Monday, December 17, 2012

Steve Israel Makes A Good Case For Why Lee Rogers Should Run Against Buck McKeon Again


McKeon thinks these are his constituents, not Latino voters

In 2012 DCCC Chairman Steve Israel gave a free pass to Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy and all the senior Republican Party policy makers in Congress. The only committee chairman the DCCC challenged, Dan Lungren, had no role in policy whatsoever and chaired the housekeeping committee. But the really powerful GOP leaders, whose Wall Street patrons just happen to also be Steve Israel's Wall Street patrons... these guys were all benignly neglected by the DCCC. And House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon was certainly one of them.

McKeon, the last Republican in a district that is primarily in Los Angeles, is loathed even among Republicans in his own district. The biggest newspaper in the district, run by one of his cronies, suggested, while endorsing him, that he not run again. The voters rebuffed his attempts to insert his batty wife into the state Assembly. She came in a dismal third-- while cleaving the local Republican Party in half. McKeon spent $1,721,382 to retain his seat this year-- the most he had ever spent-- and he got 129,593 votes, 54.78%, his first-ever reelection effort to fall below the Beltway conventional wisdom safety cutoff point of 55%. Although President Obama lost the district to Romney 49.7-47.8%, first time candidate Dr. Lee Rogers made an impressive showing-- and with no help or encouragement from the DCCC. Rogers spent $349,219 (one fifth what McKeon's weapons manufacturers fundraising machine brought in for him) but managed to win 106,982 votes (45.22%), the most any Democrat had ever won in the district. And he outright won the Antelope Valley third of the district, in fact, his vigorous campaign there, helped win the Assembly seat in that area for Democrat Steve Fox. (More about that below.)

Yesterday, The Hill reported that the DCCC will target Latino voters in 2014, especially in districts where the Republican didn't get to the magic 55% mark. CA-25 fits the mold.
Israel said Democrats will be targeting Republicans “in areas of growing Latino communities where our candidates competed effectively although may have fallen short at the end of the day,” indicating the party believes their strength with Latino voters this year will hold in 2014.

...Democrats won’t have the benefit of the Obama turnout machine, and minority voters who may have been inspired to vote for the nation’s first black president could stay home.

But while a top Democratic strategist acknowledged that turnout could be lower for the Democratic Party, the strategist argued that won’t blunt the force of the Hispanic vote.

“We don't need turnout to reach presidential levels for the Hispanic vote to still be really critical in some states,” the strategist said.

“The Hispanic vote is growing so rapidly that the growth over a couple years expands our opportunity.”

Adam Gellner, CEO of National Research, Inc., a top GOP pollster who conducted much of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) polling this cycle, agreed that the Latino vote is something Republicans should be concerned about even in an off year.

“It's not going to be 2012-style turnout, but we should see the writing on the wall in terms of the real emergence of the Hispanic voter,” he said.
Fox and Hounds columnist, demographics and gerrymandering expert and former legislative staffer Tony Quinn keeps tabs on California politics better than any other Republican in the state. A few weeks after the election he explained how the GOP managed to lose-- albeit barely-- a "safe" Assembly seat inside Buck McKeon's congressional district.
For 26 days, Lancaster council member Ron Smith, a Republican, was an Assemblyman-elect, that is until the very last votes were counted in Los Angeles County on Sunday and by 145 votes Smith lost his seat to Democrat Steve Fox. Smith came out of election night several thousand votes ahead but a huge glut of late provisional ballots cost him the seat. “There is a political group that has learned how to manipulate the election by playing with provisionals,” huffed Smith. He’s right; it is called the voters.

Smith’s loss is typical of the self inflicted wounds that have destroyed the Republican Party in California, leaving it with fewer legislators than any time in the state’s history.

Let’s look at Smith’s district. According to the census, it is 42 percent Latino, 14 percent black and four percent Asian. It is only 38 percent non-Hispanic white. And among voters, a quarter are Latino. So what does Smith do; look at his webpage and you’ll see that, “Ron opposes in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.” There’s that signal that if he were in Sacramento he would surely oppose the DREAM Act to allow children brought to California before the age of 16 and who have met all the educational requirements to apply for financial aid. It is a signal to Latinos that says, even if you obey all the laws and are illegal through no fault of your own we still don’t want you to get an education.

But Latinos can read, and they know the Republican position that sends the same signal that “Irish need not apply” or “Jews unwelcome here” to past immigrants. And they know how to do just what the Irish and Jews did a long time ago: they vote.

Smith raised and spent about $285,000 on his campaign, but all of that was in the primary. Once he was the only Republican in the runoff he coasted, assured of election in this “safe” Republican district. And his opponent Fox, raised only $20,000 and loaned himself another $40,000-- he had no organized state Democratic support.

So what’s the problem? Well, over the summer local Democrats put on a big registration drive in this middle class district, as they did across the state and using the new online registration signed up a whole lot of new voters. And guess who they were: loads of young Latinos, citizens and native Californians, who have learned to read and write, no thanks to the Republicans, and know who their friends are and who they are not. Because they were new voters, many were not on the precinct rolls, so they cast provisional ballots. And that is who manipulated the election, Mr. Smith. The new voters who voted. 

It was obvious that change was occurring in this Assembly district. Since January, Democrats added 7,513 new voters to just 3,394 new Republicans, and what had been a formerly safe Republican district was no longer. The California Target Book, of which I am a co-editor, tagged this district after the Primary as no longer safe Republican and placed the race on its “Watch List.” The GOP poobahs in Sacramento, however, bought the kool aid that new voters and Latinos would not turn out this year, and did nothing to save Smith from the onslaught that occurred.

Ron Smith joins an interesting list of GOP candidates who thought for sure they were going to win but who lost because of Latino voter strength. There is Bill Berryhill, favored for a Senate district in Stockton; Jeff Miller, running for an open Senate seat in Riverside; Tony Strickland, running for Congress in Ventura; Chris Norby, running for re-election for the Assembly in Orange County. And what do all of them have in common: they all ran in districts with a growing Latino vote and they all voted against the DREAM Act.
A vicious old bigot, McKeon also opposed the DREAM Act, both the national version and the California version-- and he did so noisily. It helps explain why, even without a single cent from the DCCC, Lee Rogers won among Latino voters and why he was able to turn out so many Latino voters and how he, as well as Steve Fox, a conservative who didn't run much of a campaign, managed to take Antelope Valley.

The Democrats need to win 17 seats in 2014 to take back the House, considered an impossibility for Beltway conventional wisdom-- the folks who bet Obama would lose because no incumbent president ever wins when unemployment is above 8%. If Israel again wastes all the DCCC's resources on conservative Blue Dogs and New Dems in Republican districts, he will prove them correct. If he lightens up on his ideological litmus tests and supports independent-minded progressives like Rogers, there is a chance the Democrats can make history and replace Boehner with Nancy Pelosi in two years.

Blue America managed to get a couple weeks worth of these ads on Antelope Valley radio. Had the DCCC put some real money behind this kind of thing in CA-25, especially in Santa Clarita, Rogers would be a congressman-elect and McKeon would be looking for a job as a war contractor's lobbyist on K Street.

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