By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Major changes to the two North Coast congressional districts are included in the first set of maps, called “visualizations,” released this week by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The maps depict a coastal district running from the Golden Gate Bridge to Del Norte County, encompassing the entire North Coast, including part of Sonoma County.
Santa Rosa, however, appears to lie in a newly shaped inland district that includes Napa, Lake, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yuba and part of Yolo counties.
Commissioner Stan Forbes, a bookstore owner from Esparto in Yolo County, said it was “sort of an agricultural district.”
The maps are not detailed, and include neither city names nor district numbers.
They are, however, a preview of the official first draft of redistricting maps due for release on June 10, especially as they depict Northern California districts.
“I don’t think there are going to be major changes (in the north),” Forbes said.
He declined to discuss details of the map boundaries.
The inland district includes Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson’s home and political base in Napa County, but cuts him off from the coastal region he has represented in Congress since 1998 and puts Santa Rosa in his territory.
Thompson would likely do well in the inland district since he is a moderate Democrat, familiar with the issues in rural areas, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
“It’s not a big step,” McCuan said.
Gone from the new maps is the compact Sonoma-Marin district that has been Petaluma Democrat Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s turf since 1992.
Woolsey’s potential retirement in 2012, when the new districts will debut, may have provided “political cover” for revamping her territory, which currently includes Santa Rosa.
Neither Woolsey nor Thompson could be reached for comment on Friday.
Political considerations, including protection of incumbents, are supposed to be off the table as the citizens commission — established by voter-approved ballot measures — takes over the redistricting chore previously controlled by the politicians whose careers depend on it.
Nonetheless, the visualizations set political juices flowing. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat, said he feels “like a perfect fit” for the coastal congressional district.
The district is “certainly more rural” than the Sonoma-Marin region, but it is “still a very solidly Democratic district,” Huffman said.
Huffman, who is termed out of the Assembly in 2012, and Norman Solomon, a Marin County writer and political activist, have said they will run for Woolsey’s congressional seat if she retires. Woolsey is expected to announce her plans sometime this month.
The coastal district “is a great setup for Jared,” McCuan said.
For any Santa Rosa-based politicians eyeing a run for Congress, the new districts pose a formidable obstacle, McCuan said.
They would have to move from Santa Rosa to get into the coastal district or presumably challenge Thompson in the inland district, he said.
Change is also in store for the state legislative districts represented by two Santa Rosa Democrats, Sen. Noreen Evans and Assemblyman Michael Allen.
Evans’ district would gain Del Norte County and lose Trinity County up north, while taking in a little more of Sonoma County and apparently losing a portion of Solano County in the southeast corner.
An aide said Evans was withholding comment until the draft maps come out next week.
Allen’s district would continue to cover Napa County, but appears to lose a slice of Solano County and clearly picks up more of Sonoma County and all of Lake County.
Allen declined to comment, saying the lines will likely change.
“It’s all speculation at this point,” he said.
Take a look at the maps below — you can click on them to view bigger versions — and let us know what you think about the proposal. What changes, if any, should be made to the final maps?