Despite pleas from San Jose residents and officials that the majority of the city be given one representative in Congress devoted to their causes, the nation’s tenth largest city is being divided up into four separate Congressional districts.
The move, approved Monday night by an independent citizen panel tasked with redrawing the state’s political maps, comes after hours of public testimony from San Jose residents and a vigorous campaign by Mayor Sam Liccardo to try to prevent it.
Liccardo said Monday that the chosen map puts San Jose at a “decided disadvantage over the next decade as we seek representation for everything from funding for affordable housing to transit.”
“It’s imperative that San Jose be treated the same as any other big city in the U.S. and have one member who can say they primarily represent San Jose,” he said during an interview.
Coinciding with the U.S. Census, national, state and local political lines must be redrawn every 10 years to balance out the districts in terms of population shifts. In California, voters in 2008 created The California Citizens Redistricting Commission to put an end to concerns of partisan line-drawing and gerrymandering.
Over the last three months, the commission has been holding marathon meetings and listening to countless hours of public hearings in order to craft what they saw as the best boundaries for new congressional and legislative districts.
Less than a week ago, in response to a barrage of calls from San Jose residents, the state’s redistricting commission developed an alternative version of the map that would have split San Jose into three districts. That map, however, drew significant criticism because it created a 200-mile district along California’s central coast, which detractors referred to as the “ribbon of shame.” The proposed district spanned from San Mateo County to the northern part of San Luis Obispo County. It would have included disparate rural towns, small coastal cities and wealthy pockets of the Bay Area like Atherton and Palo Alto.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the proposed district “absurd and unnecessary.”
After hearing the criticism, the state’s 14-member redistricting commission did an about-face on Sunday and decided to walk back that proposal.
Under the new map, the northernmost part of the city would be grouped with Milpitas, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Evergreen and South San Jose would be in a district that includes Santa Cruz to Atascadero. West and south central San Jose would be in a district with Los Gatos up to Pacifica. And, downtown and Alum Rock would be in a new Latino-majority district that includes the agricultural areas of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
San Jose currently has three representatives: Anna Eshoo, who represents some west parts of the city, Ro Khanna, who represents the north part of the city and Zoe Lofgren, whose district covers the majority of San Jose. Lofgren is in her 13th term in Congress, and many believe she is nearing retirement.
In response to Liccardo’s adamant opposition to the new map, some political pundits and community members accused the mayor of having ulterior motives, such as an aspiration to run for Lofgren’s seat after Liccardo terms out of his mayoral office next year.
Rob Pyers of California Target Book uncovered that a liccardoforcongress.com domain had been taken out years ago.
“San Jose Mayor and ‘Ribbon of Shame’ advocate (Sam Liccardo) once again dialing into the public comment line to badger the (redistricting)
commissioners to try to ensure he gets his money’s worth from the web domain he’s been patiently renewing since 2013,” he wrote on Twitter.
When asked about the website on Monday, Liccardo said that he just learned about the website from that tweet and that his team was looking into who owns it, rejecting the notion that he was working on a campaign for Congress.
“Regardless of my plans — and by the way, I’m not running next year and I’ve never opened a committee — it’s important for San Jose that we have a voice in San Jose that is unequivocally advocating for San Jose,” he said.
Check back for updates.