Rep. David Dreier is one Republican who could be placed at risk by California's… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
In the quiet San Dimas office park that is longtime Rep. David Dreier's local headquarters, the Republican's staff members gamely tried to ignore the headlines from Sacramento.
It was business as usual in the stately suite despite just-released maps of proposed new electoral districts. Dreier was in Kyrgyzstan, a staffer said, leading a bipartisan delegation.
But southwest of San Dimas, in El Monte — part of the proposed new district that includes Dreier's San Dimas home — the commenting on the Citizens Redistricting Commission's maps had already begun.
Interactive map: Has your district changed?
"We would love to have a Latino representative because they would relate better, they would know the needs of the community," said Fernando Umberto, who has run a real estate firm there for 35 years and has a client base that is 80% Latino and 15% Asian.
The proposed district that Dreier lives in would no longer include such well-to-do suburban cities as Rancho Cucamonga, Sierra Madre and La Cañada-Flintridge. It would, however, include a large swath of the southern and central San Gabriel Valley, gaining such predominantly Democratic and Latino communities as Baldwin Park, La Puente and Irwindale.
Dreier, 58, has for years been an outspoken conservative voice in Washington, representing a mostly white, mostly Republican district. Analysis by political scientists at UCLA indicates that the proposed Covina district would have a 20-point Democratic advantage in party registration and would be 48% Democrat, 28% Republican and 20% decline to state.
Linda Boyd, a former chairwoman of the L.A. County Republican Party from Glendora, said the proposed district groups her conservative-leaning city in with heavily Democratic, majority Latino cities to the south.
"It could be a lot harder for [Dreier] to win in this district because there's not as many Republican areas," she said. Examining the map, she said the new boundaries would be so dominated by Latinos and Democrats that "it might be easier for him to move."
The changes in Dreier's area dramatically reflect demographic shifts in California over the last decade.
Marlen Garcia, a Democrat and mayor pro tem of Baldwin Park, which is in the proposed new district, said her community had been anxiously awaiting the proposed district maps in hopes that they might bring better representation for low-income Latinos. She said she hoped a new representative would be a Democrat and Latino.
Since she cast her first vote as a teenager growing up in Boyle Heights, Garcia said, "I knew I needed someone in office who was my color skin, spoke my language and understood my living conditions and culture. It had a huge impact."
Later Friday, Dreier's office issued a statement, emphasizing that the new maps were proposals only, subject to debate.
"These lines represent the continuation of a lengthy and important process," he said. "Californians deserve the best possible representation in both Sacramento and Washington. The many public hearings to be held this summer will give them an opportunity to have their voices heard."
Republican Mike Spence of West Covina, chairman of the San Gabriel Valley Lincoln Club, also struck an optimistic note, saying he saw the proposed district lines as an opportunity for the GOP to make inroads into Democratic-leaning areas.
"I think [Dreier will] have a very decent shot because of his expertise on the local issues and having been around so long," Spence said. "It's going to be a fight, but I think a lot of these contests are going to be closer than people think, and we're going to see some interesting outcomes in 2012."
But Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) already was speaking out about challenging Dreier, saying he had begun raising money and was "totally emboldened by the map and excited by the matchup." Some of the proposed new district already is represented by a Democrat, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park).
Jaime Regalado, director of the Edmund G. Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said that it would be tough for Dreier to win in the proposed new district but that he should not be written off. Like incumbents in general, Dreier would probably have an advantage in fundraising and name recognition.
In El Monte, Umberto, owner of the real estate firm, said Dreier might have yet another advantage: voter apathy.
Most people in El Monte, he said, "don't know who is in Congress. They don't care. They're just trying to make a buck."