Welcome back to the California House races roundup for March. The races are coming into focus, with new challengers entering the fray before the March 7 deadline, and some actual campaigning between candidates (shocking!). And with the DCCC looking at four races in the state, California will certainly be a battleground in Congress in November.
We also know with a fair degree of certainty that Jackie Speier will be the next Representative in CA-12, after Lawrence Lessig declined to run. The initial primary is April 8 and Speier is heavily favored.
So that leaves just one Democratic seat in any degree of question, and I’ve decided to expand to write about 13 Republican-held seats that have varying degrees of challenges. Overall, Democrats are running in 18 of the 19 seats currently held by Republicans, and 52 of 53 seats overall. Only Kevin McCarthy in CA-22 (Bakersfield) is uncontested AFAIK. You can track these races yourself with the 2008 Race Tracker wiki.
A couple notes: I’ve changed the percentage of Democratic turnout in the February 5 primary statistics to reflect the final numbers from the Secretary of State’s office. As you’ll see, six of the thirteen Republican-held seats mentioned had majority Democratic turnout. Very encouraging. Also, I’ve noted where applicable which challengers have endorsed the Responsible Plan to End The War In Iraq. My hope is that eventually every candidate will do so; it will absolutely help them in their campaigns to show some leadership and offer a comprehensive strategy to end the war and change our conversation around national security.
1. CA-11. Incumbent: Jerry McNerney. Main challenger: Dean Andal. Cook number: R+3. % Dem turnout in the Presidential primary: 53.7%. DCCC defended. In researching this race, I’ve noticed that Jerry McNerney gets excellent press inside his district. He’s moved to more comfortable policy areas for him, like renewable energy and the green economy. And he was pretty bold in standing up to the fearmongers who ran ads in his district against him about the FISA bill. The NRCC found some coins in the couch and paid for a “Vote McNerney Out” website in support of their challenger Dean Andal. But the percentage of Democratic turnout in the district reflects the fact that the demographics really have shifted here. So, good luck, NRCC.
I’m going to do three tiers in setting apart the top 13 seats where we have challenges to Republican incumbents.
1. CA-04. Last month: 1. Open seat. Dem. challenger: Charlie Brown. Repub. challengers: Doug Ose, Tom McClintock. PVI #: R+11. % Dem turnout in primary: 44.7. DCCC targeted. This race is really heating up. The Tom McClintock welfare queen story has legs, and may damage him in his primary fight against former US Rep. Doug Ose. A guy running as the ultimate rock-ribbed fiscal conservative can’t be seen enriching himself on the public dole. The Ose-McClintock primary is getting nasty, with McClintock saying things like “He is one of those congressman that has squandered away our rights.” Meanwhile, Charlie Brown has kept his promises by donating $17,500 to veterans care providers, an event which got great press. He also took the endorsement of VoteVets PAC and won an online poll with the veterans’ group, yielding $5,000 for his campaign. CA-04 is most definitely still in play.
2. CA-26. Last month: 2. Incumbent: David Dreier. Challenger: Russ Warner. PVI #: R+4. % Dem. turnout: 50.2. DCCC targeted. The first real misstep of the campaign from David Dreier came this month, as he misstated his earnings from stock sales (to the tune of $263,000) in financial disclosure reports. Russ Warner pounced on it, and Dreier tried to make excuses, but it fits into the narrative of him being out of touch with the district.
Kristin Ponts, campaign manager for Warner, said, “The idea that David Dreier, who has been in Congress for 27 years, wouldn’t know how to fill out a basic financial disclosure form is absurd.”
Warner called the report an example of the “scandal-plagued culture of corruption” in Washington. He said that it was “no surprise given these recent failures to comply with House ethics rules” that Dreier chose to vote against stronger rules being adopted in the House.
The creation of an independent house ethics office was recently approved by a 229-182 vote with opposition from most Republicans.
That’s a fighting Democrat right there. Dreier also has a Republican primary challenge, though it doesn’t look to be that big a deal.
3. CA-50. Last month: 3. Incumbent: Brian Bilbray. Challengers: Nick Leibham, Cheryl Ede. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.8. DCCC targeted. The press is starting to come around in thinking that this is a legitimate race. Nick Leibham was profiled in an interview by Lucas O’Connor that was pretty revealing. I liked this:
We win this fight because their platform is old and it’s worn out…The Reagan Revolution…which started really in 1964 with Goldwater’s defeat…it culminated in 1980 and 1994 and the end of the Bush years are a bookend. It’s tired, it’s played out, and it no longer offers up a positive agenda for America. This isn’t just a change election in the sense of Democrats or Republicans. This is a paradigm shifting election and Democrats can capture that…they’ve got a lot of work to do but we can capture it and I think the pendulum is swinging our way.
Cheryl Ede, who’s been endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America, has a base of support in the district, as evidenced by this account of an Escondido Democratic Club meeting where Leibham’s policy stances were questioned as perhaps being too conservative. I think it’s great to be having this debate, and having Democrats locally move their candidates to the most representative positions. That can only help in the fall.
4. CA-45. Last month: 4. Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack. Challengers: Paul Clay, David Hunsicker, Julie Bornstein. PVI #: R+3. % Dem. turnout: 51.3. As seen by the majority Democratic turnout in the primary, this is a district that’s ripe for a takeover. And I’m intrigued by the prospect of proven electoral winner Julie Bornstein rising to the challenge. Bono Mack is married to a guy in Florida and lives in Washington. Bornstein is someone who’s represented the district and can do the same in the Congress. And her son is currently serving in Iraq, which is undeniably powerful. She announced her candidacy on the fifth anniversary of the war. Her area of expertise is affordable housing, which is a sorely needed perspective in Washington, too. Keep an eye on this race, it could easily go top-tier.
5. CA-46. Last month: 7. Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher. Challenger: Debbie Cook (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. This is going to be the most fun race of the cycle, no doubt about it. Dana Rohrabacher is crazy. This is well-known. He spent an hour on the floor of the Congress recently ranting about a secret investigation about the 1993 WTC bombing that sounded like a first draft from an Oliver Stone movie. His former aide was just sentenced to three years in prison for molesting young boys. Howie Klein can give you all the background you’d ever need on Rohrabacher. And this year, we’re actually poised to capitalize on this. Debbie Cook is the mayor of Huntington Beach, a solid Democrat who has endorsed the Responsible Plan. The Rohrabacher people are clearly nervous; they’ve been trying to use legal shenanigans to remove “Mayor” from Cook’s designation on the ballot. This was tossed out of court, but the strategy is to bleed Cook of money and resources and tangle her up in legal machinations. It’s almost just as telling that Crazy Dana is teaming up with Maxine Waters and calling for a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing in protest of the crackdown in Tibet. He’s trying to moderate his nutball stances. He’s scared.
6. CA-03. Last month: 5. Incumbent: Dan Lungren. Challenger: Bill Durston. PVI #: R+7. % Dem turnout: 51.8. As I’ve said earlier, this is the most Democratic seat currently held by a Republican. It had the highest Democratic turnout in February of any Republican-held seat, and it has the narrowest registration advantage, too. Bill Durston is a physician and a Vietnam combat veteran. He needs the resources, but a Democrat can win this district, and maybe some of the national money put into the neighboring district of CA-04 will wear off on people over here. Plus, Debra Bowen’s relentless registration efforts have their best effect in the districts in and around Sacramento, and these days that means more registered Democrats. This one will be close.
Also, Dr. Durston wrote a song about war.
7. CA-52. Last month: 6. Open seat. Repub. challengers: several, including Duncan D. Hunter. Dem. challengers: Mike Lumpkin, Vicki Butcher. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. Duncan Hunter is still favored, but Navy SEAL Commander Mike Lumpkin has been good at raising money, and this interview with him shows that he has a decent command of the issues. Green Beret Jim Hester dropped out to endorse Lumpkin. Much like in CA-50, Vicki Butcher has been endorsed by PDA, and will offer a nice progressive counter-weight in the primary. A contested primary can only help a novice candidate like this. Here’s a not-so-decent story on the race.
8. CA-42. Last month: 10. Incumbent: Gary Miller. Challengers: Ron Shepston (Responsible Plan Endorser), Ed Chau. PVI #: R+10. % Dem. turnout: 44.0. Disclosure: I do some netroots work for Ron Shepston. You pretty much can’t find Gary Miller anymore, he’s gone so far underground, but Ron Shepston has become more visible of late. He endorsed the Responsible Plan, and he attacked Gary Miller for a $1.28 million dollar earmark that he placed in the 2005 highway bill, clearly to benefit his biggest campaign contributor. Ed Chau is also a bit of a mystery, although the LA County Labor Fed endorsed him. I can’t imagine they’d put money into the primary, however.
9. CA-24. Last month: NR. Incumbent: Elton Gallegly. Challengers: Jill Martinez, Mary Pallant, Marta Jorgensen. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.6. I decided to add this seat after seeing the Democratic turnout numbers from February. If the right candidate can raise enough money to be visible, this is a dark horse seat. Elton Gallegly is your basic rubber stamp Republican, and he flirted with retirement in 2006. Jill Martinez was the opponent that year, and Mary Pallant, my fellow 41st AD delegate, appears to be putting together a decent organization locally. PDA has endorsed Pallant, and she penned an op-ed in the Ventura County Star responding to Elton Gallegly’s no new taxes screed in the same paper.
The congressman plays a numbers game with the people’s money, while distorting history and facts. He feigns compassion for the nation’s middle class and poor while protecting tax loopholes for megamillionaires and the well-connected few.
Gallegly’s tax policy is inconsistent and unsound because it is too simplistic and relies upon the discredited notion of supply-side economics. The only thing that trickles down is massive debt to those least able to pay.
I love a strong an unabashed progressive in this district. Let’s see what happens. Marta Jorgensen is also running in this district.
10. CA-44. Last month: 9. Incumbent: Ken Calvert. Challenger: Bill Hedrick. PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 49.3. Bill Hedrick is the only challenger for this seat headed into the primary, as Louis Vandenberg and Rogelio Morales have dropped out. Ken Calvert’s corruption questions continue to grow, as he has sponsored legislation that would help some business partners back home. The fact that Democratic and Republican turnout was virtually tied in February shows that there’s an opportunity here.
11. CA-41. Last month: 8. Incumbent: Jerry Lewis. Challengers: Tim Prince, Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 46.3. Jerry Lewis just got a lifeline from the new US Attorney for Los Angeles. Thomas O’Brien disbanded the public corruption unit that would be investigating Lewis’ corrupt actions on behalf of lobbyists. Dianne Feinstein is seeking answers on this, but the short answer is that Lewis is probably out of the woods on the indictment front.
12. CA-25. Last month: NR. Incumbent: Buck McKeon. Challenger: Jacquese Conaway. PVI #: R+7. % Dem. turnout: 50.9%. I threw this in because this is yet another seat where Democratic turnout outpaced Republican turnout in February. I know nothing about Jacquese Conaway other than her candidate website.
13. CA-48. Last month: NR. Incumbent: John Campbell. Challenger: Steve Young. PVI #: R+8. % Dem. turnout: 45.1. I really like Steve Young and the tireless work he’s done to build the party in one of the reddest areas in the entire country. Visit his site, won’t you?