300,000 North Coast residents without a state senator
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 4:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 4:46 p.m.
Got a burning need to contact your state senator?
For more than 50,000 residents of unincorporated Sonoma County, that number currently is disconnected.
Conversely, city of Sonoma residents can call upon either senators Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, or Lois Wolk, D-Davis, for help.
Blame redrawn Senate district lines for creating what one political observer called a “goofy” leadership vacuum for some, and a bevy of representation for others.
Nearly four million Californians are without representation in the upper house of the Legislature while Senate leaders finalize who will assume responsibility for those caretaker roles.
It is likely that Evans will be responsible for 52,214 Sonoma County residents who formerly were part of Sen. Mark Leno's domain.
Evans also will inherit, on a temporary basis, all of Marin County, an addition of 252,409 constituents.
Evans already represents nearly one million people in the 2nd Senate District. She acknowledged last week that she will be stretched thinner now.
“I'm going to do my utmost to represent them just like I would any other constituent,” she said.
Evans is not up for election until 2014, when Marin County and areas of Sonoma County will be included in the newly-drawn 2nd Senate district that spans the Golden Gate to the Oregon border.
In the meantime, elections for odd-numbered districts were held in November, creating a situation where some districts are not represented, and others over-lap.
The latter is the case in the city of Sonoma, where Evans and Wolk have overlapping territories until the 2014 election. The shared area also includes portions of the county south and east of the city, and a small pocket near Glen Ellen.
The nearly 53,000 Sonoma County residents who are currently without a senator live in an area that extends west of Petaluma to Bohemian Highway, to Shiloh Road on the boundary with Windsor, in a pocket between Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park and at Aqua Caliente.
The Assembly was not affected by the changes because every seat in the 80-person house is on the ballot every two years.
More Californians are not represented in the Senate than was the case a decade ago when districts were last redrawn, said Paul Mitchell, owner of Redistricting Partners and vice president of Political Data Inc.
But he said the California Citizens Redistricting Commission numbered the new districts with the intent of minimizing the number of people who lack or have double representation.
“It could have been a lot more dramatic,” he said.
Senate leaders are expected to approve the caretaker assignments on Wednesday.
Senate websites are being updated to reflect the changes and for those living in unrepresented areas, to inform them of who their caretaker senator is.
Nancy Hall Bennett, a public affairs manager for the League of California Cities in the North Bay, made the case Friday that having Evans fill in could be a good thing for residents.
She said people can contact Evans or still reach out to Leno, who represented Marin County and parts of Sonoma County until his district was redrawn.
“It gives us two offices to go to in the Senate and hopefully two votes in the Senate,” Bennett said.
Caretaker senators can perform all their usual duties, said Sheron Violini, deputy secretary of operations for the state Senate Rules Committee.
How to pay for new offices and staff is still being discussed.
Teala Schaff, Evans' spokeswoman, said the senator will open an office in Marin County if Senate leaders allocate more funds.
“As of yet, we don't have any additional resources to have another office,” Schaff said.
Otherwise, calls will be routed through the senator's office in Vallejo, Schaff said.
Evans stands to gain politically by getting to know Marin County, which will be part of her district should she decide to seek re-election in 2014.
Few state Senate races are competitive anyway, and incumbents have an even greater advantage, said David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University.
“They go from a virtual certainty, to an almost absolute certainty,” he said.
Asked this week whether she will seek another term, Evans replied, “I'm not announcing anything.”
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