Monday, October 17, 2016

California's Democrat vs Democrat Conundrum


-by Samuel Hagar

How to cross party lines for votes without abandoning your ethnicity-- The first thing a pollster tells you when you ask “how do you win a Democrat on Democrat” general election (a phenomenon we're finding more and more frequently on the West Coast due to the somewhat dysfunctional jungle primary system) is:
You need to create a coalition. Democrats, Decline to States, and Republicans must be patched together to create a coalition across demographics...
This may seem simple and not worthy of the thousands of dollars in consulting and pollster fees, however it is true. To win a Democrat on Democrat race, a candidate must build out from his or her natural constituency (race, gender, region, ideology etc) to attract the necessary support in order to earn 50+1 percent of the vote.

The glaring example of this type of race is the United States Senate race to replace Barbara Boxer this year in California. This race pits California Attorney General Kamala Harris (an African American statewide elected official and Establishment fave from the Bay Area) against Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (a Latina Blue Dog congresswoman, somewhat reknowned for being the dumber of two congressional sisters). The nature of the race (and the candidates in it) is that Loretta (having only received 18% of the vote in the primary) faces a general election in which she must get a ton of votes (compared to Kamala) that are outside of her geographic territory (where she picked up most of her votes in the primary)-- let’s face it, a Congressmember in a state as large as California has a minuscule base of support (speaking in geographic terms) as compared to a candidate who’s name has appeared on a statewide ballot before.

Loretta is a Blue Dog Democrat, a conservaDem who frequently votes with the GOP against the best interests of working families, so there was no way that the progressive/liberal community in California (a lot of votes!) would rally around her, leaving the remaining winnable votes for Loretta in the following constituencies: Latinos and Republicans.

Now, given her voting record, Loretta can make (and has made) a play for Republican votes. Her courting of an endorsement from Congressman Darrell Issa, not just a Republican but one of the best-known and most hated Republicans in the state, is the prime example of this strategy. But let’s remember, California is a deep blue state with far more Democratic votes than Republican votes, so the Republican vote alone cannot get Loretta Sanchez across the finish line (even after adding that to her Orange County name identification base).

So, as a Latina, Loretta must win a significant number of latino votes and add those to her base and iffy Republican support. While that may seem simple (such as 1+1 = 2), it is not.

Latinos have faced a year and a half of absolute brutal, vitriolic language from the Republican nominee. Polling indicates that the latino vote identifies Republicans as espousing the Donald Trump view points. And, it is no secret that Issa, who has a stridently anti-immigrant record, is one of Trump's most devoted followers in the state.

Unless Loretta thinks she can win every latino who agrees that “we must build a beautiful beautiful wall” along the Mexican border (and assumes that that plus her Republican vote is enough) then her strategy points to the exact problem facing so-called Democrats in these intra party races: to cross party lines for votes often involves stabbing your natural constituency directly in the back.

Today Christopher Cadelago reported for the Sacramento Bee that as part of her campaign to entice Republican voters, Sanchez has one of her SuperPACs running a radio spot blasting Kamala Harris as "another Barbara Boxer," something most California voters hope is true but that Republicans, of course, fear. Two Republican Party operatives, Stu Mollrich (California’s New Frontier PAC) and Dave Gilliard (Jobs, Opportunity & Freedom PAC) are running SuperPACs smearing against Harris for Sanchez.

Sanchez's latest ad from the PAC she is illegally coordinating with features a mock discussion between two Republican voters about the fact that the Senate race-- for the first time-- is between two Democrats. When one of the Republicans says she may not vote, she is instructed to cast her ballot for Sanchez-- described in the ad as an "anti-establishment Orange County moderate" with a "reputation for working across the aisle to solve problems."

There is another race in California (in which shockingly almost as much money has been spent as in the statewide U.S. Senate race) that points to this exact problem: the race for Assembly District 47, pitting so-called "moderate" Democratic incumbent, Cheryl Brown, a blatantly corrupt conservaDem, against her challenger, progressive reformer and attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes.

First, let’s look at the District. Assembly District 47 is set in San Bernardino County (one of the poorest counties in America) and home to a majority latino population. Analysts agree that nearly 54% of the General Election Vote (could be higher due to Donald Trump) will be latino, 10% will be black, and the rest will be white, Asian, etc… This is a minority majority district.

Now let’s look at the candidates. The incumbent legislator is Cheryl Brown, an African American former newspaper owner who proudly calls herself a “moderate Democrat” and has voted 100% of the time with the oil interests in California. Her largest contributor is Chevron and public polling has consistently shown her hovering between 40% and 44% of the general election vote. The challenger is Eloise Gomez Reyes, a labor attorney and community activist who proudly tells voters how she picked onions and grapes in this district as a little girl to pay for her school clothes. Her largest contributors come from the labor community.

Thus far OVER $4.6 MILLION DOLLARS has been spent in this contest. That is broken down as follows:
Brown Campaign - $800,000
Reyes Campaign - $500,000
Brown Independent Expenditures - $2,100,000
Reyes Independent Expenditures - $1,200,000
In a district this compact (no wider than 20 miles in any direction such an incredible amount of spending (already the costliest state legislative race IN THE COUNTRY) has a significant diminishing return to scale. This phenomenon makes this race a perfect example of a Democrat on Democrat race because it takes the financial advantage largely out of the equation.

Maybe Loretta can win Republicans and Latinos to bring her across the 50% mark, however it will take a hell of a lot more money than Loretta currently has, in order to do so.

So, in District 47 (where the last report, as of the Tuesday after Labor Day showed the race at 42-38, Brown) how does the African American incumbent get across the finish line? 2 scenarios:

1- Convince enough latinos to vote for her (she would need to win 50% of the latino vote for this to be the case) or 2- Convince a super majority of Republicans and Republican leaning Decline to State voters to vote for her, while retaining a super majority (not just majority) of the Black vote.

This is exactly why Chevron (the largest contributor to the Brown I.E., independent expenditures using Dark Money) has run ads that one would find a Republican running against a Democrat (Brown believes in lower taxes while that liberal Reyes wants to raise yours, they claim ominously-- and untruthfully). It’s of no surprise that Chevron would run these types of ads, given the fact that Chevron is run by Republicans and has benefitted for years from Republican relationships both in California and nation-wide.

There is a problem for Brown here (much like in the Sanchez scenario) in that Brown’s natural constituency-- African Americans-- have benefitted from years of Democratic policies that influential donors from say, Chevron, have worked diligently to abolish. Can Brown go win her Republican votes while convincing enough blacks that the only thing they have in common with her is their skin tone? That remains to be seen.

This race is a toss up and the one to watch. Blue America, of course, has endorsed Eloise Reyes and you can contribute to her progressive, grassroots campaign here.

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