California Redistricting: Golden Opportunities

by Jacob Rubashkin December 28, 2021 · 5:00 PM EST

California’s independent redistricting commission unanimously passed a new congressional map for the Golden State that shores up the state’s Democratic delegation and puts several Republicans on their heels. 

That’s a boon for national Democrats looking to hold onto their razor-thin majority in the U.S. House. Despite California’s decidedly blue bent, it was far from a foregone conclusion how the 14-member commission would draw the new lines, especially because California lost a seat in reapportionment for the first time ever. Several earlier draft maps had put Democratic incumbents on notice. 

Ultimately, the commission passed a map that includes 45 districts Joe Biden would have carried in the 2020 presidential election, and seven districts that President Donald Trump would have carried. Technically, that means the lost seat was a Democratic-leaning one, since the previous map had 46 districts Biden carried and seven Trump carried.

However, that doesn’t capture the full picture, for three reasons. 

First, four of the eleven Republicans in the delegation already hold districts won by Biden, and three of those four now have even less favorable districts than they did before.

Second, of the new districts Trump would have carried in 2020, two of them would have been 1-point wins, while under the old map Trump’s narrowest win was 5 points. In a good national environment for Republicans, that may not matter, but later in the decade those seats could easily flip.

Third, no Democratic incumbent has a district Biden won by less than 10 points, meaning even in a poor national environment for Democrats they aren’t likely to be highly competitive.

The result is a map that should return all Democratic incumbents or replacements, and provides Democrats three good pickup opportunities and three more reach seats to target over the coming decade. Remember, California’s all-party, top two primary can complicate crowded races and sometimes results in two Republicans or two Democrats facing off in the November election.

Here is a full breakdown, including initial race ratings, of California’s 52 new congressional districts. All population comparisons to old districts are courtesy of California Target Book.

1st District
Still located in the northeast corner of the state, the 1st gets a little more Republican, and would have voted for Trump, 58-39 percent. Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa had just $256,000 in the bank on Sept. 30, but currently represents 75 percent of the new district and shouldn’t have much trouble winning another term. Army veteran and foreign service officer Max Steiner is running as a Democrat. Solid Republican.

2nd District
Democrat Jared Huffman’s district still stretches from the Oregon border down to Marin County in the Bay Area and is virtually all of the area he currently represents. It would have voted for Biden by 50 points, 74-24 percent. Solid Democratic.

3rd District
The 3rd District is likely to elect a Republican, it’s just not immediately clear which one. GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, 65, currently represents 57 percent of the new district. But GOP Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, the 36-year-old who placed sixth in the gubernatorial recall election last September, is running, and is trying to push McClintock into the 5th District. On the Democratic side, physician/Iraq War veteran Kermit Jones is running. The new 3rd is slightly less Republican than McClintock’s old current district, which went for Trump, 50-48 percent. But in this political environment, Republicans should hold the seat. Likely Republican.

4th District
The new 4th is half Rep. John Garamendi’s old 3rd District, half Rep. Mike Thompson’s old 5th District. Thompson is running here, while Garamendi is running elsewhere. It went for Biden, 67-30 percent. Solid Democratic. 

5th District
The new 5th includes much of the land area from Tom McClintock’s old 4th District (though McClintock actually lives right across the border in the new 3rd District), as well as some population centers east of Modesto grabbed from Josh Harder’s old 10th District, and north of Fresno from Devin Nunes’ old 22nd District. With Harder running in the new 13th, and Nunes resigning at the end of the year, the new 5th is an attractive option for McClintock, as it’s much more Republican than the new 3rd. It would have voted for Trump by 12 points, 55-43 percent, rather than 2 points.

One wrinkle is the upcoming special election to replace Nunes in the old 22nd District. If a Republican wins that special (current candidates include state Sen. Andreas Borgeas, Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, and 2018 U.S. House candidate Elizabeth Heng) they may choose to run in the new 5th in November because it’s the most favorable district in the area (they could also conceivably run against the well-financed Harder in the more difficult 13th District). Either way, the new 5th District is set to elect a Republican to Congress, McClintock or otherwise. Solid Republican.

6th District
Democratic Rep. Ami Bera lives in the new 7th District, but will run in the new 6th, which is directly to the north and contains about half of his old district. That clears up the new 7th for his colleague Doris Matsui. The new 6th voted for Biden by 19 points, 58-39 percent. Air Force veteran Tamika Hamilton, who lost a race for the 3rd District 55-45 percent in 2020, is running as a Republican. Solid Democratic.

7th District
Several Democratic incumbents live in the new 7th District, which is south Sacramento and Elk Grove, but Rep. Doris Matsui who will actually run for the new seat, which contains a bit more than half of her old district. Jimmy Fremgen, a former staffer for the late Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, is running as a Democrat as well. Matsui looks set to return to Washington. Solid Democratic.

8th District
Current 3rd District Rep. John Garamendi lives in the new 7th District, but will move to and run in the new 8th District, which stretches from Richmond to Fairfield. That overlaps somewhat with his old district, which covered the area west of Sacramento from Fairfield up through Yuba City. It’s much safer territory for Garamendi, having voted for Biden by 54 points, 76-22 percent. Solid Democratic. 

9th District
The 9th District is still anchored by Stockton. The incumbent is Democrat Jerry McNerney, who is running for re-election. Republican San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti is running. And Ricky Gill, a former Trump National Security Council staffer who lost to McNerney in 2012, could run here as well (he’s running somewhere but hasn’t said for which seat). McNerney has the seat’s partisan lean in his favor: it would have voted for Biden, 55-43 percent. Solid Democratic.

10th District
The new 10th is the successor district to the old 11th, nestled between the Bay Area and Stockton. Mark DeSaulnier, the current 11th District representative who suffered a health scare in 2020, is running for this seat, which contains 60 percent of his old district. Biden won this area, 69-29 percent. Solid Democratic.

11th District
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi represents 93 percent of the newly-drawn district and sources told CNN recently that she plans to run for an eighteenth term. Those sources also said she plans to lead the House Democrats, which is an entirely different question. If Democrats lose the majority, there will be an even louder cry from the remaining House Democrats for new leadership, even though there’s not a natural successor. It seems more likely that Pelosi runs and wins and then leaves Congress during the next term. When she finally leaves, she’ll set off a massive scramble for this San Francisco seat that could include her daughter Christine Pelosi, as well as state Sen. Scott Wiener, former county supervisor David Campos, City Attorney David Chiu, and others. Solid Democratic.

12th District
It’s now numbered the 12th, but it’s 100 percent of Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee’s old 13th. The Oakland-anchored district voted for Biden, 89-9 percent, and remains one of the most Democratic seats in the country. Solid Democratic. 

13th District
More than half of the new 13th district is pulled from Democratic Rep. Jim Costa’s old 16th District (the Merced, Madera, and Fresno County portions) while only a third of it comes from Democratic Rep. Josh Harder’s old 10th District. But Costa is following the other half of his district (Fresno proper) to the new 21st, leaving the new 13th for Harder. It’s significantly more favorable territory than Harder is used to. It would have voted for Biden by 11 points, 54-43 percent, in 2020, while the old 10th went for Biden by 7 points, 50-43 percent. That doesn’t mean it won’t be competitive in a bad year for Democrats. But first Republicans need a candidate. Ricky Gill, the former Trump National Security Council staffer who ran against Jerry McNerney in 2012, could run here. Likely Democratic.

14th District
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Alameda County district is renumbered to the 14th but contains 87 percent of his old 15th. More than winning re-election, the congressman should worry more about Republicans stripping him from his committee assignments if they win the majority. Solid Democratic.

15th District
Rep. Jackie Speier’s retirement will set off a scramble among San Mateo Democrats for this safe seat (previously numbered 14). Assemblyman Kevin Mullin already represents most of the district in Sacramento and starts out in the driver’s seat, but San Mateo supervisor David Canepa is also running, as is Burlingame City Councilmember Emily Beach. Solid Democratic.

16th District
Longtime Rep. Anna Eshoo waved away retirement rumors, announcing she’d run for the new 16th district, 70 percent of which overlaps with her old district. Several other Democrats are running, including Rishi Kumar, who lost to Eshoo 63-37 percent in the 2020 general election, Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Lin Tanaka, and attorney Ajwang Rading. Eshoo had $1 million in the bank on Sept. 30. Rading had $102,000 and Tanaka had $53,000. Solid Democratic.

17th District
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna keeps 90 percent of his Silicon Valley district and its number. Solid Democratic.

18th District
A new Latino-majority district, the 18th stretches from eastern San Jose down to the San Luis Obispo County border. Zoe Lofgren currently represents a little less than half of the new district (the other half is currently represented by fellow Democrat Jimmy Panetta), and she will run here. If the former impeachment manager retires this decade, the district is primed to elect a Latino Democrat. Solid Democratic.

19th District
The new 19th hugs the coastline from just south of San Jose to just north of San Luis Obispo. A bit less than half of the new district is currently represented by Democrat Jimmy Panetta, while the other half is represented by Zoe Lofgren. With Lofgren running in the 18th, that clears the 19th for Panetta, who won’t have an issue in a seat Biden won 69-29 percent. Solid Democratic.

20th District
House Speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy gets a GOP vote-sink to run in, one that still includes Bakersfield but also reaches up to pull in heavily Republican areas east of Fresno. While McCarthy only represents half of the new district at the moment, he shouldn’t have any problem winning another term in a district that would have voted for Trump, 61-36 percent. Democratic candidates, including actor/Navy veteran Bruno Amato and teacher Marisa Wood, will raise lots of money and Twitter followers against the potential future Speaker but won’t win. Solid Republican.

21st District
The new 21st stretches from south Fresno to Visalia, and is made up of pieces of the old 16th and 22nd Districts. With 22nd District Rep. Devin Nunes resigning at the end of the year to be CEO of Donald Trump’s new media company, current 16th District Democrat Jim Costa has it to himself. The new district would have voted for Biden, 59-39 percent, so Costa won’t have to worry about serious Republican opposition, but he could face a challenge from his left, especially after aligning with eight other members to threaten Biden’s infrastructure bill this past fall. Solid Democratic.

22nd District
Republican David Valadao already represented the most Democratic district of any Republican in the country, and his exposure has only grown greater after redistricting. His new district would have voted for Biden by 13 points, 55-42 percent. Valadao only won in 2020 by 1,522 votes against a weak incumbent. Democrats have several candidates vying to take him on, including Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who’s been heavily recruited by the party over the past several years, former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, and Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio. Valadao also faces anger from the right over his vote to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Toss-up.

23rd District
Freshman Republican Jay Obernolte’s district sheds Inyo and Mono counties but keeps its San Bernardino core and partisan lean. Overall, the congressman retains 85 percent of his old district. Former Bernie Sanders organizer Derek Marshall and Victorville City Councilmember Blanca Gomez are running as Democrats. Trump would have won here, 54-44 percent. Solid Republican.

24th District
The new 24th is the southern half of San Luis Obispo County, all of Santa Barbara County, and a sliver of Ventura County. Itincludes 81 percent of Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal’s old 14th District. The congressman starts as a heavy favorite for re-election. Solid Democratic.

25th District
The new 25th replaces the old 36th District along the California-Arizona border, and also includes Imperial County on the Mexico border. The new district would have voted for Biden, 57-41 percent; unlike in other Hispanic-majority districts, Trump did not see significant gains here. Incumbent Democrat Raul Ruiz had $2.8 million in the bank on Sept. 30. San Jacinto Councilman Brian Hawkins is running as a Republican. Solid Democratic. 

26th District
Rep. Julia Brownley keeps 75 percent of her Oxnard-anchored district and its number. Solid Democratic.

27th District
Republican Mike Garcia retains 80 percent of his old 25th District but takes a major hit with the excision of Republican Simi Valley (now in the 26th). Garcia only won re-election last fall by 335 votes, and his district is now two points more Democratic. Biden would have won it by 12 points, 55-43 percent, rather than 10 points. Former state Assemblywoman Christy Smith is running again, but Democrats are wary after she lost two winnable races to Garcia in 2020 (a May special election and the November general). There’s some excitement around former Naval intelligence officer/Stanford MBA Quaye Quartey. Garcia had $1.3 million in the bank on Sept. 30, outpacing Smith ($371,000) and Quartey ($278,000) in an expensive district within the Los Angeles media market that will be one of the most hotly contested in the country. Toss-up.

28th District
Judy Chu retains 85 percent of her San Gabriel Foothills district. Biden would have won here by 34 points, 66-32 percent. Solid Democratic.

29th District
This San Fernando district keeps 85 percent of its current residents and its current number. It would have voted for Biden, 75-23 percent. Democrat Tony Cárdenas faces another challenge from progressive Democrat Angélica Dueñas, a community organizer who ran in 2020 and was outspent 16-to-1 but held Cárdenas to a 57-43 percent win in the general election. The incumbent will have an overwhelming financial advantage again, with $578,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 compared to $15,000 for Dueñas. Solid Democratic.

30th District
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s West Hollywood and Burbank district is largely unchanged (85 percent is the same). Solid Democratic.

31st District
Should the 85-year-old Grace Napolitano seek re-election, she’ll do so in a district that would have voted for Biden, 65-35 percent, and is almost identical to her current West Covina constituency. Solid Democratic. 

32nd District
A decade ago, redistricting forced Brad Sherman into a legendary incumbent-vs-incumbent election against fellow Democrat Howard Berman, a contest that nearly came to blows during one candidate forum. This cycle will be much less eventful. Sherman’s Los Angeles westside district now extends to Malibu and the coast. He currently has two progressive challengers, elementary school teacher Aarika Rhodes and public health advocate Shervin Aazami, but the congressman had $3.8 million in the bank on Sept. 30 and currently represents three-quarters of the new district. Solid Democratic.

33rd District
The new 33rd is effectively Rep. Pete Aguilar’s San Bernardino district and would have voted for Biden, 61-36 percent. Solid Democratic.

34th District
The new 34th is 86 percent of Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s downtown Los Angeles territory. While it’s a Democratic bastion, Gomez had an unexpectedly close race against Democratic attorney David Kim, eking out a 53-47 percent win in the 2020 general election. Kim is running again but this time Gomez should be more prepared, and will be boosted by the Hispanic areas that were added to the district. Solid Democratic.

35th District
Democrat Norma Torres’ Ontario district is mostly unchanged (86 percent identical). It would have voted for Biden by 28 points, 63-35 percent. That’s down from Hillary Clinton’s 65-30 percent win but not enough to make Torres sweat. Solid Democratic.

36th District
Ted Lieu’s district shed Malibu but retains the coast from Rolling Hills Estates up through Santa Monica, and inland to Beverly Hills. It’s just 67 percent of his old seat, but the congressman should be fine in a district that would have voted for Biden, 71-27 percent. Solid Democratic. 

37th District
Rep. Karen Bass’s decision to run for mayor of Los Angeles instead of for re-election to Congress opens up this safe Democratic seat (it would have gone for Biden, 86-12 percent). State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a Bass ally, has filed to run but hasn’t formally announced yet. Solid Democratic. 

38th District
Democrat Linda Sanchez’s new district sheds its southern portions of Lakewood and Bellflower and now extends through La Habra to Diamond Bar. She still represents nearly two-thirds of the new population. Solid Democratic.

39th District
The new 39th is almost identical to the old 41st District anchored by Riverside. Rep. Mark Takano should have little issue dispatching Republican Aja Smith for the third cycle in a row. Solid Democratic.

40th District
GOP Rep. Young Kim only represents 20 percent of this newly-drawn seat, but she’s running for re-election in this Orange County district. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter represents a majority of this new 40th, but is running for re-election in the new 47th, which includes Irvine and is more Democratic. Democrat Jay Chen, who was challenging Kim before the new lines, is not running here anymore. And former Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros, who Kim defeated in 2020, is now an undersecretary of Defense in the Biden Administration. Considering the 2020 presidential results — Biden won just 50-48 percent —  Kim has a significant advantage. Likely Republican.

41st District
Republican Ken Calvert has represented parts of the Inland Empire for nearly 30 years, but in partisan terms this is one of the least favorable districts he’s ever had to run in. Trump would have carried the new 41st by just 1 point, 50-49 percent, down from 2016, when he would have won it by 5 points, 51-46 percent. Calvert hasn’t had a close race since 2008, when Barack Obama carried his seat 50-49 percent and Calvert overperformed just enough to win 51-49 percent. Democratic candidates include teacher/pastor Brandon Mosely, former federal prosecutor Will Rollins and engineer Shrina Kurani. While 2022 is shaping up to be a much better year for Republicans than 2008, he’ll still have to take his next race seriously, and could be in real trouble later in the decade. Likely Republican.

42nd District
When California lost a seat in reapportionment, it was clear that district would have to come from the Los Angeles area given the region’s relatively slow growth. In the end, the commission combined Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s south L.A. 40th District and Alan Lowenthal’s Long Beach 47th District into a single seat that supported Biden 72-26 percent.

Democrats avoided a messy incumbent-vs.-incumbent battle because both Roybal-Allard and Lowenthal are not seeking re-election. But Democrats could still see a protracted fight in this Long Beach-area seat between two of their own. With California’s top two primary system, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (who already announced) and Assemblywoman Christina Garcia could battle it out all the way to next November. Solid Democratic.

43rd District
Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters’s district still extends from Inglewood down to Torrance but now includes Compton to the east as well. Waters will remain a GOP target, just not in her re-election. Solid Democratic.

44th District
Rep. Nannette Barragan’s district shed Compton to the new 43rd but picked up spare pieces from the merger of Roybal-Allard and Lowenthal’s districts. The result is a district that Barragan represents more than half of already and that would have voted for Biden, 73-25 percent. Solid Democratic.

45th District
The new 45th District is a c-shaped amalgamation of Young Kim’s current district (Fullerton and Buena Park), Alan Lowenthal’s current district (Cypress and Garden Grove) and GOP Rep. Michelle Steel’s current district (Fountain Valley). Kim is running in the new 40th, and Lowenthal is retiring. Steel is set to run in this district, despite most of her old territory (and her home) now being in the new 47th District.

The new 45th would have voted for Biden by 6 points, 52-46 percent. That’s a less favorable partisan lean for Steel than her old district, which voted for Biden by just 1.5 points. But the district’s voting-age Asian population is nearly double that of Steel’s old territory (41 percent vs. 23 percent) which could give the Korean-American congresswoman a boost. 

Democrats are excited about their candidate Jay Chen, a Navy veteran and president of the board of trustees at Mt. St. Antonio Community College who previously ran for Congress in 2012 and 2018. Chen had been running against Young Kim but switched to challenging Steel after redistricting. Former Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, who Steel beat in 2020, is also angling for a rematch. His plans were scrambled by redistricting and now he has to decide whether to run in this district, in the more Democratic 47th where he lives but where Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is running, or to not run at all.

Given the presidential lean and Democrats’ credible candidate, this district starts out 2022 as highly competitive. Toss-up.

46th District
The new 46th is more than 80 percent of the old 46th: an Anaheim-Santa Ana district represented by Democrat Lou Correa. The new district would have shifted 10 points toward Trump between 2016 (he lost 67-27 percent to Clinton) and 2020 (he lost 64-34 percent to Biden) but that’s not enough to complicate Correa’s life. The incumbent will also face engineer Matt Ortega, running as a socialist Democrat. Solid Democratic.

47th District
This coastal Orange County district includes Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach as well as area just inland including Costa Mesa and Irvine. Most of the new 47th District is taken from the old 48th District, and current 48th District Rep. Michelle Steel lives in this district, but she is running in the slightly less Democratic 45th District. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who only represents about a third of the new 47th but lives in the new district, is running here. Former 48th District Rep. Harley Rouda has been gearing up for a rematch against Steel but he lives solidly within the new 47th. Now he’ll have to decide whether to run against Steel in the 45th, or challenge Porter in the 47th. He says he’ll make up his mind over the holidays. 

This district voted for Biden by 11 points, 54-43 percent, and Porter had an astronomical $14.5 million in the bank on Sept. 30, so she starts with a significant advantage. But Republicans will likely have a credible challenger in former state Assembly minority leader Scott Baugh, who was 1.6 points away from finishing second in the crowded 2018 48th District race, which would have pitted him against GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and shut Democrats out of the general election. Likely Democratic. 

48th District
While an earlier draft map placed wealthy Rep. Darrell Issa in a more Democratic district, the final map gives him a safe inland San Diego seat, where he currently represents two-thirds of the population. The new seat would have voted for Trump by 12 points, 55-43 percent, compared to Trump’s 53-45 percent margin in his current 50th District. Solid Republican.

49th District
Democratic Rep. Mike Levin gets a slightly more competitive district than the one he currently represents due to some new Republican territory in Orange County. But the new district would still have voted for Biden by 11 points, 54-43 percent. Running against him so far are San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Brian Maryott, who lost to Levin 53-47 percent in 2020, and Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez. Likely Democratic.

50th District
Democratic Rep. Scott Peters only represents a little more than half of the new 50th in Congress, but the new territory is very blue. Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey is running as a Republican and raised a solid $406,000 in his first fundraising quarter in the race, but he doesn’t have much of a shot in a district that Biden would have carried, 65-32 percent. Solid Democratic.

51st District
An earlier draft map would have pushed Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs, the wealthy scion of the Qualcomm-founding family, into a much more Republican district. Instead, the freshman Democrat gets to run in a suburban San Diego district that would have voted for Biden, 63-35 percent. Solid Democratic.

52nd District
Democratic Rep. Juan Vargas’ district no longer spans the length of the California-Mexico border, and is instead concentrated in South San Diego. He already represents more than 60 percent of the new district and should be fine for re-election. Solid Democratic.