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43 Days To Election Day: California

In terms of Presidential politics, the only thing California is good for as regards the Republican Party is fundraising. Simply, there is no way Romney is winning this state in 2012.

The Senate race will feature well-funded Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein against Republican new-comer Elizabeth Emken. Feinstein has raised over $7 million compared to Emken’s $189,000 and she started with a $3 million head start. It will truly be a quixotic campaign. For Emken, an autism crusader, her website describes her philosophy and agenda and, quite frankly, it sounds fantastic and one that any conservative would be satisfied with if they read it.

In 2010, Barbara Boxer was a more vulnerable Democratic incumbent Senator from California running in a Republican wave election year against a better known and better funded Republican challenger. Boxer still won. It is real difficult to see how Emken can pull an upset in this race this year, especially with Obama at the top of the ticket. Still, a decent run should put Emken on the Republican radar screen for a future run at office.

In the House, the current delegation favors the Democrats 34-19. There is general agreement among most pundits as to which races are the ones to watch this year. Including the open seats, of the 53 districts, twelve are of particular interest. In the Third, Republican Kim Vann has proven a good fundraiser against John Garamendi, but the Democratic incumbent should prevail. In the 7th, Republican incumbent Dan Lungren was an early target by the Democrats and this race will feature a “rematch” against Ami Bera. In the open primary, Lungren won by 13 percentage points over Bera. Although Bera has out-raised Lungren, Republican PACs have been investing heavily in this race and Bera may jusy prevail this time out.

In the Tenth, incumbent Republican Jeff Denham faces tough competition in former astronaut Jose Hernandez. The Democrats are also investing heavily in this race to flip this district. Unlike Lungren in the 7th, Denham is perceived as more moderate and appealing to the electorate. And speaking of targets, the GOP has targeted Jerry McNerney very early on in the Ninth District as a firewall against expected losses elsewhere in the state. Ricky Gill, barely old enough to run for the office at age 25, has proven a prolific fundraiser and may just be the face that pulls this one out.

In the open 21st District, John Hernandez will be the Democratic candidate while state assemblyman David Valadeo will run for the GOP. This should represent a rare Republican pick up in California. Lois Capps is running for reelection in the 24th and is considered one of the most leftist legislators in the California delegation. Comprising large parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, she will face former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado. He is considered a “pragmatic centrist” and classic “horse trader” by those who watch California politics closely. It is doubtful that Capps will lose, but Maldonado makes this race more interesting than it should be and if he pulls off an upset, it would seriously upset the Democratic Party apple cart.

David Dreier vacates the 26th leaving an open district. Liberal state assemblywoman Julia Bownley will face off against former state assemblyman Tony Strickland, a centrist Republican. Although currently neck-and-neck, Strickland should keep this district in Republican hands, Mary Bono Mack seems to have a huge target on her back every time out and it is no different this year. She faces some competition in physician Raul Ruiz, but Bono Mack should prevail again. Democrats see another opportunity in the open 41st where Republican Jerry Lewis is retiring. Mark Takano (Democrat) will face off against John Tavaglione for the GOP. At this point, the race leans slightly towards the Democrats, although Tavaglione may prevail. If so, it will not be by much.

Democrats will likely keep the 47th District in the form of Alan Lowenthal although Republican Gary DeLong has proven a very formidable fundraiser thus far and this race may be a lot closer than most people think. Bob Filner in the 51st is retiring to run for Mayor of San Diego and will face relative unknown Mike Crimmins who surprisingly came in second and edged out the current Democratic mayor of San Diego, Filner’s heir apparent. Instead, Democrat Juan Vargas will most likely keep this district in Democratic hands. Finally, Scott Peters will face Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray in the 52nd District. Peters, who is largely self-funded, has placed this seat in jeopardy for the GOP.

An initial analysis of redistricting in California, although allegedly done bipartisan, appeared to be a huge coup for the Democratic Party. Republicans have done a decent job of rearranging the chairs so as to avoid Republican versus Republican competitions. Meanwhile, the Democrats have also had to rearrange the chairs and we know that of two incumbents- Brad Sherman or Howard Berman- one will not be returning to the House this year as they face off against each other in the general election in their Los Angeles area district. Still, overall, it would appear to be a net loss of two Republican seats in the California delegation. That could be considered a small victory considering what it could have been. Given the fact that the GOP is expected to pick up some seats elsewhere in the country, the news is not all bad out of California.

And in another installment of “Democracy Run Amok,” California voters, besides voting for President, Senator and their representatives, will also confront eleven ballot questions. In order to do them justice because some are very complicated, they will be covered in a separate entry.

In conclusion: Obama takes California’s 55 electoral votes while Dianne Feinstein will be reelected to the Senate. Republicans should lose no more than a net two seats in the House California delegation.

Running totals thus far: Obama leads 78-16 in the electoral vote count. Democrats currently control the Senate 9 seats to 7 for the Republicans. In the House, Democrats currently lead 49-29 in seats.

Next: South Dakota

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