It’s interesting. If you look at these two ads from American Action Network – one for California, and one for New York – solely from the perspective of a national observer, it’s a headscratcher as to why a conservative-leaning group is targeting six Democratic Members of Congress (Tim Bishop, Lois Capps, John Garamendi, Jerry McNerney, Bill Owens, & Louise Slaughter) in two Blue States; particularly since none of the individuals involved are freshmen. And yet AAN did not merely do the ads; they’re going to be backing them with targeted online advertising. And why are they doing this?
Because California and New York both had… unexpected… results in the redistricting wars. Ones that actually ended up not hurting Republicans as much as expected.
Of the two states, California probably had the more dramatic redistricting results. What happened in this state is that there was a combination of a serious redrawing of Congressional Districts and the installation of a ‘jungle primary’ system*. The result: a lot of reshuffling and moving around. For example: Jerry McNerney had to go from the old CA-11 to the new CA-09. He’s facing a very strong contender there in Ricky Gill, but it’s still a somewhat better partisan breakdown. Meanwhile, John Garamandi (CA-03) and Lois Capps (CA-24) are both dealing with double-digit partisan shifts in the GOP’s favor, plus good opponents in former Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann and former Lt Governor Abel Maldonado, respectively (the two factors are not unrelated). And that’s why, despite looking superficially safe, AAN is targeting these three Congressmen: they are in fact vulnerable from being cut off from their usual constituent support.
Meanwhile, over in New York? Basic legislative skulduggery. Redistricting in NY was a mess: the state lost two CDs, and the knives came out early. The end result there… put seven Democrats and one Republican at risk (including all three AAN-targeted Democrats), and three Democrats (including Owens and Bishop) and one Republican at serious risk. Essentially, Tim Bishop (NY-01: opponent Randy Altschuler), Bill Owens (NY-21: opponent Matt Doheny), and Louise Slaughter (NY-25: opponent Maggie Brooks) are all now in districts where historically speaking the other side has recently won elections: in Bishop’s & Owens’ cases, they’re in districts that George W Bush won in 2004 and Rick Lazio won in 2000 (Slaughter’s new district went for Kerry in 2004). Again: superficially safe, actually vulnerable.
And all thanks to redistricting. Really: the Democrats picked the worst possible moment to suddenly go wobbly in the state legislatures. And, yes, I know that California wasn’t directly affected by that happening; but the lack of Democratic dominance elsewhere is making the redistricting results there kind of a big deal anyway…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Jungle primaries are one where the top two vote recipients in a primary election, regardless of political affiliation, continue on to the general election; it’s supposedly a reform, although I’m not exactly certain what it’s supposed to be a reform of. California’s new system has already crashed and burned, in fact: over in CA-31 the general election choice is between two Republicans, despite the fact that it’s a heavily Democratic district (too many Democratic candidates, too evenly matched: the CA GOP had more internal discipline, and thus got the seat for free).