

The Assembly approved new state Senate and congressional district lines by a 58-10 vote. The state Senate had approved the lines by a 38-2 vote Wednesday night.


The Assembly approved the redrawing of its own lines by a 65-8 vote. The Senate unanimously rubber-stamped the Assembly's vote and sent the legislation to the governor's desk.

Gov. Gray Davis still has to sign the new lines into law and there is a possibility a voters' rights groups could sue the Legislature and put the redistricting in the hands of a judge.

Ducheny doesn't think there will be a lawsuit overturning the Legislature's decision and expects Davis to sign off on the new lines.

If she's right, the state Senate's 40th District will link San Diego's South Bay with Imperial County. The lines will closely resemble the congressional 51st District, although the Senate district will be larger in area and encompass a tad more of San Diego County, plus the Riverside County communities of Indio and Coachella.

Steve Peace, D-San Diego, has represented the South Bay 40th for the past seven years but cannot run for re-election in 2002 because of term limits.

State Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, was elected to represent the 37th District and the Imperial Valley in 2000.

With the Imperial Valley joining the 40th District, Battin will be separated from the Imperial Valley area he served as an assemblyman for six years and for the past year as a senator.

His Senate district, the 37th, will be entirely made up of Riverside County communities.

The newly drawn 80th Assembly District still connects the Coachella Valley with the Imperial Valley but a small section of the old 80th has been lopped off and tacked onto the 64th District.

It so happens the Imperial Valley's assemblyman, David Kelley, R-Idyllwild, lives in that section. He said he won't move into the 80th and will try to run for re-election in the 64th.

"There is no incumbent now (in the 80th.)"

Kelley is disappointed he lost the Imperial Valley from his district and said the new Assembly districts were redrawn by the Democrats for partisan reasons. Kelley represented Imperial County in the state Senate before being elected to the Assembly.

"I've enjoyed it all down there. I like to get a little dust on my boots," he said on Friday.

According to statistics on the Assembly's Web site, District 80 will be almost 5 percent less Republican and 4.25 percent more Democrat, for totals of 47 percent Democrat and 35 percent Republican.

"It (the redistricting process) just got down to the end of the state. That's just what was left over after the mapping," Kelly said.

"It's a heavier Democratic district now. A Republican still has a chance, but it's going to be tough," he added.

As for his chances in the 64th, "95 percent of the district that I live in is new to me and that's not good."

If he does win the race for the 64th, which includes the entire city of Riverside, it would be his final term in the Assembly due to term limits.

Kelley would still represent the Valley until a new person is sworn in January 2003, but local politicians are getting ready to form the line for his seat.

In response to the anticipated changes, they have begun to put out feelers; testing the waters for Assembly runs.

Those that had been in the Assembly, such as Ducheny, are eyeing Senate seats after term limits moved them out.

On Thursday, over a bowl of chips at Las Salsas on Fourth Street in El Centro, she mapped out her plans for a return to the Legislature and explained why she is fascinated by the issues facing the Imperial Valley.

In anticipation of her run for the 40th, she has marshaled her supporters in the South Bay area she represented as their assemblywoman.

Those same voters will now be in the 40th state Senate District, along with Imperial and Coachella valley voters.

Recently she has been drumming up support locally in an attempt to shore up her base and will conduct one of her first fund raisers here in the coming weeks.

She was elected to represent the South Bay's 79th Assembly District every time she ran (1994-2000) until term limits forced her out.

The first time she was elected was a special election in early 1994. She said the extra six months she spent in Sacramento before running again in late 1994 gave her a chance to get the feel of the state capital and helped her during her first term.

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