Ballotpedia: California has country’s most competitive state races

California has the most competitive state races in the country, according to an analysis released by Ballotpedia today.

The third annual State Legislative Electoral Competiveness Index looks at whether an incumbent is running for re-election; whether that incumbent had a primary election challenge; and whether there are two major party candidates in the general election showdown.

The Ballotpedia analysis found California’s incumbents will face a primary opponent in nearly 36 percent of the races.

In the Coachella Valley, voters will weigh in on two state races this year:

– In the new 42nd Assembly District, Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande faces Democrat Mark Orozco, a Beaumont Unified school board member.

– Democratic Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez faces Republican Corky Reynaga-Emett, an insurance broker from Indio.

Not one of the candidates had a primary election opponent.

Nationwide, Ballotpedia found Michigan, New Hampshire, Idaho and Nebraska round out the top 5 list of competitive state elections. The least competitive races were found in Massachusetts, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Saved from brink

Last month, the state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission announced it planned to cease operations June 30 because it was de-funded.

Today, the commission announced in a news release that won’t be the case after all.

Somehow the commission and the Legislature found enough pennies to “maintain basic services” through the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The 14-member independent board was created by voters in 2010. The idea was to take the once-in-a-decade redistricting out of the Legislature’s hands.

Bono Mack targeted with protest, website

With the primary less than two weeks away, Democrats seem ready to rally their troops against Rep. Mary Bono Mack.

Local Democrats are planning a “peaceful demonstration” Thursday morning outside of the Hilton Palm Springs, where Bono Mack is scheduled to address the Palm Springs Hospitality Association.

The protest starts at 11 a.m. The $50-per-person luncheon starts at 11:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, the California Democratic Party today launched a website that targets Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican, and four other GOP incumbents they’ve deemed “vulnerable.”

The site will look at controversial votes and include links to news stories, the state party announced today.

“The battle to win back the House begins and ends in California,” Tenoch Flores, communications director for the California Democratic Party, said in a release.

Bono Mack has been targeted by the state and national Democrats for years.

It intensified after the 2008 election, when the 45th district was one of eight California congressional districts represented by a Republican but was won by President Obama.

Thanks to redistricting, Bono Mack is seeking reelection in the new 36th Congressional District. She faces Democrat Raul Ruiz, an emergency room physician from Palm Desert.

A press release announcing Thursday’s protest did not say whether Ruiz would attend.

Court approves new state Senate map

The California Supreme Court today upheld the state Senate maps that were drawn by the independent redistricting commission.

The maps were drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a 14-member committee that was created by voters in order to take the once-in-a-decade redistricting process out the Legislature’s hands.

The new maps were finalized last year and were almost immediately criticized by California’s Republican leaders. Because of the demographic makeup of the districts, the new Senate maps will likely give Democrats an upper hand in this year’s elections.

The new map puts all of the Coachella Valley into Senate District 28, a GOP-leaning district that will be on the ballot in 2014.

From today’s Associated Press report:

Republicans are seeking an initiative to overturn the new boundaries and wanted the new maps tossed out until voters decide the issue. The court first had to find whether it even had the authority to act because the GOP initiative has yet to qualify.

The justice concluded that they did have jurisdiction “and that the petition presents issues sufficiently ripe for review.”

The court found that the maps drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission were “clearly the most appropriate map to be used in the 2012 state Senate elections even if the proposed referendum qualifies for the ballot.”

Desert Hot Springs gets new supervisor

Residents in Desert Hot Springs, north Palm Springs and a sliver of Cathedral City got a new county supervisor today.

Rather than wait for the upcoming elections, Riverside County supervisors agreed to start following the new boundaries that come with redistricting.

The idea was proposed by Supervisor John Benoit, who thought that immediately abiding by the new map would alleviate any confusion about who represents whom over the next few years.

The representation agreement doesn’t apply to legal matters such as recalls or special elections.

Today’s 4-0 vote means Benoit is the point person for all Coachella Valley cities.

Under the old map, the northwestern edge of the desert was represented by Supervisor Marion Ashley.

Democrats use poll to target Bono Mack

Although a local candidate has yet to develop a winning formula, national Democratic groups have argued for years that Rep. Mary Bono Mack is vulnerable.

The latest group to use the talking point is the House Majority PAC, which conducted polling in 12 targeted Republican districts throughout the country.

The poll, conducted Oct. 16-23, shows 43 percent of voters in the new 36th Congressional District would reelect Bono Mack but 55 percent would prefer someone else.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 4.4 percent, also shows only 34 percent of district residents have a favorable opinion of congressional Republicans.

The news release did not specifically mention Democrat Raul Ruiz, an emergency physician at Eisenhower Medical Center who has entered the 2012 race. So it is not clear how the political newcomer’s numbers would stack up against the incumbent from Palm Springs.

The new 36th Congressional District does give Republicans a slight advantage in voter registration. Political analysts on both sides of the aisle have told The Desert Sun they would give Bono Mack an even larger advantage because she’s represented every community at some point in her legislative career.

And consider this:

Before Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez announced his reelection plans, the Coachella Democrat had told The Desert Sun he wanted to see polling data in the district. We asked about that poll when Perez opted out of the federal race, and the assemblyman told us that he never saw any numbers.

Vargas vs. Ducheny?

Voters last year picked Sen. Juan Vargas to replace Sen. Denise Ducheny after term limits ended her run in the Capitol.

Next year, voters may be asked to choose between the two Democrats.

Ducheny told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she’s open to running for the same congressional seat that Vargas is eyeing.

If preliminary redistricting maps hold true, the congressional district boundaries would include part of San Diego and run along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The congressional district, which does not include the Coachella Valley, is expected to be an incumbent-free campaign as Rep. Bob Filner plans to run for San Diego mayor.

Notably, Ducheny didn’t want Vargas to succeed her in the 40th Senate district, which includes part of the Coachella Valley. She had endorsed then-Assemblywoman Mary Salas, who lost to Vargas after a tough Democratic primary campaign.

Final push

 Club organizers on both sides of the political aisle are in frenzy today, encouraging people to write the state redistricting commission before they stop accepting written testimony on Tuesday.

After catching wind of the Democrats’ efforts to get the maps changed, Republicans this weekend circulated an email that warned the GOP was being “out maneuvered in our quest for keeping our desert cities together and districted within Riverside County.”

That email made its way to some local Democrats, who encouraged their members to write even more letters explaining why Imperial County and the Coachella Valley should be in the same state and federal districts.

And you thought the days before a fundraising deadline were intense.

Want to give your input? You only have until 5 p.m. Tuesday. Comments can be sent by email to votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov or by fax to 916-651-5711.

The second draft of the much-anticipated maps will be released July 14. The maps must be finalized by Aug. 15.

Moving target

If you’ve been tracking the redistricting schedule, we hope you’ve been using a pencil.

The state commission was originally scheduled to release the next round of maps on July 21. Then, officials pushed the date up to July 12.

Now the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is moving the release to July 14 “in order to be able to have sufficient time to review the second draft maps before voting to move them forward,” according to a news release.

The second round of maps will also show the district numbers – letting potential candidates know which state Senate seats are up for election in 2012. 

The 14-member commission has until Aug. 15 to finalize the boundaries of the state and federal legislative districts.

Feedback wanted

Friday marks the deadline for people to provide written testimony about California’s first round of redistricting maps.

The maps, released June 10, provided the first look at how the state and federal legislative boundaries should be redrawn.

Public testimony can be submitted in multiple formats:

– Email: votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov

– Fax: (916) 651-5711

– Snail mail: Citizens Redistricting Commission at 901 P Street, Suite 154A, Sacramento, 95814

The 14 commissioners will use your feedback to tweak the maps. The revised version will be released on July 12, although the commission has until August 15 to finalize the redistricting plan.

 Additional information can be found on the commission’s website.

Updated on Tuesday, June 21: The commission just extended the deadline to June 28.