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Leaders of a Republican-led drive that qualified a referendum for the November ballot to overturn California's newly drawn state Senate districts have decided not to seek its passage.

Dave Gilliard, a Republican political strategist who led the signature-gathering drive to place Proposition 40 before voters, said that sponsors have filed a ballot statement concluding that a California Supreme Court ruling has eliminated the need for their measure.

Proposition 40 will remain on the November ballot, but sponsors will not raise money to campaign for the referendum, Gilliard said. A "no" vote on Proposition 40 supports overturning the state's 40 newly drawn state Senate districts.

"As the official sponsors of Proposition 40, our intention was to make sure its qualification for the ballot would stop the current Senate lines from being implemented in 2012. The Supreme Court intervened to keep the district lines in place," the sponsors' ballot statement said.

"With the court's action, we are no longer asking for a no vote," said the statement, signed by Julie Vandermost, an Orange County businesswoman and chairwoman of Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, or FAIR.

Jason Kinney, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Caucus that opposed the referendum, said he was not surprised that GOP sponsors have decided not to bankroll a Proposition 40 campaign.

"This was a highly partisan, high-risk gambit by a handful of Republican Party establishment members -- and it's clearly backfired," Kinney said of the referendum.

The measure targeted new Senate district boundaries that many political analysts predicted would give Democrats at least two additional seats this year, assuring the party of the two-thirds majority needed to approve tax or fee increases in that house.

For the first time ever, the state's legislative districts were drawn last year by a 14-member citizens commission, consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters. At least three yes votes from each bloc were required to pass new district maps.

By challenging the new districts through a referendum, sponsors of Proposition 40 were counting on the state Supreme Court to suspend use of the new boundaries and perhaps set temporary districts pending the November vote. Twenty of the Senate's 40 seats are up for grabs this year.

The high court threw the campaign a curve ball by ruling that the challenged Senate district boundaries could be used for the June primary and November general elections, after which Proposition 40's fate would determine whether lines would be redrawn next year.

The court ruling meant that if the Republican-backed referendum succeeds in November, newly elected senators would serve only four years in those districts. Any future campaigns would be for newly drawn seats.

* Updated at 10:20 a.m. Thursday to add quote from Jason Kinney.


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