The dominoes are about to fall.
The state recently released visualization maps for new state Assembly, Senate and congressional districts, and one of the proposed maps shows a significant shakeup in three Assembly districts on the South Coast.
The most notable is a map that creates a mostly Santa Barbara County district, stretching from Arroyo Grande to Carpinteria. The current 37th Assembly District is roughly half of Santa Barbara County plus Ventura County.
Under the new visualization map, Ventura County would get mostly its own district and no longer include Santa Barbara.
That opens the door, for the first time, for a North County resident to represent Santa Barbara in the Assembly — or the other way around, someone from the South Coast introducing and proposing state laws for Santa Maria residents.
“If this winds up being the final map, it would be great for Santa Barbara County,” said Wade Cowper, managing partner of CCA Enterprise, a strategic political consulting firm based on the South Coast. “Our county has a lot of specific needs. Just look at our child poverty rate, our homeless population and South County’s housing crisis.
“With a more Santa Barbara County-focused leader, we will hopefully see the resources we need to address those needs.”
Currently, the 37th Assembly District is represented by Democrat Steve Bennett, who is a Ventura resident. It previously had been represented by Santa Barbara residents, including Monique Limon, Das Williams, Pedro Nava and Jack O’Connell.
The last North County resident to represent Santa Barbara was Brooks Firestone in the mid-1990s.
Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, California must redraw the boundaries of its congressional, state Senate, state Assembly and state Board of Equalization districts, so that the districts correctly reflect the state’s population.
The 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission is made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and four not affiliated with either of those two parties.
The commission must draw the district lines in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians.
The maps and the process have sparked controversy across the state, including in Los Angeles, where a largely Latinx congressional district is getting gutted.
In some other areas of the state, congressional candidates would have to face off against members of their own party, or run in a new district because the geography of the district changed around them.
On the South Coast, the 37th and 35th Assembly districts appear to be the most affected.
Political speculation is running wild about what a new Santa Barbara County Assembly district would mean, and already a variety of names are being tossed about as strong candidates — everyone from Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart to Santa Maria City Councilwoman Gloria Soto.
Both Bennett and Republican Jordan Cunningham, who represents the 35th District, declined to comment on the record because the redistricting is a political matter.
It’s clear, however, that the Santa Maria City Council is not pleased with the direction things are headed. The Santa Maria council on Nov. 2 passed a resolution stating that it would prefer to be matched with South San Luis Obispo County, rather than South Santa Barbara County. The vote was 4-1, with the only no vote coming from Soto.
Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino told Noozhawk that the city likes its current Assembly representation.
“We want to stay where we are,” Patino said. “As an agriculture community, we have more in common with South San Luis Obispo. Once you get past the tunnel, the community of common interest ceases.”
Patino said many Santa Maria residents work in San Luis Obispo.
“Our doctors have offices in Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo,” Patino said. “There’s more of a commonality. We have been better served with Jordan (Cunningham) than we do with our southern representatives. They just sort of forget about us up here. They have the same Santa Barbara mentality.”
Patino also noted that Santa Maria is the largest city in the county.
“We want to keep Santa Maria whole, and we like things the way they are,” Patino said. “Being in San Luis Obispo County, we get serviced well from Jordan Cunningham’s office.”
Darcel Elliott, who chairs the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, said the new map would unite a county politically that already has a shared daily experience.
“Santa Barbara’s housing market has really pushed people out of Santa Barbara,” Elliott said. “There are actually a significant number of people who live in northern Santa Barbara County, and that’s been a trend that has developed in the past 10 years.”
She said Santa Barbara County is more common that different.
“We are one county, so we have a lot in common,” Elliott said. “In addition, we do share that sort of network of folks who commute in and out of Santa Barbara.”
The party recently hired a North County organizer, and Elliott said it is poised to engage communities in the North County. Elliott is also already talking to candidates about running for the seat.
“I am definitely talking to folks who may be in the position to run for it,” Elliott said. “A lot of folks are considering it, and considering different factors.”
It’s likely that an existing elected official will vie for the seat, with Hart being an early frontrunner. If he were to run, it would create a vacancy of the Board of Supervisors, which would open the door to a variety of candidates, from school board representatives to members of city councils.
The primary would take place in June and the runoff of the top two candidates in November 2022. The party is endorsing in February.
Now that the maps are out, the public has until mid-December to comment. The state plans to certify the maps by Dec. 27.
The 24th Congressional District map is also reconfigured and no longer stretches into Oxnard, stops in Carpinteria and weaves into Simi Valley and the edge of Ventura County. Senate District 19 includes more of San Luis Obispo County and gains a 3.68% population.
» For Assembly maps, click here.
» For Senate maps, click here.
» For congressional maps, click here.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.