Greetings and welcome to the latest installment of the California House races roundup. We’re just around 100 days to go until the election, and things are starting to take focus. There are about a half-dozen seats where Democratic challengers have an outside shot at dumping the incumbent, and another six on the watch list in case something spectacular occurs. One thing to note is that the Cook numbers are tied to the 2004 election, and given the demographic changes and cratering of the Republican brand I think they mean significantly less now – it’ll be interesting to see how all these districts change in November.
We have plenty of new information to judge these races, including 2nd quarter fundraising reports, national ratings from Charlie Cook and Swing State Project, additional DCCC targets, and the appearance of many challengers at Netroots Nation. So this list is really about who I think has the best chance to retain or take over a seat, not necessarily who should (though that may come through in the writing). Here are some helpful bits of information that I used to help judge.
FEC disclosures (you can search by candidate name)
Voter registration by Congressional district.
Swing State Project fundraising roundup
On to the report…
1. CA-11. Incumbent: Jerry McNerney. Challenger: Dean Andal. Cook number: R+3. % Dem turnout in the Presidential primary: 53.7%. DCCC defended. This remains the only opportunity for Republicans in the state, and it is starting to slip away. Dean Andal is proving to be incredibly weak at fundraising, having raised under $200,000 for FOUR STRAIGHT QUARTERS. He’s not going to be able to get up on TV, and his opponent has not only outraised him but will get about a million dollars in ad help from the DCCC. Freedom’s Watch threw in a few anti-McNerney robocalls, but that’s really no match for the political muscle of the D-Trip. Plus, there’s a brewing Andal scandal over his participation in passing privileged information and securing developer contracts for a San Joaquin Delta College contractor. As for McNerney, his vote for the FISA bill has caused outcry in the district, and national groups like Blue America won’t be lending a hand. He has changed his position on medical marijuana in response to constituents, a symbolic piece of support with activists. But I think he’s largely on his own in this race.
McNerney: raised $416K in the second quarter, $1.37m cash on hand
Andal: raised $174K Q2, $663K CoH
I’m going to do four tiers in setting apart the top seats where we have challenges to Republican incumbents.
1. CA-04. Last month: 1. Open seat. Dem. challenger: Charlie Brown. Repub. challenger: Tom McClintock. PVI #: R+11. % Dem turnout in Feb. primary: 44.7. DCCC targeted. Tom McClintock actually raised quite a bit of money in the second quarter, but it all got plowed into the divisive primary with Doug Ose. Plus, he was able to go above individual spending caps because of the “Millionaire’s Amendment,” which was recently ruled unconstitutional, putting constitutional literalist McClintock in a bind over what to do with that money. We’ve seen real awkwardness from McClintock over how to handle disgraced incumbent John Doolittle, with shows of support and rejections happening on alternate days. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown is humming along. He has a 6-1 cash on hand advantage, and he’ll also be the recipient of some ad love from the DCCC. His courageous stand against the FISA bill, outreach to parts of the district harmed by wildfires, and the release of a good energy plan which stresses tax credits for alternative energy and government fleets going renewable (and opposing opening up new lands for offshore drilling, in line with the “Use It Or Lose It” plan from Speaker Pelosi). Brown was beloved at Netroots Nation and looks good in polling. This is obviously our biggest-priority pickup.
Brown: raised $355K, $675K CoH
McClintock: raised $1.27m, $117 CoH
2. CA-46. Last month: 4. Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher. Challenger: Debbie Cook (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. I’m still concerned that the numbers aren’t quite there in the district, but I’m upping Cook this high because I have to acknowledge her achievements. First, she’s outraised Rohrabacher two quarters in a row, and from what I’m being told, this has a lot to do with Dana and his wife (also his fundraiser) calling Republican backers and getting the phone slammed in their ears. The Cook Political Report moved the race to Likely Republican, the only such move among competitive California races. And there are indications that the D-Trip is at least taking a look at this race. Most of this is happening because Cook is a compelling candidate. Read her interview with Open Left or watch her interview with Talking Points Memo and you can see why. Her environmental activism, competent fiscal management in Huntington Beach, and the fact that she’s not a ridiculously corrupt nutjob like Dana Rohrabacher makes for a fantastic profile. This is probably too high, but there are some great signs here.
Cook: raised $110K, $97K CoH
Rohrabacher: raised $86K, $388 CoH
3. CA-50. Last month: 5. Incumbent: Brian Bilbray. Challenger: Nick Leibham. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.8. DCCC targeted. Nick Leibham outraised Brian Bilbray in the second quarter, and took in a nice haul of $245K in his own right. He’s been gaining some attack points for criticizing Bilbray on wanting to debate on the radio and not in the district, and calling on other states to drill offshore but not California, an incoherent position. The D-Trip put Leibham on their Red to Blue emerging races list, and dropped radio ads in the district tying him to Bush (MP3 here). Leibham needs to articulate an agenda rather than just slam Bilbray forever, and that agenda needs to be a true contrast, but there is some movement here.
Leibham: raised $245K, $267K CoH
Bilbrary: raised $210K, $528K CoH
4. CA-26. Last month: 2. Incumbent: David Dreier. Challenger: Russ Warner. PVI #: R+4. % Dem. turnout: 50.2. DCCC targeted. Warner was very focused on fundraising in June and yet came up short of beating David Dreier in the second quarter. The problem is that Dreier has nearly two million dollars in the bank, so there’s a nearly 40-1 cash disadvantage, including campaign debts. And despite the positive signs in the district, that’s tough to overcome. Warner is going to need outside help, and the Bush Rubber Stamp project is a step in the right direction, but I don’t know if they’ll have the kind of money needed to meet the challenge. There’s not much here to get me excited at this point.
Warner: raised $161K, $125K CoH
Dreier: raised $247K, $1.9m CoH
5. CA-45. Last month: 3. Incumbent: Mary Bono Mack. Challenger: Julie Bornstein. PVI #: R+3. % Dem. turnout: 51.3. The district is ready for a Democrat, and the symbiosis between Manuel Perez’ hotly contested Assembly campaign and Bornstein’s is going to help her in ways that aren’t being respected by the experts. I still think this race is being undervalued. However, Bornstein has been fairly invisible, from what I can tell, since the June primary. And Bornstein got significantly outraised in Q2 as Mary Bono recognized the challenge she is facing can only be overcome with money. In cash on hand she’s not far out of sight, however, and if Bornstein proves to be a solid and aggressive campaigner and benefits from increased Latino turnout in the Eastern Coachella Valley, there’s still a shot here.
Bornstein: raised $125K, $121K CoH
Bono: raised $336K, $421K CoH
6. CA-03. Last month: 6. Incumbent: Dan Lungren. Challenger: Bill Durston. PVI #: R+7. % Dem turnout: 51.8. This remains my sleeper pick in California. The fundraising numbers were close, with Dan Lungren raising $173K to Durston’s $125K. Lungren is trying to pivot to the center, coming out for nuclear warhead reduction with Russia, and the “X Prize” for battery technology promoted by John McCain. But he’s firmly in the drill now, do nothing camp (despite voting against the “Use It Or Lose It” plan), and he’s lying about Democratic plans for tax increases. Then there’s this bit of hilarity:
At a town hall meeting a few months ago Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) was adamant about denying citizenship to babies born in the United States to non-citizens. He lumped the infants into the same category as immigrants who cross the border illegally. He went so far as to sponsor a bill to deny citizenship to babies born to non-citizens.
In a classic flip-flop, Congo Dan “is backing the bill giving the Department of Homeland Security 30 days to process visas for entertainers,” says the Los Angeles Times.
Durston has publicly challenged Lungren to debates, and has a nifty comparison chart on his website that shows he’s truly running a campaign of contrast. Keep an eye on this one.
Durston raised $125K, $189K CoH
Lungren raised $173K, $615K CoH
7. CA-52. Last month: 7. Open seat. Dem. challenger: Mike Lumpkin. Repub. challenger: Duncan D. Hunter. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 47.2. Calitics got to chat with Mike Lumpkin at Netroots Nation, and we were fairly impressed. He talked up all the “Conservative Republicans for Lumpkin” signs he’s seeing in the district. One thing he mentioned worried me, however: well over half of the voters in the primary thought they were voting for Duncan Hunter’s father, the incumbent. That makes this almost not an open seat, and with Hunter’s fundraising advantage, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Lumpkin raised $129K, $54K CoH
Hunter raised $338K, $198K CoH
8. CA-44. Last month: 8. Incumbent: Ken Calvert. Challenger: Bill Hedrick (Responsible Plan endorser). PVI #: R+6. % Dem. turnout: 49.3. Bill Hedrick tried to hit Ken Calvert over earmarks, and certainly there’s still a lot of smoke surrounding Calvert’s dirty dealings. But in a low information district, Hedrick needs a lot of money for name ID, moeny he doesn’t have.
9. CA-42. Last month: 11. Incumbent: Gary Miller. Challenger: Ed Chau. PVI #: R+10. % Dem. turnout: 44.0. Ed Chau has only $12,000 in the bank compared to Gary Miller’s $950,000. That’s game, set and match, but questions have been raised once again about Miller’s potentially criminal actions (like his financial stake in getting an OC tollway built), so indictment is still on the fringes of possibility here.
10. CA-48. Last month: 12. Incumbent: John Campbell. Challenger: Steve Young. PVI #: R+8. % Dem. turnout: 45.1. Young is touting a poll (and I like that he’s touting it on ActBlue) showing that he’s up six points after biographical and issue information is distributed. The problem is he has no money and lots of campaign debt, so how will that information get out there?
11. CA-24. Last month: 9. Incumbent: Elton Gallegly. Challenger: Marta Jorgensen. PVI #: R+5. % Dem. turnout: 50.6. Marta Jorgensen has a fairly nice website, but the money isn’t there to make this all that competitive, and she’ll need an Elton Gallegly slip-up. (Of course, she spent $1,375 on the primary and won, so ya never know…)
12. CA-41. Last month: 10. Incumbent: Jerry Lewis. Challenger: Tim Prince. PVI #: R+9. % Dem. turnout: 46.3. Tim Prince is also challenging Jerry Lewis on earmark requests, but Lewis has been pretty adept at escaping scrutiny in the district.