The political landscape of Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties have an entirely new look and it could lead to seismic shifts of influence throughout the area.
Following months of work, the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Committee released the final map of the state’s new voting districts reflecting the outcome of the 2020 US Census count. For the first time ever, California saw shrinkage in its population and the loss of a seat in the US Congress.
Visalia to See All New Faces
Most radical among the local alterations is the division of the major population centers of Visalia and Tulare into separate districts for not only congressional representation, but also on the state level in the Assembly and Senate. The practical upshot of this rearrangement is Visalia will need to choose an entirely new set of representatives in the next general election, as the city will no longer be represented by Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Porterville), State Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) and most significantly by Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare).
Nunes shocked his constituents in December by announcing his resignation effective at the end of 2020, however, his former 22nd Congressional District will no longer include Visalia. The north portion of Visalia will be represented by the Fresno-dominated CD21, while the main part of the city will fall in the largely rural CD20.
CD21 includes the cities of Sanger, Farmersville, Fowler, Exeter, Parlier, Selma, Dinuba, Woodlake, Kingsberg, Reedley and Orange Cove, and portions of southern Fresno and north Visalia. All districts were redrawn to create a precisely balanced population–each of the state’s 52 congressional districts contains exactly 760,066 people, plus or minus one person–as well as attempting to preserve ethnic population groupings required by Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The district contains portions of all the Valley’s major transportation routes, including Highways 99, 198, 168, 41 and 180.
More Congressional Mixing
CD20 will be home to the majority of Visalia’s citizens, who will share that district with all of Clovis, Lemoore, Maricopa, Ridgecrest, Taft and Tehachapi, and portions of Fresno, Hanford, Tulare and Bakersfield. The commission identified the area as having common living conditions and political goals.
The redrawn 20th Congressional District has been assigned to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The district is Republican-heavy, with a 31-point advantage for the GOP.
Finishing the redistribution of congressional influence is the new map of CD22. Also drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act community requirements, CD22 includes parts of Tulare, Kings and Kern counties, including the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Lindsay, McFarland, Porterville, Shafter and Wasco. Portions of Tulare, Hanford and Bakersfield are also included.
However, several months remain before the midterm elections that will see the changed political maps come into play. That means a special election must be held to select a replacement for Nunes using the old district. Those already lined up to run include two-time Democratic candidate Phil Arballo and independent candidate Eric Garcia. Democrat Lourin Hubbard has also declared for the seat.
Potential GOP candidates to replace Nunes include Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, Sen. Andreas Borgeas and Elizabeth Heng. Also mentioned as a potential candidate is Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.
State Senate Split-up
Visalia finds itself divided once again on the new map for California Senate districts, where the city will find the majority of its residents represented in Senate District 12, while the remainder, along with most of Tulare and all of Hanford, will fall in SD16.
According to the Redistricting Committee, SD12 was drawn in order to “nest” State Assembly districts 8 and 32. SD12 includes portions of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties, encompassing all of California City, Clovis, Exeter, Maricopa, Ridgecrest, Taft and Tahachapi. It also includes parts of Bakersfield, Fresno, Shafter and Tulare.
While SD12 contains Tulare County’s largest population center, it extends into the eastern foothills and mountain communities of the Sierra, and is intended to link the two areas under a single representative.
SD16 is another nesting district that includes almost all of AD33 and AD35. It includes all of Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties, encompassing the cities of Arvin, Avenal, Corcoran, Delano, Dinuba, Farmersville, Hanford, Kingsberg, Lemoore, Lindsay, McFarland, Porterville, Wasco and Woodlake. It also covers portions of Bakersfield, Shafter, Tulare and Visalia.
Lower House Shuffle
The radical map changes continue on the State Assembly level, where the massive Assembly District 26, which reaches from west of Visalia to the Nevada stateline, will be no more.
Instead, the area will be divided among AD32, AD33 and AD35, all of which are vastly smaller than AD26.
AD33 will be home to Porterville, where State Assemblyman Devon Mathis currently resides and where he will have to run to retain his legislative seat. That still-sizable district includes portions of Tulare and Kern counties, and is home to the cities of Farmersville, Kingsburg, Lemoore, Tulare, Woodlake, Avenal, Corcoran, Lindsay, Dinuba and Hanford, and parts of Visalia and Reedley.
Joining the majority of Visalia in AD32 will be all of Exeter, Ridgecrest, Tehachapi, Maricopa and Taft, and portions of Bakersfield. AD35 includes a portion of Kern County, including the cities of McFarland, Shafter, Arvin and Delano, and part of Bakersfield.
The former eastern portion of AD26 will be included in AD8, which extends north from Inyo County to southeast of Sacramento.
One Last Map to Draw
The release of the new state political boundary maps on December 27 leaves just one last local redistricting task to complete, the redrawing of Visalia’s city council districts. Tulare County and the remaining cities of Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Kern counties completed their redistricting efforts late last year.
In Visalia, an apparent glitch in data transfer left the city without a digital means of drawing draft maps, leading to frustration and an extended timeline for adoption of adjusted boundaries. The next hearing on redistricting before the Visalia City Council is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10.
While the hearing scheduled for next week was intended to be the final one before the council’s vote, two additional hearings will be held in light of the extended deadline. Those will take place on Monday, February 2, and Tuesday, February 22. Both hearings will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 707 W. Acequia Avenue.
The final map could be selected at the February 22 meeting. The deadline to submit maps to the Secretary of State is April 17.
The city will host a mapmaking workshop at 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 15 at City Hall, 707 W. Acequia Avenue. City staff will also be on hand to answer mapmaking questions in the lobby during upcoming council meetings, and assistance is available during regular business hours by calling (559) 713-4358.
The final deadline to submit a draft map of Visalia’s council districts is 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 20.