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It's Going to Be a Very Odd Year in State Senate : Politics: In the confusing aftermath of reapportionment, voters may need a scorecard. For starters, there will be two sets of Senate districts for the next two years.

March 12, 1992|JEFFREY L. RABIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who's my state senator? Now there's a question.

For the next two years you may be sorry you asked.

When California was carved up in that once-a-decade political game called reapportionment, some of the districts were changed and some were not--at least not now.

The rules are simple enough for the state Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives because every seat is up for election every two years. All Assembly and congressional candidates on this year's ballot are running in new districts.

But when it comes to the state Senate, things get complicated.

Because the four-year Senate terms are staggered, only those candidates in odd-numbered districts will face the voters this year. They must run for election in new districts with new boundaries.

But senators elected in 1990 in even-numbered districts stay in their old districts with old boundaries until the 1994 elections.

"Right now, it's as if reapportionment has not happened to these people," said Melissa Warren, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office.

This quirk in the process is bound to cause confusion because for the next two years there will be two sets of Senate districts, not one.

Confused? Wait, it gets worse, as the situation of state Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles) illustrates.

Though elected in 1990 to a four-year term to represent the mostly Westside 22nd District, Rosenthal is trying this year to win a four-year term in the new 23rd District, a Westside-San Fernando Valley district that considerably overlaps his old one.

The new district is safe Democratic turf, just like his old district, but Rosenthal must contend with a spirited primary challenge from Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and businesswoman Catherine O'Neill.

If Rosenthal loses, he will continue to represent his old 22nd District until 1994.

If he wins in the new district, he'll have to give up his old seat. Then a special election would be called in his old 1980s district, probably early next year, to fill the remainder of that term.

Whatever the outcome, an extensive area of the Westside where the old 22nd District and the new 23rd District overlap will end up with two senators instead of one for the next two years.

Across the state, according to Warren of the secretary of state's office, the new odd-numbered Senate boundaries will overlap old even-numbered boundaries in some areas but not in others.

For the next two years, she said, "There will be little islands all over the state with two senators, and little islands with no senator."

One such unrepresented island will be a section of Mid-City and the Fairfax section that was in the old 23rd District, represented by state Sen. David Roberti, and is now in the new 26th District. Roberti's term expires this year and he is now going after a San Fernando Valley seat. The 26th District does not choose a senator until 1994.

A situation similar to Rosenthal's exists with state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), who was reelected to a four-year term in 1990 in a district stretching from Marina del Rey through the Crenshaw District to the southern edge of Hollywood and into South-Central Los Angeles.

Now she's running for the seat on the Board of Supervisors being vacated by Kenneth Hahn, who is retiring. If she wins that contest, a special election will have to be held in her old Senate district for the remaining two years of that term.

Good luck putting the pieces together.

Senate District 26 Where: Most of the Westside south of Wilshire Boulevard and east of the San Diego Freeway, extending into South-Central Los Angeles (No election until 1994) Until the 1994 election, most of the Westside portion of this district will continue to be represented by the senators elected to four-year terms in 1990, state Sen. Diane Watson and Herschel Rosenthal. Watson is seeking election to the county Board of Supervisors. Rosenthal is running in a neighboring state Senate district. If either or both should win, a special election would be held in their old 1980s districts to fill the remaining two years of their terms.

Demographics

Anglo Latino Black Asian 15% 37% 43% 5%

Party Registration

Democrat Republican 80% 12%

Senate District 28 Where: Along the coast from Venice to Redondo Beach, extending inland to include sections of Long Beach and Compton. (No election until 1994) Until the 1994 election, most of the Westside portion of this district will continue to be represented by state Sen. Diane Watson, who was elected in 1990. If Watson wins election to the county Board of Supervisors, a special election would be held in her old 1980s district to fill the remaining two years of her term.

Demographics

Anglo Latino Black Asian 47% 26% 13% 14%

Party Registration

Democrat Republican 52% 36%

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