CALIFORNIA Democrats devise congressional map that could make it tough for Condit to win

Friday, August 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ If Rep. Gary Condit decides to seek re-election, he'll likely face an uphill battle because of a new congressional map that could bring about considerable changes to his district, an analyst said.

Under the new map, which Democrats planned to unveil as early as Friday, new voters could comprise nearly 40 percent of Condit's district, said state Sen. Don Perata, the Democratic chairman of the Senate elections committee.

Tony Quinn, a California political analyst and former Republican redistricting consultant, said the redrawn district would put Condit among unfamiliar, and more liberal, Democratic voters.

Those voters would be unlikely to support someone as tarnished as Condit, Quinn said, and some other Democrat might have a better chance of success.

Condit's political future, and whether he would have a friendly House district in which to run next year, have been the subject of intense speculation since the April 30 disappearance of former Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy.

Condit has admitted having a relationship with Levy, and the controversy surrounding the affair has eroded his political standing. A weekend poll showed Condit's constituents giving him high marks for his performance in office, but only 27 percent said they'd vote for him again.

Under the map reviewed Thursday by Condit's staff, he would gain new voters in San Joaquin County, but lose voters in eastern Stanislaus County, which has always been part of the district.

``You never want to lose any of your base,'' conceded Mike Lynch, Condit's chief of staff.

But he added that under the plan, the proportion of Democrats in the district would increase from 46 percent to 51 percent. Republicans, meanwhile, would decline from 39 percent to 35 percent.

``It's a good thing for any Democratic candidate in the district. Certainly it's a good thing for Gary,'' Lynch said.

Condit was re-elected with more than 67 percent of the vote last year, but President Bush carried the district with nearly 53 percent. It was the only Democratic-held House district that Bush carried in California.

Perata characterized the changes in the Senate's plan as a way to keep the district in Democratic hands whether Condit runs or not.

The changes are required to reflect population changes revealed by the Census. Democrats control the process because they hold majorities in both houses and the governor's seat.

Condit's home in the Modesto suburb of Ceres would be part of the district that would move north to pick up Democratic areas near Stockton.

Copies of the Senate's plan were being sent to members of California's congressional delegation and it could be made public Friday or Saturday, Senate aides said.

Spokesman Kam Kuwata said Assembly Democrats may propose their own congressional redistricting plan.