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A real race in District 19

It's a rarity in our gerrymandered state. We'll take Democrat Jackson for state Senate.

October 24, 2008

This page has expressed outrage and angst over California's gerrymandered districts, in which voters from one party or the other dominate so completely that the election is over in the primary. There's just no way, for example, that a smattering of Democrats in the northern reaches of Los Angeles County and the inland side of Oxnard could put up a candidate with a ghost of a chance in the general election against a Republican in Senate District 17, which stretches east-west from the mountains and desert of San Bernardino County to Lancaster and into Ventura County. George Runner serves there now, virtually won reelection this year already (no disrespect to his Democratic challenger) and, if district lines hold, will be succeeded by a Republican when he's termed out in 2012.

Likewise, Republicans are dreaming if they think they have a shot at Senate District 23, which holds hands with the 17th in the mountains but otherwise forms a jerry-built dreamland for Democrats, joining Malibu, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles to Oxnard and much of the San Fernando Valley. When Fran Pavley won the June Democratic primary to succeed Sheila Kuehl, she pretty much won the Nov. 4 election (with all due respect to the Republican candidate).

So it's good luck, though a bit of an oddity, that Senate District 19 -- a sort of senatorial prom chaperon, keeping the 17th and the 23rd from touching each other too much -- has a real race. The district that twice elected staunchly conservative Tom McClintock now has to decide whether it wants conservative Republican Tony Strickland or liberal Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson.

This is exactly the kind of race California needs. No doubt, the district is oddly crafted, touching the San Luis Obispo County line and taking in Solvang, Santa Barbara and Ventura, then connected by a thread of land to Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Santa Clarita. But the strange contours give voters a real choice.

After reveling in the matchup, though, The Times has no problem making its choice. We wholeheartedly back Jackson. The environmental and education credentials she built up as a member of the Assembly will be put to good use in the Senate, and we're counting on her to help work through California's budget mess.

We like Strickland. He's an honest, straightforward lawmaker who also served in the Assembly with distinction. We just disagree with him. The last thing the Legislature needs is another member who signed a no-tax pledge and simply will not engage with Democrats in the give-and-take negotiations necessary to get through the state's budget crisis. We are not wedded to taxes as a solution, but everything must be on the table. With Strickland, they're not. That makes Jackson the better choice for California's future.

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