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Latinos May Gain Few Seats in Redistricting

Politics: Their push for more representation in Congress clashes with Democrats' desire to protect incumbents as district boundaries are redrawn.

August 26, 2001|MICHAEL FINNEGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Whatever the impact, Latino state legislators expect that ultimately two to five new districts will offer Latino communities a dominant voice in electing members of Congress, said Saeed M. Ali, chief consultant to the Latino caucus.

But Kam Kuwata, a redistricting consultant to Assembly leaders, said no congressional districts would be drawn specifically for any ethnic group, and he declined to say whether any new ones would be majority Latino.

Latino members of Congress acknowledge that protection of Democratic incumbents is their paramount concern nationwide.

"We want to make sure the Democratic Party is in the majority," said Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez (D-Texas), who oversees redistricting issues for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

"It's not simply having a brown face. That doesn't do it. If a Republican happens to be Hispanic and has a horrible record, we're not doing anyone any favors."

Expectations are low among some Latino scholars and advocates.

David Diaz, a Chicano and urban studies professor at Cal State Northridge, expects California Latinos to remain "grossly underrepresented" in Congress.

"The Democratic Party is not going to sacrifice incumbency for minority representation," he said.

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