California 1st District
The North Coast of California is unlike any other place in America. It is the only part of the lower 48 states first settled by Russians, who built Fort Ross in 1812. They sold it in 1841 to a Swiss named John Augustus Sutter, whose discovery of gold near Sacramento eight years later started the Gold Rush. It is the only part of the world with large numbers of redwood trees, shooting up hundreds of feet in the drizzly air. It is wet country, and for years it was one of America’s prime lumbering areas. Eureka and smaller lumber towns are filled with filigreed Victorian houses and old mills, but also art galleries, hiking trails, pubs, and waterfront hotels. The region has moved on to other crops. In sunny valleys sealed off from the Coast Range, some of the nation’s premium wine grapes are grown on ridges. Humboldt County is known for its quality marijuana fields, and the local economy relies heavily on the product, as depicted in the 2008 movie Humboldt County. Local voters that year in next-door Mendocino County pulled back from the nation’s most liberal marijuana law by falling in line with the state limit of six plants per resident—instead of 24, which had been the county law since 2000—because of concern about nonmedical abuses of the crop. Thirty years ago, there were only 20 wineries in Napa Valley. Today, there are several hundred, with more just west of the ridges in Sonoma County. Wineries were a favorite investment for Silicon Valley millionaires until the recession caused production cutbacks and thousands of job layoffs in 2008. Olive trees are also grown here. Some of California’s earliest literary haunts were in the valleys. Robert Louis Stevenson took his honeymoon near Calistoga in Napa, and Jack London owned a giant house in Sonoma that mysteriously burned down in 1913. Along the coast, a 2006 law designated 273,000 acres of wilderness and restored the rights of commercial fishermen to drive trucks on the beaches of the Redwood National Park.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of California consists of the North Coast from Mendocino County to the Oregon border. To the south, it includes Napa County and the eastern edge of Sonoma County—Healdsburg, the Alexander Valley, and part of Sonoma Valley—plus part of the Yolo County flatlands, including the University of California at Davis and industrial West Sacramento. The North Coast lumbering area, from Mendocino on north, was once filled with rough-hewn working men, and was historically Democratic. But the timber business was hurt in the 1980s by environmental protections for the northern spotted owl, and the local backlash prompted more interest in Republican politics. Now, the focus is on sustainable forestry. And the area remains largely Democratic. The Pacific Lumber Company, the longtime landlord of the town of Scotia, one of the last company-owned towns in the United States, sold all of its 275 houses in 2008 and planned to continue limited timber production. Inland, the wine-growing country around Healdsburg and in Napa County, was Republican in the 1970s, but now partakes of the San Francisco Bay Area’s liberal consensus. This district changed partisan hands four times during the 1990s, thanks largely to splits among Democrats, but redistricting in 2001 made it solidly Democratic.