Tag Archives: Barbara Boxer

California’s Changing Congressional Makeup

In what became an expected announcement, particularly considering the developments during the past few days, 17-term Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) confirmed that he will retire at the end of the current Congress. Mr. Lewis, a former Appropriations Committee chairman and the dean of the California Republican delegation, was first elected to the House in 1978 after serving 10 years in the state Assembly.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission placed Lewis’ home in the new 31st District, a politically marginal seat anchored in the cities of San Bernardino, Rialto, and the congressman’s home of Redlands. But most of his Republican territory wound up in the new 8th District, a seat that begins in San Bernardino County, but which travels up the California-Nevada border all the way to Yosemite. When the map was passed, Mr. Lewis said he would not move his family to claim the 8th, but it also didn’t look like he would risk defeat by running in the 31st, which, more often than not, will elect a Democrat.

The other incumbent placed in CA-31 was Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43). Surveying the district after the lines were made public, Mr. Baca believed his political fortunes were better served by running in the new District 35, even though his home city of Rialto is excluded and having to face a popular Democratic state senator, Gloria Negrete McLeod, in an intra-party challenge that could consume a full year under California’s new election law.

Surprisingly, on the heels of the Lewis retirement statement, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42), currently paired with fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) in new District 39, said he will now run in the vacated 31st. Miller currently represents a small portion of San Bernardino County that is housed in the 31st, and he obviously believes his chances of surviving in a marginal Democratic seat are superior to fighting a Republican-on-Republican war with Mr. Royce. Thus, the big winner in this scenario is Rep. Royce, as he is now the only incumbent in the safely Republican CA-39. He still will have significant primary opposition, however, as Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is an announced Republican candidate who could prove to be a formidable candidate.

The Miller move sends another signal, too. Because Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26), whose current district was split six ways, also represents part of the new 31st it was thought that this could be a landing place for him should Mr. Lewis either run in the 8th or retire. With no further inkling from Mr. Dreier that he is looking at the 31st, the speculation that he too will retire certainly gains credence.

Should Dreier follow suit and leave the House, California Republicans will lose their top four senior members: Lewis, Dreier, Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA-2), and Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24). Their combined length of service is 118 years.

Now that the 31st is officially an open seat, expect action to occur soon. The top Democrat in the race so far is Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. Aside from Rep. Miller, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton and San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos are both potential Republican contenders. Taking into consideration California’s new law that sends the top two finishers from the qualifying election onto the general regardless of political party affiliation, virtually anything can happen in this race.

Though CA-31 leans Democratic, it doesn’t do so by much. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), for example, won here by just two points, 46-44 percent. The Republican attorney general candidate, though losing a close race statewide, carried the new 31st 46-39 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown scored a 49-41 percent win over GOP businesswoman Meg Whitman.

Expect this race to fluctuate between “toss-up” and “lean Democrat” all the way to the November election.

Is Calif. Sen. Feinstein Vulnerable?

According to a new poll released late last week by the California-based Field survey research organization, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is suffering from the lowest approval ratings of her nearly two-decade tenure in the U.S. Senate. The survey comes as troubling news for the former San Francisco mayor, just 14 months before she must again face the voters in the nation’s most populous state.

The Field Poll of 1,001 registered California voters (Sept. 1-12; 3.2% error factor) shows 44 percent of voters surveyed would not send Feinstein back to Washington for a full fourth term if the election were held today. Forty-one percent indicated that they would support the senator’s reelection bid. This is the first time in Feinstein’s senatorial career, which began in 1993, that her re-elect rating has been “upside down.”

For the past two decades, Ms. Feinstein’s job approval ratings, according to Field’s research, have been consistently positive by comfortable and sometimes impressive margins. Currently, however, they have shrunk to worrisome levels. Forty-one percent of the respondents said that they approve of the job she is doing in the Senate while 39 percent disapprove. The +2 margin is the slimmest of Feinstein’s career. Her approval/disapproval numbers are 60-21 percent among Democrats, but just 40-32 percent among unaffiliated and independent voters.

Feinstein’s California Senate colleague, Barbara Boxer, who won reelection by 10 percentage points in 2010, is also experiencing an approval ratings decline. Boxer’s latest job approval score is upside down at 39-42 percent.

California voters give Congress as a whole its lowest rating since 1992 with just a 9 percent approval and an overwhelming 86 percent disapproval score.

However, the fact that California is one of the nation’s most reliable Democratic states obviously cuts in Sen. Feinstein’s favor, as it did for Boxer in 2010 when she faced the most serious challenge of her career against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R).

Potential opposition is also an obvious vulnerability factor and this is where California Republicans normally suffer. Finding a candidate with a high enough name identification to become a viable statewide candidate is a difficult task. With a population of 37.2 million people, 23.6 million of whom are registered to vote, a Republican challenger either must begin with virtually universal name identification, such as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, or have so much money that they can spend their way into familiarity.

In a race against Feinstein, one such GOP candidate could possibly be emerging. Michael Reagan, the adopted son of President Ronald Reagan and a former national talk show host, is reportedly considering launching his candidacy. The latest Field numbers will undoubtedly capture his interest, but he is reportedly a long way from committing to a statewide race. The Senator, for her part, hasn’t yet announced that she will even run for re-election. Now 78 years old, Ms. Feinstein decided against running in the open governor’s race last year, a job she always coveted, even when it looked to be hers for the taking.

Though a Feinstein-Reagan race would clearly be competitive, and give the Republicans at least a chance at scoring a huge upset, neither candidate is firmly in the race. In the end, Feinstein will clearly be favored, but these new Golden State developments are at least worthy of serious attention.

California Congresswoman Woolsey Retires

Today, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) formally announced that she will not seek an 11th term in Congress next year. Woolsey, a former Petaluma, Calif. city councilwoman before coming to Washington, first entered the House in 1992 replacing then-Rep. Barbara Boxer (D) who won election to the Senate that same year.

Ms. Woolsey becomes the 14th House member who is choosing to step aside in 2012, but only the second to retire. The other dozen are running for higher office. Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2) is the only other member who, so far, is voluntarily opting to leave politics.

Congresswoman Woolsey is one of the most liberal members of the House. She is the chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House and has consistently aligned herself on the far left spectrum of the Democratic Party. She came to fame for being the first former welfare recipient to win election to Congress. Since then, another member, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), also claims the same distinction.

The new California redistricting map radically alters Woolsey’s 6th district. Previously anchored in the Bay Area’s Marin County, CA-6 covered only the aforementioned locality and part of Sonoma. Under the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s 2011 congressional redistricting plan, the Woolsey district will now stretch all the way from Marin to the Oregon border, taking in a large portion of Rep. Mike Thompson’s (D-CA-1) current territory. The new North Coast district is heavily Democratic but has a considerably different constituency for Woolsey. The congresswoman would likely have held the seat, but she could have been vulnerable in a Democratic primary to a state or local official more familiar with the new district. It does not appear, however, that the re-map is the driving reason why the 73-year-old veteran representative will be walking away from her position.

Considering the major redistricting shake-up that is proving challenging for more than a third of California incumbents from both parties, Woolsey’s retirement is likely the first of several more. Seeing his district split six different ways, House Rules Committee chairman David Dreier (R-CA-26) is a retirement possibility. So are Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA-13), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34). While none of the aforementioned has specifically said they will leave Congress, their new districts will either be substantially different from their current seats, or politically unfavorable to them in a primary or general election. After years of representing safe districts, being thrown into a seriously competitive situation late in their careers may send some or all of these members packing.

Since the Woolsey retirement had been rumored for some time, two Democrats had already begun assembling a congressional campaign, and others will likely follow. State Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) said he would not run against the congresswoman, but was beginning to raise money for a federal race in case she decided not to seek re-election. Through March 31, Huffman had raised $123,000 for his potential federal campaign.

In addition to Assemblyman Huffman, author and leftwing activist Norman Solomon had also announced his candidacy, once again presuming the Woolsey retirement. He did not file a financial disclosure report in the first quarter.

Now that Ms. Woolsey has made her plans official, expect other state legislators, Marin and Sonoma County local officials, and individuals from the newly added smaller north coastal counties, to seriously consider making congressional bids. Regardless of who eventually wins the Democratic primary in the newly configured district, that person will succeed Ms. Woolsey as the region’s Representative. Should the proposed lines actually become the final district boundaries, rate the North Coast seat as “Safe Democratic.”
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It’s Not Over in California’s 36th

The 36th special congressional primary appeared to have placed Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Chris Huey (R) in the July 12th general election, but we now discover that all the votes have yet to be counted. In fact, approximately 10,000 absentee ballots remain to be tabulated. The outstanding votes are certainly enough to propel third place finisher, Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D), past Huey and into the final run-off position. California recently changed its election law to allow the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, to qualify for the general election.

Several post-election analyses were suggesting that Huey making the run-off, if it stands, is a major upset but the actual statistics don’t support such a conclusion. In aggregate, the Democrats received 56.7 percent of the vote versus the total Republican 40.9 percent tally. Last November, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) carried the 36th with a 56-41 percent margin over GOP nominee Meg Whitman, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) matched the previous Democratic total (56%) in her race against businesswoman Carly Fiorina. Therefore, last night’s results actually reflect a normal partisan division for this Los Angeles Harbor area district.

Regardless of the final outcome, the Democrats are in the driver’s seat to win in July, most likely in the person of Ms. Hahn.
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