Former California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado declared his intention last week to run in the 2012 elections against 23rd District Representative Lois Capps.

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Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, speaks at his Inaugural Address on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at the East steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.

Maldonado — who served under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — filed paperwork to challenge incumbent Capps, who has won reelection with little opposition since the last political redistricting in 2003. However, Capps’ critics say Maldonado stands a solid chance in the polls after the 23rd district boundaries are redrawn in August.

The district, which includes Santa Barbara County, stretches along the California coast and connects the mostly liberal communities from upper San Luis Obispo County to Oxnard. But according to Maldonado’s campaign, alterations to the 23rd district, known as the “ribbon of shame” by the Citizens Redistricting Commissions, will eliminate the area’s liberal majority.

“One of the biggest conflicts in interest in government is when the politicians draw the lines to choose the people, instead of the people drawing the lines to choose politicians,” Maldonado said. “I believe that the CRC will come up with fair lines.”

The CRC was created in 2010 by voter approval of California Proposition 20 CRC Commissioner Michael Ward said the nonpartisan entity’s creation marked the end of political gerrymandering in the state.

“This commission represents the first time that the power to draw and create district lines has been taken away from legislature’s hands,” Ward said. “This commission is fully independent and requires no ratification and approval from the legislature, and that is what makes it historic.”

Maldonado said the reorganization will override the effects of Capps’ incumbency.

“This will be a completely new district once the Citizens Commission has dealt with it,” Maldonado said.

Ward said the reshaped districts will more accurately represent their constituents.

“[Redistricting] has always been a closed process,” Ward said. “The legislatures choose who they are going to represent, instead of the people choosing who represents them. That is why this commission is so valuable. The goal is to go in and take testimony, to allow the public’s input to determine what their district ends up looking like instead of legislatures choosing who they are going to represent.”

The CRC’s nonpartisan efforts, Ward said, will level the state’s shifting political playing field.

“In general, competitive districts are not a condition that we are using to draw, but it should be a natural byproduct,” Ward said. “California is the most diverse state in the nation, maybe even [the most diverse place] in the world, and that diversity is going to drive competitiveness.”

Despite potential changes, Capps’ press secretary Ashley Schapitl said the congresswoman is confident in her campaign plans for 2012.

“Congresswoman Capps will be running for re-election and will do so with a strong grassroots campaign — just like she always has,” Schapitl said. “She is prepared for a competitive race regardless of who her opponents will be.”