Glen Ellen and Eldridge ask, “Who is our state senator?”
By Christian Kallen
Over a year ago, the 2021 redistricting process arrived at final boundaries for U.S. representatives as well as state assembly members and senators, with the maps certified by the California Secretary of State late in December 2021.
Though the districts remain roughly similar to what was established following the 2010 census, California did lose a U.S. representative — down to 52 from 53. In addition, some shifts in districts may affect the party leaning of several state seats — this despite the 14-member California Redistricting Commission’s mission that it “must draw the district lines in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians.”
But the oddest part of the process is that some areas will be without an official state senator for up to two years, including Glen Ellen. That’s because only senators in even-numbered districts are elected in 2022, so Sen. Mike McGuire, in District 2, will be on the ballot in the newly defined Second District to start a four-year term. Odd-numbered districts, such as the District 3 seat held by Bill Dodd of Napa, won’t see an election until 2024.
And since it’s not until the elected state senator of a specific district is sworn in that the new district lines take effect, there’s no official state senator for the areas McGuire is leaving behind for two years. (It’s not an issue for similarly redistricted assembly seats, as those come up for election every two years and there won’t be the awkward lag between terms.)
It seems like a wonky worry, and it’s not unique to these two districts in the state. But it could be of immediate concern to those who are living in the area left behind by this reorganization, including the residents of Glen Ellen, Eldridge (site of the Sonoma Developmental Center), and the Mayacamas.
Glen Ellen is no longer in the Second District, though Kenwood remains. Other areas formerly in the Second District follow Arnold Drive toward Highway 116 (Stage Gulch Road) on the west side, including the main campus of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), as well as half of Jack London State Historic Park, most of the Springs and the Mayacamas range, and much of Bennett Valley and the east side of Petaluma.
Until the 2024 general election, then, does the central Sonoma Valley have no state senator?
“I have to assume that the state has probably accounted for that. But is our district lacking representation now? Maybe we get a direct line to Gov. Newsom,” whimsically speculated Matt Dickey, a local member of both the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC) and the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council (NSVMAC).
Dickey said he had not been aware of the issue until contacted by the Kenwood Press, but once he had time to think about it, he zeroed in on the potential impact on SDC planning. “It’s huge … It’s probably the most important two years of the entire cycle,” he said, citing “the housing density proposals and the consequences to the roadways, fire evacuation plans, and other potential projects within a certain radius of the SDC, water resources, sanitation — all of those things are going to be impacted.”
Jason Liles, senior advisor to Sen. McGuire’s office, acknowledged that it’s a complicated situation that, at this point, doesn’t have a perfect solution. “It will be worked out here in the legislature over the next few months,” said Liles. “The last time around, what happened when this occurred in the 2012 election cycle, the legislature appointed what they call ‘caretaker legislators’ for those areas that did not have an official elected senator.” A similar measure is expected to be introduced this year as well.
“Fortunately, we’re talking about a very small group of folks, and we have two long-term senators, and the likelihood is that one of them (Dodd or McGuire) will be appointed to the caretaker role,” said Liles.
Similarly, Ezrah Chaaban, Bill Dodd’s chief of staff, downplayed any concerns. He emphasized the advantage of having a single state senator overseeing both the SDC and Jack London State Historic Park, which are currently divided between the two senators. The new District 3 includes the west side of Arnold Drive, including Sobre Vista, Sonoma Mountain, Diamond A, and down to the bay —though the Penngrove-Petaluma area is now in the Second District. (See www.wedrawthelinesca. org/map_viewer for an interactive map showing changes in all state districts.)
Chaaban also said the same thing happened in 2012, with some shift in districts leading to left-behind jurisdictions. But he emphasized this was unlikely to be problematic: He pointed out that both senators were Democrat and had and been on the same side on most issues, and Dodd himself was formerly state assembly
–member in a district that included Glen Ellen.
“Regardless of the boundary changes, they’ll have two state senators,” he said, and vowed those senators would continue to collaborate on common issues.