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Coast could lose clout in redistricting

Under proposed changes to California's congressional and state legislative districts, Santa Rosa would be separated from much of Sonoma County and aligned politically with rural and conservative Central Valley enclaves.

"It makes no sense whatsoever," Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, said Friday.

The 6th Congressional District that Woolsey has represented since 1992 would be reconfigured under proposals made public Friday by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

The district's current Sonoma-Marin boundaries would elongate to include a large swath of territory from the Golden Gate Bridge to Del Norte County.

However, cities in southeast Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Sonoma, would shift to a new inland district that includes Lake, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yuba and part of Yolo counties.

"They disenfranchise the North Coast," said Rep. Mike Thompson, a St. Helena Democrat who represents the 1st Congressional District that stretches from Napa County through Sonoma County to the northern coastal counties.

"They made one continuous congressional district from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Whereas in the past we had two voices for the people in that area, and now we have one."

Political observers said none of the proposed changes to state and congressional districts that include the North Bay and the coast are likely to loosen the stranglehold that Democrats have on those seats.

But the restructuring, coupled with the state's new open primary system, could intensify battles between liberal and more moderate Democrats.

Woolsey, who has not publicly said whether she plans to retire next year, said the proposed changes go against the commission's mandate to keep districts compact and contiguous, and to respect city and county lines and "communities of interest" as much as possible.

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