Late last week, I interviewed Chuck Devore, a California Assemblyman representing Orange County. Mr. Devore intends to challenge Barbara Boxer in 2010 for the United States Senate. He is an interesting candidate and a compelling choice for Republicans to embrace early.
Devore represents the Republican bastion of Orange County that, demographically, is slowly turning from red to blue. Despite the demographic change, Devore has been able to hold on the area in a way others have not. In 2004, Devore won a greater percentage of votes in his district than George Bush did, despite Devore having a Libertarian candidate on the ballot opposing him. In 2008, again Devore won a greater percentage of the vote than John McCain. “The GOP vote was depressed this year,” he tells me. The party ran with “a muddled vision of Democrat lite” and voters chose the real thing over the pretender, Devore explained.
Devore is one of those candidates who likes to make clear there are real differences between the Republicans and Democrats. “A majority of Californians now agree nuclear power is needed,” he tells me, pointing out Barbara Boxer disagrees. “A plurality also favor offshore drilling,” he tells me, again pointing out Barbara Boxer disagrees. Boxer, he emphasizes, “is an unreconstructed extremist liberal.” That’s red meat rhetoric that will play well to the Republican base.
Devore is committed to picking off Boxer. In 2010, an political earthquake is coming to California. He is taking advantage of it. This year, voters in California sided with the Governator and approved a proposal to have a non-partisan redistricting commission draw the redistricting lines. The commission will begin after the 2010 census. The proposal does not apply to congressional districts, but will shake up the California General Assembly.
“Right now, less than 10% of seats are competitive,” Devore fills me in. “60% will still be non-competitive after the new redistricting.” But the competitive 40% is still enough to shake things up. The Democrats in California have a simmering civil war competitive redistricting just might shake back into political fratricide. Urban white power brokers are more and more often clashing with the growing numbers of Latino and black voters in the state — voters who have helped lock in Democratic dominance.
Right as things are shaking up, Devore will be seizing the initiative against Boxer. She opposed Proposition 8 in hostile terms. Black and Latino voters, who have never been willing to embrace her too strongly, were on the other side — on Devore’s side. They are on his side on energy too. In fact, on many social issues and day to day life issues, Devore and the conservatives in California are much more in line with Latino voters and black voters than Barbara Boxer and the urban white elites whose policies have made it even more difficult for poorer families to survive.
It is not going to be easy, but Devore is an attractive candidate. He is a veteran, he is very articulate, and he relates well to regular people. As the Republican party seeks to rebuild its farm team across the country and conservatives look for new faces and new champions, all eyes should be on Chuck Devore and California.