“Seniority is almost everything on Capitol Hill, and because of redistricting and retirements, California could lose well over 200 years of incumbents’ experience in the House,” says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the School of Policy, Planning, and Development at the University of Southern California, in an e-mail.
With twice the seniority of any other state, California has the most to lose, some say. Moreover, California voters' recent decision to put redistricting in the hands of a citizen's commission – instead of leaving it up to state legislators themselves – puts the state at a political disadvantage, they add. While other legislators in other states still take politics into account in redistricting, California's citizen's commission does not.
But the other side of the argument is that the workings of Congress have changed so much that these losses don’t mean what they might have in the past.
“Given the combination of extremely tight budgets, the ban on traditional earmarks, and the popular and press focus on ‘waste and pork,’ no one holding a committee or subcommittee chair today can steer as much federal largess as in the past to his or her district and state,” says Jack Johannes, professor of political science at Villanova University in an e-mail. “They still can and will, but it’s a lot harder now than ever. That diminishes the effect of losing key congressmen who hold high ranking committee positions.”