Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What About California? Can Democrats Win Congressional Seats There?


Laura Oatman would be a great replacement for Dana Rohrabacher

Ted Lieu, the hero of today's Jeff Sessions grilling at the House Judiciary Committee hearing, is also the West Coast regional vice-chair of the DCCC. He's the only one who's doing a good job. This evening he told us that "One of the key takeaways from recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Oklahoma is that Democrats should not shy away from expanding the map wherever possible. We are going to pick up at least 15 seats in the Virginia legislature, many in districts no one thought we could win. Next year is shaping up to be a wave election year and if we can harness the grassroots energy and recruit strong candidates we can compete anywhere. This includes traditional Republican strongholds like CA-22 or CA-50. The House is absolutely in play in 2018. Things are moving in our direction, but we can’t take anything for granted, and we must all work to earn the trust of voters and fight for every last vote."

Monday morning, the L.A. Times’ California politics editors ranked the hottest congressional races in the state by the intensity of the fight ahead for the congressmen (and one congresswoman). I'd love to see their methodology, because "the intensity of the fight ahead" sounds suspect. And their list generally sounds like the more traditional ranking from most endangered (Darrell Issa and Steve Knight) to vaguely endangered (Devin Nunes plus clock-punching crap-Democrats, Salud Carbajal, Ami Bera, Scott Peters and Raul Ruiz). Here's the full list, from more endangered to not very endangered, along with the 2015 and 2017 PVIs:
Darrell Issa- R+4 to R+1

49th District-- Southern Orange County and Northern San Diego

Our take: Issa won his last election by 1,621 votes in a race that became unexpectedly tight. This time around, he’ll be prepared for a tough contest. His district is changing politically and in its demographic makeup.
Issa’s near-loss to Democrat Col. Doug Applegate in the closest congressional election in the nation last year remains fresh in the political world’s mind and the dynamics are not improving for the nine-term incumbent. Issa is desperate to find another district to run in and just leave CA-49 to Applegate.

Steve Knight- R+3 to Even
25th District-- Northern Los Angeles County and Simi Valley

Our take: With Los Angeles County becoming more and more Democratic, Knight has become the last congressional Republican to represent it, and he has a number of well-qualified candidates challenging him.
Katie Hill is the viable candidate who can finally beat Knight. "People are tired of politics as usual," she reminded us. "Our system is broken and it is time for a wave of new leadership that will prioritize people over playing politics. Steve Knight has voted to strip health care away from tens of thousands of people in the district, he voted to raise taxes on middle and working class families, and we will vote him out of office in November. I’m running because my friends, family, neighbors, and all of the residents of the 25th district deserve someone that will put their interests ahead of getting re-elected."

Jeff Denham- R+1 to Even
10th District-- Central Valley including Modesto

Our take: According to the numbers political prognosticators typically rely on, Denham should have lost last year. Hillary Clinton and Denham each won the district by 3 percentage points. Denham has had the secret sauce to keep his constituents happy even as Democrats have salivated to flip a district seemingly so perfect for their party. An ingredient to his success: His attention to water issues critical in the Central Valley. A factor that has Democrats feeling more confident: His vote in favor of the American Health Care Act as a replacement for Obamacare.
Dotty Nygard is, far and away, the best candidate the Democrats have ever run in this district. As long as the DCCC doesn't shove a self-funding multimillionaire carpetbagger down the throats of the local activists, Denham will finally be toast.

Dana Rohrabacher- R+7 to R+4
48th District-- Coastal Orange County Our take: The congressman’s affinity for Russia and his questionable relationships with figures involved in the various Russia investigations have become prominent news, raising his profile in his district. While he has always had huge winning percentages, he has never faced a serious challenger. And although he can see this fight coming, Rohrabacher’s fundraising has been weak. The vast number of qualified challengers coming forward suggests there’s plenty of energy among people hoping to oust him.
Goal ThermometerRohrabacher is more vulnerable than the Times has figured out yet. The Democrats are fractured at this point, with many candidates but only one inspiring one. There's one imbecile, Omar Siddiqui, running by calling himself a "Reagan Democrat," presumably hoping to split some of the Republican votes with Rohrabacher and the 2 other Republicans in the open primary. Hans Keirstead is the DCCC candidate but this super on-paper candidate hides a real life dud. He and another self-funder, Harley Rouder, have both been endorsed by the New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. The DCCC invited the two of them to their candidates' week in DC and left out the progressive woman in the race, Laura Oatman. Laura was undaunted and used the time they were away in DC to campaign on a grassroots level, "Dana Rohrabacher," she told me this morning, "has long been known as 'Putin’s favorite Congressman', so it’s really no surprise that our pro-Russia Congressman is the first member of Congress to be named in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in last year's election. The people who live here in California’s 48th district deserve a true representative who actually represents them and their concerns, not Putin and his concerns.

David Valadao- D+2 to D+5
21st District-- Central Valley including part of Bakersfield

Our take: Though the voter registration in his district is lopsided against Republicans-- Democrats have an 18-percentage-point advantage-- he outran Trump by 16 percentage points and even Clinton by 2 percentage points. So far, he has attracted just one opponent-- Emilio Huerta, who is looking for a rematch despite losing by double digits in 2016. Still, Democrats will try their best to get over the line in a place that, by the numbers, seems winnable for a Latino candidate.
Only the DCCC could loss a district this blue-- and could well lose it again. They don't like Emilio Chavez but they've been unable to recruit another candidate. So they should embrace Emilio, right? And make him a better candidate and prop him up, right? It's a deep, deep blue district. Instead, they just shake their virtual head hopelessly. They suck so bad.

Ed Royce- R+5 to Even
39th District-- Northeast Orange County, eastern Los Angeles County and part of San Bernardino County

Our take: Royce is chairman of the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee, has served 13 terms in Congress, and has millions in the bank-- but other numbers suggest he’s vulnerable. Clinton won by 9 percentage points in his district, which has a growing population of Latino and Asian voters, making it a majority-minority district. He won by 10 points in 2016, but that was against a weak opponent. Now, there is a long list of qualified and ambitious challengers vying to run against him in November.
This is the Orange County district that Hillary did best in against Trump, but the DCCC is screwing the district up by asking self-funding multimillionaires who live in CA-48 to run in CA-39 instead, including the most singularly incompetent DCCC recruit on the cycle, Gil Cisneros, the "ex"-Republican lottery winner. And the Democrats already have a pretty ideal candidate, Sam Jammal. If they lose this district someone should put Ben Ray Lujan's head on a pike, figuratively speaking (I guess), and parade it from Hacienda Heights across to Diamond Bar and down through Brea and Yorba Linda to Fullerton.

Mimi Walters- R+7 to R+3
45th District-- Inland Orange County including Irvine

Our take: Walters has kept a fairly low profile and has enjoyed the support of her district by large, albeit shrinking, margins in previous elections. She won with 65% of the vote in 2014 and 58% last year. She has been dogged by energized activists who want her to appear at town hall meetings, but her fundraising is strong, suggesting she is taking the long list of Democratic challengers eager to unseat her seriously. Of the lawmakers Democrats in Orange County are attempting to oust, Walters is the newest, and in such a large media market it is harder for her to become well-known by her constituents.
It might help if she lived there, instead of in Dana Rohrabacher's district. There are two exceptional progressive candidates in this race, Kia Hamadanchy and Katie Porter. Katie: "I am furious that Mimi Walters supports Donald Trump’s disastrous tax plan instead of standing up for middle-class families here in Orange County. These devastating tax changes could tilt our entire system even more towards the top 1% at a time when multinational corporations are parking record profits offshore, a handful of top-tier billionaires are getting richer and richer, and when the middle class is getting squeezed by cuts to public education, public health, and other vital social services." And Kia: "Mimi Walters continues her tone-deaf approach in 'representing' the people of California’s 45th District. You can’t even find her back in the district. Given that she doesn’t live here it might just be too inconvenient for her. Instead she is either meeting with lobbyists or in DC rubber stamping whatever Trump wants. Now, she’s championing a disastrous tax plan that would raise taxes on the majority of residents here in the 45th. Even as her conservative colleagues in other vulnerable suburban districts back away from this plan, she refuses to do so. I wish I could say I’m surprised that Mimi is putting the interests of her billionaire donors ahead of the people of our district, but it is just more of the same from Mimi." Either one of these candidates should be able to beat Walters next November and either would make a really good member of Congress.

Duncan Hunter- R+14 to R+11
50th District-- Inland San Diego County

Our take: Hunter’s solidly Republican district is changing, but not as fast as Issa’s neighboring district. He’s facing potential legal and ethics troubles that will be exploited by his opponents. His seat got a second look as a potential pickup only after it was revealed that the FBI was investigating allegations that he had misused campaign funds. Democrats will give it some attention, and believe the challengers are strong. Odds are this seat stays Republican, but Democrats are on offense in the state and want to be prepared for the unexpected.
He'll be ousted if he's indicted; otherwise not. Issa would like him to resigns he could move to the much safer territory, knowing full well he can't win in his own district. Hunter is a crook but unless he's indicted in the next couple ion months, the Feds will put a prosecution on hold until after the election.

Devin Nunes- R+10 to R+8
22nd District-- Fresno and Tulare counties

Our take: Despite a bizarre, high-profile fracas in which Nunes gained national fame at the start of the House’s Russian election meddling investigation, this district is very Republican and it’s unlikely most of his constituents will factor in Russia-related notoriety when they go to the polls. Plus, Nunes outran Trump in his district by 16 percentage points in 2016. It would be a very, very good night for Democrats if they were to win here in November 2018.
I'm more optimistic; if the Democrats nominate an inspiring relatable candidate. Andrew Janz is the DCCC fave but he's a hapless very conservative Blue Dog who didn't know what the terms "single payer" or "Medicare-For-All" when I spoke with him back when he first announced. He's the worst candidate I spoke to this cycle anywhere and told me the two issues that motivated him to run were protecting the Second Amendment and the death penalty (as in making sure it's used more frequently). He was more aggressively right-wing than many Republicans I speak to and when I asked him if there's a member of Congress he would model himself on, he immediately answered Jim Costa, the very worst Democrat in the California delegation, the one who votes most frequently with Ryan and Trump. Ricardo Franco looks like a far better choice. This is what he told us this morning:
To local voters here in the Central Valley, Devin Nunes is in more trouble than many would think after his last election results. A strategy that’s all about Russia misses the mark. As a Democratic challenger to Devin Nunes, I can tell you that the harshest criticism of our congressman comes from his fellow Republicans. The discussion of Russia from folks outside the Central Valley focuses too much on his actions rather than his character.  For local voters, it is the latter that is currently under scrutiny.

Those of us that choose to live here have a lot of pride in the Central Valley. From feeding the world, to supporting Fresno State athletics, to being the guardians of our greatest national parks, we are immensely proud of who we are. However, we still have scars we are trying to overcome: deep poverty and stark income inequality. Anytime issues come up in the national media that put us in a negative light, Valley citizens don't take kindly to it.

And that's what irks people about Nunes. It's not that he may be right or wrong, but that he is an anchor to the image of the Central Valley that is dragging us back into the mud of despair. He's not seen as someone who is seasoned politician fighting for something he believes in, but rather as a tool of the party whose only spine is created from the mounds of money poured into him from wealthy donors outside the Central Valley.

The L.A. Times also misses a very important point: the majority of voters are not Republican, but rather "No Party Preference." So how does he keep winning re-election? Despite poor job reviews reflected in low approval ratings of Congress, constituents let him keep his job.

My campaign understands the dynamics of the Central Valley better than any other competitor and, most importantly, understands the issues facing voters here as well. From the deepest red Republicans to the most progressive liberals, there are still things that unite all of us here as proud Valley citizens. Getting that very message out effectively is what is key to winning this election. That's why my campaign leadership team is made up of Valley locals. That's why my campaign has extremely talented volunteers spanning a diversity of race, gender, age, and background that are an army for us to get that message out.

And that's why we'll win this election.  No campaign has more local pride. That's something money can't buy-- and Central Valley citizens know that.
The other 4 candidates the L.A. Times mentions are pretty awful Democrats, but none of them is worth talking about in this context since, unfortunately, all 4 are going to win reelection without much struggle.

I asked Christine Pelosi, a dedicated party activist, a progressive and the daughter of you-know-who, for her take on the L.A. Times story. They should have hired her to write it. She told me she thought they should add these essentials:
1. Volunteer Shifts

Who has a grassroots army willing to walk in the rain, talk to strangers, and open their homes to the campaign? In a climate where CA governor, senate and ballot measures will occupy billions of dollars in TV ads, who has the people power to connect with voters in the precincts? How many phone bank hours and precinct walking hours and house meetings did the campaign log last month? Those metrics tell me where I would send people and dollars.

2. Grassroots Coalitions 

Who built coalitions with the grassroots already mobilizing for universal healthcare, raising wages, immigration, women's rights, civil rights, and environmental justice? More than looking at who's registering as a Democrat look at who is mobilizing with the Democratic candidates. With new groups like sister district and our revolution working with longtime allies like labor unions and Planned Parenthood, Democrats with a more issue-focused call to service campaign will inspire voters to hire us not just fire Republicans. Hot issues like saving the ACA and advancing Medicare for All, free college not massive student loan debt, jobs and careers not gigs without a safety net, criminal justice reform, and fighting climate change not drilling and fracking are top of mind for young people and bring enthusiastic volunteers. Together we saved the ACA with Democratic volunteers and new coalitions of healthcare voters including veterans, people with disabilities, and "little lobbyists" children with complex medical needs taking the lead in saving Medicaid. Candidates who are excited-- not threatened-- by these coalitions will win.

3. War and Peace

Congress has the power to declare war and Trump is threatening military action. Where Congressional candidates stand on sending their constituents to combat and how they receive veterans as voices for peace will loom large. Positions on the use of force and privatizing the VA matter a great deal to military families who are the margin of victory in many swing districts-- and will matter to all voters if Trump leads us into another war. That's probably the biggest wild card.

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At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being as I am myself a resident and registered voter living in CA, I have to point something out. Californians elected Arnold Schwarzenegger. TWICE.

Appearances can be deceiving. Mileage mat vary. Logic doesn't necessarily apply.

At 1:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harley Rouda not Harley Rouder - typo needs correcting above.


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