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Anna Eshoo reflects on loss of Belle Haven in redistricting

 
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By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

For a few weeks during the summer of 2011, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission had redrawn a congressional district border such that the house of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, was about 200 yards outside the district in which she will be running for re-election in 2012.

The commission later expanded the map with the result that her house was back in what is now known as the 18th District, but it would not have mattered, she said in a telephone interview from her house. The U.S. Constitution requires that a district representative reside in the state but not in the district itself.

But while Ms. Eshoo's house was back in, those of some of her longtime constituents were not. Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood and East Palo Alto will henceforth be represented by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, assuming she wins election to the new 14th District in 2012.

"My concerns don't stop at the county line," Ms. Eshoo said. "It was disappointing to me that the commission didn't reflect some of the voices of the community and keep (Menlo Park) intact. There is deep disappointment in the community."

"I will work just as hard on behalf of these communities, whether they are in my district or not. My roots are in San Mateo County," she said, referring to her years in the county's Democratic party and as a county supervisor.

"Jackie Speier and I have worked together for almost 30 years," she added. "These communities are likely to get more, not less, attention. ... They will have two members and they will not be shortchanged, either by me or Jackie."

A primary opponent?

Asked if she expected to have an opponent for the June 2012 primary election, Ms. Eshoo said the competition "remains to be seen" and that she never takes elections or her constituents for granted. "I start from scratch every time I go out there," she said.

And if she is opposed, will she change her strategy or tactics? It may be hard to believe, she said, but she would not. "I don't approach it that way. I never have."

Nor will her district's new outlines change anything; her constituents, new and current, share the same concerns for the environment, education, justice and tolerance, she said.

Debt ceiling and politics

After President Barack Obama reached a highly contentious down-to-the-wire deal with congressional Republicans to avoid defaulting on the $14.6 trillion the United States owes its creditors, several public opinion polls put approval of Congress near 20 percent.

"I think it was just sheer hell," Ms. Eshoo said when asked to comment. "I think that it said terrible things to the American people, that (Congress) is not a competent organization."

Raising the debt ceiling is a high responsibility but Republicans mischaracterized it as giving the president a blank check, she said. The fight damaged the country's reputation abroad, caused great anxiety at home and left constituents angry then disgusted, she said.

"It's a sad situation," she added. "When the country needs consensus the most, the House of Representatives is deeply divided. It's not as if (the impact) is contained in the chamber. It's for the country. This is not a sport. It's deeply frustrating to me. I'm not proud of it."

"I try to be the voice of sanity in the midst of all that," she said. "We can do so much better for this country. We're the United States of America. We can do anything."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vaulted to the front of the pack of contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Will President Obama and his party be ready for a folksy, tell-it-like-it-is, Southern, Western, cowboy-boot-wearing, politically agile Republican governor with whom voters may feel that they could sit down and have a beer?

"They better be," Ms. Eshoo said. "(Rick Perry) has been a successful politician since the 1980s. No one should underestimate him, including Barack Obama."

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