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California Congressman Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis, a California Republican in the House since 1979, is retiring.

A quarter of the state’s 53-member delegation to Washington could be newcomers in the new Congress, analysts said, the result of at least 6 members retiring and strong contests in 10 other districts.

By contrast, only one seat changed hands between parties in the course of 255 Congressional elections in California over the past 10 years.

The potential scope of the upheaval, easily the largest anywhere in the nation, is sinking in with every new retirement announcement. While some state leaders hail the change as a sign of a healthy democracy — “There’s a lot to be said about mixing it up generationally, to have a constant invigoration of Congress with new fresh eyes and fresh voices,” said Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader — it has raised concern among officials at a time when the state is reeling from the economic downturn and is counting on Washington for assistance.

As it is, California faces an already unsympathetic Congress as it seeks legislative support on extending a subway line from downtown Los Angeles out to Santa Monica, as well as financial support for building a high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. More worrisome, state officials said, California will not have the clout it once had to withstand what are shaping up to be huge cuts in federal spending in coming years as Congress and the White House try to deal with the deficit.

The development is overshadowing what had initially attracted the most attention in the redistricting process here: that Democrats, who now control 34 seats, stand to gain two to four more.

While the full impact of redistricting is beginning to clarify in California, to the benefit of Democrats, the national battle over the process — done every decade in all the states, based on the most recent census — continues to churn. There are several court battles over it, particularly in Texas, which at 32 members has the next biggest delegation and where elections have been put on hold as the courts rule on various conflicting maps.

The main focus of campaign strategists has not been whether the final national map will benefit one party over another — there has been little doubt that Republicans, by virtue of having gained control of many statehouses in 2010, would have the edge — but rather, how much of an advantage the Republicans would have.

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