At the March 29 special meeting, the Council majority (Jung, Whittaker, and Dunlap) approved a new map of Council districts, and on April 5 they confirmed it. The process was flawed and as in 2016, the input of the majority of participants was ignored or dismissed.
But this analysis is not about the process, but rather some of the impacts of the new map.
First, although the Election Code requires that districts do not favor or discriminate against a political party, the demographer steadfastly refused to provide data that could demonstrate whether that is the case. His rationale was that he had not looked at that data, so everything was okay. The City Attorney seemed to back him up and he was not pressed to provide that data by the Councilmembers. City Council races in California are nonpartisan, but that more accurately is Nonpartisan in Name Only (NINO).
One of the software programs provided to the public by the demographer (Dave’s) does have data on partisan distribution of a sort. Rather than use party registration figures, the program uses the results of four individual elections since 2016 (Governor, Attorney General, and two presidential elections). Since these elections were won by Democrats, the data may skew Democratic. Unlike Party Registration figures, there is no separate category for Independents. Everything is collapsed into how people actually voted. Mostly Democratic? or Republican?
The Observer was able to obtain this data and has reported on it HERE. While the comparison with official registration figures is not exact, it would appear D1 (Jung) shifts from being marginally favorable to Democrats to marginally favoring Republicans. Jung is registered Democratic but votes most often with the Republicans on the Council. Indeed, he is often the swing vote to create a conservative majority.
D2 (Dunlap), which is the most heavily Republican District, becomes only slightly less so. There is basically no change in heavily Democratic D3, which is heavily Democratic. Districts 4 and 5 (Whitaker and Zahra), heavily Hispanic districts, maintain strong, although possibly slightly diminished, Democratic majorities.
Among the significant changes between the two maps are:
- The lines are straighter and simpler, which by itself does not make them better. However, oddities like the dogleg that put former Councilmember Greg Sebourn into D3, which he subsequently lost, are gone. This map with its straight lines is more elegant than the previous map, and more simple to the point of being simplistic: communities of interest probably do not follow straight lines, and it is not clear what communities of interest these straight lines identify.
- The artificial dividing of downtown into five districts has been reduced to two districts (2 and 5) one heavily Republican and one heavily Democratic, with Chapman being the dividing line.
- The most significant impact of the map is to put Councilmember Silva into D2 along with Councilmember Dunlap. D3 will have no incumbent in the next election unless Silva moves. (It is not unheard of for someone to move into a district to run for Council.)
- Also of significance is that Districts 3 and 5 will be on the ballot in the fall. The other districts will be up for election in 2024.
This creates an interesting situation. Jesus Silva will be off the Council at the end of the year. He cannot run for election in D2 where he lives since there is no election in that district this year. He can run in 2024, and while that is a Republican district, he might have a chance given his reputation, name recognition, and his wife Sharon Quirk Silva’s supporters. Quirk-Silva will be running for her final term in 2024.
It seems there is a chance that Dunlap will not run for re-election. He has turned down the chance to be Mayor and a second chance to be Mayor Pro Tem. Those are not the actions of a person with political ambitions or seeking a long political career.
If he does not run, that might improve Silva’s chances, but former Councilmember Greg Sebourn (whom Silva beat in the more Democratic District 3), may well step into a possible void. Of equal interest is who will fill the newly-created vacancy in D3. While a few names come to mind, speculation would be misleading at this point. But even though there is no primary, time is short. Money needs to be raised and allies need to be found by summer.
Councilmember Zahra can run again in D5, but he is in the minority on the Council and often treated disrespectfully. It cannot be much fun to be in his position. He also represents a district with a large Hispanic population and a candidate might emerge from that population.
Fullerton has three districts where Democrats have a majority. That guarantees nothing. Bruce Whitaker was most recently elected in a heavily Democratic district. Moreover, without primaries, the candidate with the most votes out of a multiple candidate field is elected, even without a majority. It has happened that a minority party has tried to recruit candidates that will split the majority vote.
Interesting times are ahead.
Categories: Local Government