Tag Archives: CA-39

California Jungle Primary Intrigue

The California state flag

The California state flag

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2018 — In 2010, Golden State voters adopted a ballot proposition that changed the state’s primary system. As we have often noted in articles about the state’s political campaigns, the primary is now a qualifying election with the top two vote-getting candidates advancing to the general election regardless of percentage or political party affiliation. Looking toward the California preliminary vote tomorrow, the top-two jungle primary system may produce some unintended consequences.

When the initiative was first floated eight years ago, many pro-enterprise organizations joined in support because they correctly saw that business coalition candidates, and Republicans in particular, were headed for further downturns in California elections. The top-two format, many believed, would produce more centrist victors from both political parties. In practice, when analyzing the three election cycles since the process began and going into a fourth on Tuesday, such has not quite been the case.

As we know, Democrats have heavily targeted California in their 2018 bid to regain the US House majority, believing that their chances of winning the seven Republican districts Hillary Clinton carried in the last presidential election are strong. But Tuesday’s vote is providing them a new obstacle to overcome, a complication that could actually shut them out of even having a general election candidate in some of their top targeted districts.

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Top Two Playing Havoc in California

California Congressional Districts

California Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2018 — When sponsors of the 2010 California ballot initiative that would change the state’s primary system from a closed one to a structure that sends the top two finishers to the general election regardless of political party affiliation, they believed such an alteration would result in more centrist candidates being elected. Thus, the theory was, a new voting procedure would put the extreme candidates from both parties at a disadvantage.

While it’s debatable that centrists have benefited since the “top-two” system went into effect beginning with the 2012 election, the “jungle primary” is clearly having an effect in the many crucial California congressional campaigns this year. While Golden State Democrats are optimistic they can convert competitive seats in Orange County, recent polling in at least one of these seats reveals no clear advantage even as they mount strong efforts in what have traditionally been Republican districts.

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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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Looking at the Opens

2018-us-house-open-seatsBy Jim Ellis

Jan. 19, 2018 — Considering the large number of House retirements that came swiftly late last year and just as 2018 began, it is a good time to review the 49 seats that will have no incumbent running in the next election.

Three of the current vacancies are in special elections that do not run concurrently with the regular election calendar, and will operate under the following schedules:

• AZ-8: (Rep. Trent Franks-R) – Primary: February 27 | General: April 24
• PA-18: (Rep. Tim Murphy-R) – One election: March 13
• OH-12: (Rep. Pat Tiberi-R) – Primary: May 8 (concurrent with state primary) | General: August 7

Republicans are expected to hold all three seats.

While the GOP is risking 34 of the 49 open seats, most should easily remain in the Republican column. Eighteen of the 34 are considered safely Republican, while another six reside in the “Likely Republican” category. An additional five are in the “lean Republican” category The remaining five are clear political battlegrounds and are “Toss Ups,” several of which are ripe for Democratic conversion.

But seeing that only five of 34 open Republican seats rest in the highly competitive category, it will not be enough for Democrats to create the wave election that they are already expecting. Therefore, they will have to build serious and expensive campaigns in the five “Lean R” seats, and further expand their resources into the Likely Republican category in order to score long-shot upsets.

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Key House Matchups

Now that the Ohio redistricting plan has passed the legislature and is headed to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature, it is a good time to review the 20 House campaigns around the U.S. that will likely feature two incumbents battling for one new congressional district. Here they are:

CA-16: Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D) and Jim Costa (D) – The new Fresno-area seat actually featured three incumbents, but Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA-19) decided to seek re-election in the new 10th district. Rumors abound that Rep. Cardoza may retire, thus leaving the seat to Costa. Republicans could be competitive here.

CA-25: Reps. Elton Gallegly (R) and Buck McKeon (R) – Rep. Gallegly could easily run in the marginal 26th district, but is apparently leaning toward the intra-party challenge. The new 25th is largely McKeon’s current territory. Mr. Gallegly is also a retirement possibility. Expect Mr. McKeon to return in the next Congress.

CA-30: Reps. Brad Sherman (D) and Howard Berman (D) – This might be the most exciting, and certainly the most expensive, pairing in the country. California’s new election law that allows two members of one party to qualify for the general election means that this could be a year-long campaign. Most of the new 30th’s territory already belongs to Rep. Sherman, but Mr. Berman is much better politically connected and is the superior campaigner.

CA-32: Reps. David Dreier (R) and Grace Napolitano (D) – This pairing won’t likely happen. The new 32nd is heavily Democratic and Mr. Dreier will likely seek re-election elsewhere.

CA-39: Reps. Ed Royce (R) and Gary Miller (R) – A Republican on Republican battle that likely will occur. More of the new 39th comes from Rep. Miller’s current 42nd, but Mr. Royce is the better campaigner and fundraiser.

CA-44: Reps. Janice Hahn (D) and Laura Richardson (D) – Ms. Richardson could seek re-election here, in this heavily minority district, or run in the new marginal 47th district where her home was placed. Either way, she’s in for a battle. Rep. Hahn will have a difficult time defeating an African-American or Hispanic state legislator in the general election, too. It is possible that neither member returns to the next Congress.

IL-14: Reps. Joe Walsh (R) and Randy Hultgren (R) – The Democratic redistricting plan pairs these two freshmen in a district that should elect a Republican in the fall. A child support issue for Walsh could damage him in a battle with fellow freshman Hultgren before the GOP electorate.

IL-16: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R) and Don Manzullo (R) – Originally, when Rep. Kinzinger’s 11th district was torn to shreds in the new redistricting bill, he said he would challenge veteran GOP Rep. Manzullo. A day later he backed away from his statement. For a while, it looked as if Rep. Manzullo might retire. Now, still maintaining that he won’t run against Manzullo, Mr. Kinzinger says he will seek re-election in the district housing Grundy County – meaning, this new 16th CD. For his part, Manzullo is actively circulating petitions to qualify for the 2012 ballot. Thus, it looks like the two will square off, after all. The plurality of the territory comes from Mr. Manzullo’s current 16th CD. The winner holds the seat in the general election.

IA-3: Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) – This inter-party pairing will be very interesting in what is a 50/50 partisan district. Mr. Boswell represents more of the current district, but the new seat trends more Republican. A tight race is forecast.

LA-3: Reps. Jeff Landry (R) and Charles Boustany (R) – Louisiana lost a seat in reapportionment, so it became obvious that two Republicans would be thrown together into one district. Freshman Jeff Landry and veteran Charles Boustany will face each other in a seat that is predominantly Boustany’s and includes his Lafayette political base. Landry is a decided underdog in this contest.

Massachusetts – Though the redistricting plan is not yet completed, the state loses a seat and no current member appears voluntarily willing to retire. Therefore, two Democrats will face each other for one seat. The most likely pairing is Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-9) against freshman Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA-10).

MI-14: Reps. Gary Peters (D) and Hansen Clarke (D) – Rep. Peters surprised everyone last week by announcing that he will challenge freshman Rep. Clarke in the new Detroit 14th district rather than face a pairing with Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-12) in the new 9th district, despite the latter having much more familiar territory. Peters currently represents none of the new 14th district, which is majority African-American. Since another black elected official, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, is already in the race, Peters is hoping a unified white vote may prevail over the majority African-American constituency that could split between the other two candidates. A risky strategy for Peters that is only a long shot to pay-off.

New Jersey – As in Massachusetts, the redistricting process here is not complete, but the state loses one seat in reapportionment. Expect a pairing to occur in the northern or central portion of the Garden State.

New York – The Empire State loses two seats, so a minimum of four incumbents will be paired in two seats. The election of Republican Bob Turner to a Democratic Brooklyn/Queens seat throws the redistricting process into a mess. Virtually anything can happen here. Democrats control the governor’s office and the state assembly. Republicans hold a small state Senate majority. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), interestingly, says he will only sign a map that is approved by a bi-partisan commission. The legislature will not create such an entity, so this map could be headed to court to break an eventual stalemate. New York will be one of the last states to complete the process.

NC-4: Reps. David Price (D) and Brad Miller (D) – The Republican redistricting plan threw together the two veteran Democrats in a seat that now travels from Raleigh all the way to Fayetteville. Rep. Miller originally said he would not oppose Mr. Price, but he has since changed his mind. This will be a tough campaign. The winner will hold the seat for the Democrats.

OH-9: Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D) and Dennis Kucinich (D) – The GOP redistricting plan pairs Reps. Kaptur and Kucinich in a new seat that begins in Cleveland and travels to Toledo along the Lake Erie coastline. Fifty-seven percent of the people live in Kucinich’s current district, but Kaptur’s Toledo base remains in tact. Kucinich’s past primary performances suggests that Kaptur will be the favorite. The winner holds the seat for the Ds.

OH-10: Reps. Mike Turner (R) and Steve Austria (R) – Ohio losing two seats means that two Republicans also get paired despite the GOP being in full control of the map-drawing process. Mr. Turner’s Dayton/Montgomery County political base is in tact, but the city vote is minuscule in a Republican primary. This race will have to develop further before an accurate prediction can be made.

OH-16: Reps. Betty Sutton (D) and Jim Renacci (R) – Like Messrs. Dreier in California and Kinzinger in Illinois, Ms. Sutton’s current 13th district has been broken into many parts. The congresswoman is most likely to seek re-election in the new 16th district where she will be the underdog to freshman Rep. Jim Renacci, but the just-created configuration is slightly more Democratic than the current 16th. Former Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH-16), the man Renacci unseated in 2010, is also a possible candidate.

Pennsylvania – The Keystone State representatives have not completed redistricting either, but a reduction of the congressional delegation’s size by one seat will occur. Watch for two of the group of three western state Democrats: Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4), Mark Critz (D-PA-12), and Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) to be paired into one seat. Since Rep. Doyle represents the city of Pittsburgh, he will be in the best position to control a new district because the city will certainly anchor a seat in any plan.