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Redistricting changes bring challenges and opportunities
By Chris Levister 

When Democrats meet in Charlotte and Republicans in Tampa this summer to nominate presidential candidates, expect to see plenty of local faces in the crowd among the funny hats and confetti. In 2012, California will send a total of 547 Delegates and 46 Alternates to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has submitted to the California Secretary of State a list of delegates he hopes to be seated at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Inland Representatives Mary Bono Mack and Darrell Issa, both early Romney backers, are among the list of 172 potential delegates, as are former San Bernardino County Supervisor Clifford Young, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren and a host of others. The excitement is building, but we fully expect to encounter a negative, costly and close race,” says Linnie Frank Bailey who was elected in April to represent the redrawn 42nd Congressional District at the DNC.

The district encompasses Murrieta, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Menifee, El Cerrito, Corona, Norco, and unincoporated areas near Winchester, including Temecula Wine Country. Bailey, who co-founded Obama Riverside and served as a delegate to the DNC in 2008 is a writer, blogger, journalist, published author and inspirational speaker. She says Democrats are looking to capitalize on remapped Inland districts.

“From our view, the remap of legislative and congressional districts in the Inland Empire is full of opportunities for democratic candidates.” Democratic prospects in California were boosted last year after an independent redistricting commission redrafted the state’s congressional map. The bipartisan group, which was initially proposed by then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and later approved by voters, dismantled a system designed to protect incumbents, putting many of them in jeopardy. “I think that the prospects for Democrats look very good,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of the California Democratic congressional delegation,” said in a statement. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to win every seat we’re targeting. But we have some pretty poignant options.” An analysis of the state’s new map predicts the 2012 elections could bring as many as five GOP losses in the state, which would turn a 34-19 Democratic House delegation into a 39-14 one. The challenge is favorable voter registration and election statistics in the region which could be overshadowed by Democrats’ longtime struggles to compete in a region where Republicans have dominated for decades.

“The plan is to send a strong message opposing attacks on the civil rights of women, minorities and other groups. Healthcare reform, immigration and voting rights top the list,” says Bailey. The maps include three congressional districts, one state Senate district and three Assembly district in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties that could swing red or blue in November based on voter registration. All eyes are turning to Sacramento where Democrats’ chances of reaching two-thirds majorities in the state Senate depend on winning at least some of the new Inland seats. In Congress, Democratic wins in California could help reduce or end Republicans’ House majority. Bailey says granted California is not a swing state, still no state figures more prominently in Democratic plans to retake the House than bright blue California. The overall mission is three fold: Keep President Obama in the White House; take back seats in the House and secure wins in state and local districts. Bailey is concerned that California’s ‘blue’ state status permits both parties to take the Inland region for granted.

There’s a belief that the Inland Empire is a step child to donor and candidate rich Los Angeles and Orange Counties. “We can’t compete with their deep pockets particularly in Western Riverside County. The supply of well-known candidates is shallow, with most candidates for the November election having suffered multiple election defeats.” “We are still holding out hope that the President, First Lady Michelle or Vice President Joe Biden will help boost local momentum with a visit to the Inland Empire, one of the nation’s most important economies and hardest hit regions.” Meanwhile the Democratic Party’s concentration is getting thousands of people registered and getting them to vote. Bailey concedes topping or even equaling 2008 registration gains will be challenging.

Obama’s 8.5 million-vote margin over John McCain was fueled by a more than 20 percent surge in minority voting. Exit polls showed about 5.8 million more minorities voted in the 2008 presidential election than in 2004, while nearly 1.2 fewer whites went to the polls. Separate opinion polls and election results indicate that an overwhelming majority of African Americans and Latinos backed Obama. The effects of the Great Recession can be felt far and wide, though perhaps no more so than by African Americans and Latinos. While signs point to an improving economy, unemployment and housing foreclosure rates remain a disproportionately significant problem for these communities, Bailey said.

The continued instability that communities of color face in the employment and housing markets is particularly troubling because jobs and homeownership is the best way for these communities to build their wealth and assets. Consequently says Bailey much of the voting momentum and traction made by Democrats in the last presidential election has been lost to hardship. “In a lot of ways this is an even more critical race given that some of those that made it into Congress last November, with a far right agenda have to be stopped,” said Bailey. “It’s exciting, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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