No room for Jim Nielsen

How far will he go to stay in office?

It looks as if Jim Nielsen is going to have to move if he wants to continue representing the 2nd District in the State Assembly. That, or lie again about his living arrangements.

The new state redistricting maps are out, and neither of Nielsen’s homes is in the reconfigured 2nd District. I say “homes” because he has two of them—the funky doublewide mobile near Gerber where, for political reasons, he says he lives and the expensive house in Woodland, outside his district, where he and his wife actually reside.

The whole 2nd District has been moved. It now stretches along the coast from Santa Rosa to the Oregon border. Nielsen’s Woodland home is in the new District 4, and his Gerber house in District 3. He’d have to move to or find yet another house to pretend to live in to be eligible to run in District 2, where voters lean Democratic and don’t know Jim Nielsen from Kris Kringle.

He has other options: He can run in District 4 using his Woodland address or in District 3 using his phony Gerber address.

Both pose problems: The new District 4, which includes Davis and Napa, is a majority-Democratic district in which popular current District 4 Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, a Democrat, will be pretty much unbeatable.

And to run in District 3 he’d have to go up against a fellow Republican, Dan Logue, the district’s current assemblyman. He’d also have to continue his charade of pretending to live in Gerber.

My prediction? If the redistricting maps survive the inevitable court challenges, which is likely, Nielsen won’t run. It’s hard to feel sorry for a scofflaw, but the guy got screwed. Then again, what goes around comes around, as they say.

Other local legislators got lucky. Doug LaMalfa is probably safe in the new Senate District 4, assuming fellow Republican Ted Gaines, who now represents District 1, changes residences. The new line separating the 1st and 4th districts puts Gaines’ Roseville residence slightly inside LaMalfa’s district, so he’ll need to move in order to stay in District 1.

Logue is also probably safe in his majority-Republican district, unless another Republican launches a strong primary challenge and forces a runoff in November. Under the state’s new “top-two” primary structure, it’s entirely possible that two members of the same party could end up running against each other in the general election.

Rep. Wally Herger is also looking good, though he’ll have to run for re-election in District 1, not his current District 2. The new District 2 is now on the coast, and the new District 1 is northeastern California from Grass Valley to the Oregon border. It includes most of the cities and towns along Highway 99 and I-5, including Chico and Redding—the one exception being Orland, which will be in the Democratic-leaning District 3 now represented by John Garamendi.

LaMalfa also conveniently lives in the new District 1. Herger’s going to retire sometime soon, and LaMalfa appears to be his preferred successor. Look for the Republican establishment to anoint LaMalfa for the position when Herger finally steps down.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.