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BB BUDGET 0040.JPGForty proposed state Senate districts just won unanimous approval from the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, slightly increasing the number of swing districts in the upper house.

A preliminary analysis of the draft districts by Bee database reporter Phillip Reese shows 27 would be considered safe or leaning for Democrats, 11 safe or leaning for Republicans and two in the swing category. That's an increase in competitive seats from the current district make-up, which - on paper -- has 27 safe or leaning Democratic seats, 12 safe or leaning GOP seats and only one swing district.

Reese's formula for determining safe and swing districts applies current voter registration figures and the outcome of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman gubernatorial race last November. Districts that have a registration advantage for one party but chose a gubernatorial candidate of another party are considered swing.

Of course there are other factors at play in specific districts, particularly incumbency, that could increase the number of swing districts.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis find themselves residing in the same Sacramento-region Senate district. But the two Democrats would never have to battle each other for the seat.

Wolk, who lives in Davis, was first elected in 2008 to an odd-numbered district. Her term ends in 2012. If the new draft district including Davis remained the same in the final maps and was given an odd number by the commission, Wolk said she would run again in 2012. Steinberg, a Sacramento resident elected to an even-numbered district, would not be eligible to run because was elected in 2010, giving him a seat until 2014. Members may serve only two terms in the Senate.

If the district that included Davis received an even number, Steinberg would remain the representative through 2014 and Wolk would have the option to sit out for two years and then run for a second term in 2014. Either way, Wolk said she plans to run for a second term in whatever district includes Davis, and that Steinberg would support her.

The draft Sacramento-area district combines the current districts of Wolk and Steinberg by dropping cities such as Woodland from Wolk's and Citrus Heights from Steinberg's. Wolk's chief of staff Craig Reynolds said Sacramento's legislative maps may change significantly before they are finalized because the 14-member commission has not yet spent significant time reviewing the region in public meetings.

Through all the switching, one key point is a senator would not represent anyone who didn't elect him or her unless those constituents were assigned the senator, called a deferral. That means they elected a senator in 2008 and would get their next chance to do so in 2014 instead of 2012. Those residents would be assigned a temporary representative to reach out to by the Senate leadership. Reynolds noted that Yolo County voters have been deferrals in each of the past three redistricting processes.

Otherwise, the draft Senate maps show GOP Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville would reside in a district that covers much of eastern Sacramento County, Roseville and El Dorado Hills. It leans Republican. GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale stays in a safe Republican District. The proposed maps create a new solidly Republican "Foothills" district covering eastern, mostly rural El Dorado and Placer counties. No local incumbent lives in that proposed district.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg offers valentine candy to Senator Lois Wolk in 2009. Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee.


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