The Musical Chairs in California Politics and Redistricting

Newly drawn congressional maps have scrambled the calculus for some incumbent lawmakers and those seeking to unseat them.,

Newly drawn congressional maps have scrambled the calculus for some incumbent lawmakers and those seeking to unseat them.


Members of California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission gathered last week after finalizing state legislative and congressional district maps.Credit… California Citizens Redistricting Commission

As 2021 drew to a close, one very important group of Californians worked feverishly to hit a very important deadline.

California’s independent Citizens Redistricting Commission finalized new maps defining state legislative and congressional districts late last month, sending into overdrive a major political reshuffling that had long been percolating.

You may recall that because California did not grow fast enough over the past decade compared with other states, the state lost a seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in its history.

But the game of musical chairs that has resulted is far from simple.


Credit…The New York Times

Political maps are redrawn once each decade, and, this time around, the loss of a seat was just one of many factors shaping the process.

As The Los Angeles Times reported recently, the nonpartisan commission’s most difficult task was determining what constitutes a “community of interest.” The way the maps were ultimately drawn boosted Latino representation — something advocates have said is important, given that Hispanic residents are now the state’s biggest ethnic group.

The new maps also helped Democrats, which has drawn accusations of foul play by some Republicans.

Nevertheless, the changes have scrambled the calculus for Democrats, too. Some incumbent members of Congress or the State Legislature are retiring. Some candidates for the House have backed out of races upon learning of their new opponents, while local elected officials have said they’ll jump into bigger contests.

Here’s where some of the most closely watched contests are taking shape:

The Central Valley

Thanks in large part to redistricting, California’s vast, agricultural heartland has become one of the nation’s last true political battlegrounds.

Representative Devin Nunes, a staunch Trump ally from Tulare, officially resigned on Monday from the seat he held for nearly two decades to lead the former president’s new social media company. But according to draft maps released last year, Nunes was also on track to have more of his district shift into the city of Fresno, which could have made winning more of a challenge. Representative Jim Costa, who currently represents a Fresno-area district, is planning to run in the new one this year. (There will first be a special election to replace Nunes until then.)

Representative David Valadao, a Republican from Hanford, could also have a tougher fight to keep his seat in a face-off with Rudy Salas, a Democrat from Bakersfield. Valadao represents a district that has flipped between parties in exceedingly tight races.

Los Angeles

Late last year, Representative Alan Lowenthal, a powerful Democrat from Long Beach, said he wouldn’t seek re-election. Not long after, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress, said she, too, would retire. Her announcement roughly coincided with news that the newly drawn congressional maps had essentially merged the district she represented with Lowenthal’s.

That paved the way for what is likely to be a fight for the newly created Latino-majority district, which is anchored by Long Beach and includes other cities in the southern part of Los Angeles County.

It’s on track to be a showdown between two Garcias: Robert Garcia, the mayor of Long Beach and a rising Democratic star, and Cristina Garcia, a state lawmaker who has sought to position herself as a successor to Roybal-Allard.

In the northern part of the Los Angeles area, Representative Mike Garcia, a Republican who beat his Democratic challenger in 2020 by 333 votes, will no longer have Simi Valley, a heavily conservative Ventura County enclave, in his district.

Orange County

Although Orange County is far from the Republican stronghold it once was, conservatives hope to hang on to the seats the party does have there.

The county is home to Representatives Michelle Steel and Young Kim, two of the first Korean American women in Congress. Both are Republicans propelled by conservative Asian American voters in the region.

Both are running for re-election in redrawn Orange County-area seats. Steel — who is targeting a district that encompasses Little Saigon and has a heavily Asian electorate — is set to face a challenge from Jay Chen, a Democratic political newcomer whose family emigrated from Taiwan.

Orange County was also on track to be the site of a difficult intraparty fight among Democrats, until Monday. That’s when Harley Rouda, a former congressman who was elected in the “blue wave” that swept California in 2018, said he’d back down from a race against Representative Katie Porter, a high-profile Democrat. Her hometown, Irvine, was drawn into the district Rouda hoped to win back.

For more:

Explore how redistricting is reshaping American politics.

Catch up on which states gained and lost seats in the next Congress.


Mike Rabang, 79, in his home on Nooksack tribal land. Rabang is part of the Nooksack 306, a group that has been battling their disenrollment from the Nooksack.Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

If you read one story, make it this

A bitter fight over the removal of more than 300 people from the Nooksack Indian Tribe in Washington State is raising difficult questions about individual rights and tribal sovereignty.


Elizabeth Holmes was the most prominent executive to field fraud accusations in a generation of high-flying, money-losing start-ups.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The rest of the news

Elizabeth Holmes: The Theranos founder was found guilty of four of 11 charges of fraud, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Return to school: Few schools in California were closed this week despite a surge in coronavirus cases.

Lawmaker resigning: Lorena Gonzalez is resigning from the State Legislature to become the executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, The Associated Press reports.


Bradbury megamansion: Lynsi Snyder, an In-N-Out owner and heiress, sold her mansion for $16.25 million, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Little India: Revenue has plummeted during the pandemic, making the future of the neighborhood uncertain, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Crime rise: The homicide rate in Watts has nearly doubled in the past year, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Betty White: The “Golden Girls” actor died on Friday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99.


Next step to clean energy: Floating offshore wind farms could allow California to achieve 60 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045, according to The Atlantic.


Balcony collapse: Aoife Beary, a survivor of a balcony collapse that killed six students in Berkeley in 2015, has died in a hospital in Dublin.

Record snowfall: Andrew Schwartz of the Central Sierra Snow Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, discussed the impact of Northern California’s significant snowpack with NPR.


Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

What we’re eating

Tostadas with smashed black beans.


Credit…Peter Bennett/Alamy

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Caroline Inouye, a reader who lives in Los Osos:

“We have a lovely bay in Baywood where it is people and dog friendly.

If you are there on Mondays, we have a quaint and amazing farmers’ market. You can really unwind and be a part of nature here.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What we’re recommending

As we contemplate fresh starts, our colleagues at Well wrote about why you should stop dieting and start savoring your food. And they offered tips to get started.

Tell us

How did you mark the start of the 2022? Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

Share with us at

And before you go, some good news

The turning of the year often makes for situations that play with our notions of time — little reminders that the ways we mark its passage are, ultimately, human inventions.

The births of the Trujillo twins in Monterey County make for one such reminder. As NBC News reports, Alfredo Antonio Trujillo was born at 11:45 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021, while his sister was born the next day, in the new year — just 15 minutes later.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Largest animal ever to exist on earth (5 letters).

Soumya Karlamangla and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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