SACRAMENTO — Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Rancho San Diego) said Thursday he will not run for a proposed new congressional seat in the South Bay--but that Sen. Wadie P. Deddeh will.
Deddeh (D-Bonita) could not be reached for comment late Thursday. But Peace announced that the veteran senator, for whom he once worked as a staff member, would run for the new congressional district--one of seven new seats that will be added to California because of reapportionment.
"It should be obvious to you now that I'm not running for Congress," Peace said Thursday. "Wadie Deddeh's running for Congress."
Peace's comments came after Republican congressional leaders, including Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Coronado), charged him with trying to ruin a reapportionment deal that would create a new congressional district that included Bonita, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, most of Spring Valley and portions of La Mesa and Coronado.
With a registration of 45.2% Democrats to 41.9% Republicans, the congressional leaders said they drew it hoping to help save incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham (R-Chula Vista), whose current district is 52.6% Democrat and 34.8% Republican.
But Peace tried--and failed--to change those boundaries by having Imperial County taken away from Hunter and included in the new district. The move would have added a portion of Peace's Assembly district and increased Democratic registration. The change was defeated at a legislative conference committee this week.
However, the move angered some Republicans, who accused Peace of trying to create a district so he could be elected to Congress. In a letter and memo released Thursday, Hunter and U.S. Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Rockin) accused Peace of conspiring with George Gorton, Gov. Pete Wilson's redistricting consultant, to feather his own political nest.
Peace acknowledged Thursday that he talked to Gorton, as well as other legislative leaders, about adding Imperial County to the new congressional seat, a move he said was motivated by a desire to see minority voters in the desert and South Bay united.
But he also boasted that his actions were part of a political strategy to fool Hunter and other Republicans into worrying about Imperial County and a Peace candidacy that inadvertently shaped a South Bay district that was winnable by Deddeh.
"I snookered Duncan Hunter into drawing Wadie Deddeh a seat," Peace said. "He didn't draw it on purpose. If he knew it, he wouldn't have done it."
Doolittle, however, said Peace "didn't snooker anybody" but was, instead, foiled at creating a comfortable congressional seat.
Whatever the facts, the political wrangling will likely be for naught. The congressional plan, along with two others, were approved by the Legislature but were expected to be vetoed by Wilson, sending all parties back to the negotiation table.