By Jim Ellis
May 27, 2016 — Now the Republicans are doing it.
Before the May 10 Nebraska primary, we detailed how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was running television ads under their own acronym, advising Omaha Republican voters about who was the most conservative candidate. As we chronicled, the Democrats’ ploy to promote former state senator and Douglas County Commissioner Chip Maxwell because they believed him to be the weaker contender, had little effect since retired Gen. Don Bacon (R) won a landslide Republican nomination victory.
Now, Republicans are replicating the tactic in California. Feeling they have a chance to advance a pair of Republicans in the open June 7 CA-24 jungle congressional primary, the National Republican Congressional Committee, under the disclaimer “NRCC”, is now attempting to “educate” the Democratic electorate about who is the more liberal candidate.
The new ad targets Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who the NRCC and most political analysts believe is the strongest Democratic candidate. The 24th District is open this year because veteran Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) is retiring.
The Republican goal is a bit different in this particular race. Because Democratic primary turnout has been extremely low since California adopted the top-two qualifying format, the GOP believes it is possible for them to secure both general election spots, presumably for state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R) and businessman and former UCLA football player Justin Fareed (R). The second major Democratic contender is Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider (D).
It is hard to conceive of a scenario where Carbajal, the objective favorite who will spend over $2 million on his campaign effort, drops all the way to third place and fails to advance. In comparison, Fareed had raised over $1 million at the end of March; while Achadjian and Schneider appear to be on a financial pace where each spends about $750,000 total on their respective campaigns.
While it is certainly possible for the GOP to help qualify Achadjian or Fareed and find one of the two competing against Carbajal in the general election, the sheer partisan numbers don’t yield a situation where two Republicans advance.
Of the 349,175 District 24 registered voters, according to the official 60-Day pre-primary Secretary of State Voter Registration Statistics report, 37.8 percent are Democratic Party registrants, 33.6 percent identify Republican, 22.9 percent do not declare a party preference, and the remaining 5.7 percent affiliate with minor parties. Therefore, to believe that such a voter universe, even if Republicans turn out in greater numbers for the qualifying election, could send two GOP candidates from the crowded field to the general election appears both unlikely and unrealistic.
The latest western primaries also tell a different turnout tale. Now that the GOP presidential race is settled, Republican participation is falling from their previous record-setting pace. In both Oregon (May 17) and Washington (May 24), Democratic turnout surpassed that of Republicans. Therefore, since the Dem presidential campaign is still technically alive, it is more reasonable to believe that their party turnout factor will be the higher, thus preventing a double-Republican advancement in CA-24.
Just as the Democrats failed to convince Nebraska Republicans about their own primary, so too will Republicans fail to dissuade their opposite number in Santa Barbara. The 24th District qualifying election will be one of several interesting Golden State contests that will progress toward a conclusion on June 7.