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Too Little, Too Late

Kennedy’s protest has cynical feel

By Howard Schmidt
February 2022

The Board of Supervisors recently redrew its district boundaries to reflect Sacramento County’s population changes over the last decade. New lines are in effect for this year’s elections, with three seats open. Filing begins Feb. 14 for the June primary.

Boundaries for Districts 1 and 2, represented by Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy, had minor modifications. Half of Rancho Cordova was moved from Don Nottoli’s District 5 into Rich Desmond’s District 3. North Highlands was swapped out of District 3 and given to Sue Frost in District 4. Desmond picks up Gold River.

Serna and Kennedy are up for re-election this year, with Nottoli retiring. Most of the attention will be on the race for his replacement in the southern portions of Sacramento County.

The redistricting process saw public pressure to form a new district that grouped together Elk Grove, South Sacramento, Florin and Vineyard. Such new lines would have created opportunities favorable to Asian American Pacific Islander candidates.

But a combined South Sac-Elk Grove district would have required major realignments of turf held by Serna and Kennedy—and they weren’t interested in drastic alternations during an election year.

Another issue involved making Land Park whole. The neighborhood is split at Vallejo Way, with the north side represented by Serna and the south by Kennedy. Serna wanted to maintain the separation.

Kennedy went along with the program until the final vote to adopt the lines, which were drawn by county staff. Then he formally declared the process made him “uncomfortable.” He said the new map “did not address community concerns.”

Afterward he sent out a newsletter stating, “Not enough weight was given to the concerns voiced by South Sacramento Asian Pacific Islanders.”

Kennedy declared the process had been “flawed” due to board members “drawing district boundaries at the dais.” He wants a commission to take over when redistricting returns after the 2030 census.

The protest by Kennedy should be treated with skepticism—or even cynicism. Supervisors could have deployed a redistricting commission in 2021, but they thought it was fine to control their own boundaries, Kennedy included.
When redistricting began, Kennedy thought it was fine for him and his colleagues to run the process. Only at the end did he grasp the consequences of keeping it in the hands of politicians rather than citizen appointees.

The race to succeed retiring Sheriff Scott Jones has a twist. Jones endorsed his chief deputy Jim Barnes for the job but a coronation is not a sure thing. Barnes faces a potential obstacle with the possible candidacy of Assemblymember Jim Cooper, a former deputy who lost the sheriff’s race to Jones in 2010.

Twelve years ago, Cooper had the endorsement of the local deputies’ labor group and still fell short by about 3,000 votes. Now the union is endorsing Barnes. Cooper has until early March to decide whether he campaigns for another Assembly term or goes for sheriff. He can’t run for both.

Howard Schmidt worked on federal, state and local levels of government, including 16 years for Sacramento County. He can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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