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Here's the pitch to GOP voters: Unless newly drawn state Senate maps are killed, Democrats will seize control of the Legislature, raise taxes and kowtow to public employee unions.

The California Republican Party is sending a letter to a million voters, reading: "Your signature on the enclosed petition will stop liberal Democrats in Sacramento from tripling the car tax and dismantling Proposition 13."

The letter and petition are key elements of a referendum campaign to kill California's 40 new state Senate districts, which were drawn for the first time this year by a 14-member citizens commission rather than by the Legislature.

The group coordinating the signature-gathering campaign, Fairness & Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR, has raised about $500,000 thus far -- primarily from GOP interests, records show. Voters would decide the fate of the Senate maps in an election next June if 504,760 valid signatures are collected by Nov. 14.

Many political analysts have said the new districts give Democrats a strong chance of gaining two additional seats in the Senate, enough to gain a two-thirds majority. Prospects of doing so in the Assembly are cloudier, analysts say.

The GOP letter is more emphatic: "If allowed to go into effect, this redistricting scheme will give liberal Democrats a two-thirds majority and the one-party rule they have dreamed of for years," it said.

"California's future is on the line," the letter said. "One-party rule will mean higher taxes, fewer jobs, and a state government under the complete control of public employee unions."

The letter is signed by state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and two Republican state senators, Tony Strickland of Moorpark and Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel, both of whom have contributed to the campaign.

The state Republican Party has been the campaign's top contributor thus far, $188,000. GOP state senators have pitched in $180,000. Other donors include U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, $25,000; and Jim Brulte, former GOP leader of the state Senate, $10,000.

FAIR also has filed a lawsuit claiming that the new Senate maps dilute Latino voting clout in parts of the state and violate district-setting criteria established by voters in a 2008 ballot measure.

By law, the 14-member redistricting commission was prohibited from considering party registration or incumbents' residences when drawing lines for the state's 40 Senate, 80 Assembly and 53 congressional districts.

The commission, responding to FAIR's lawsuit last week, said that members are "confident that its final district maps will withstand any and all legal challenges."

"The commission followed the U.S. and California constitutions in drawing the district maps in an open and transparent process," the statement read.


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