Tag Archives: California

Senate Recap – Part I

By Jim Ellis

US Senate makeup

Current US Senate makeup

Sept. 21, 2018 — From the 35 US Senate in-cycle races it is clear that the major contests are narrowing to 16 competitive political battles. A 17th campaign, the one in California between Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), is also competitive, at least to a degree, but since both candidates are Democrats the outcome will not alter the partisan composition. Therefore, the Golden State does not factor into the battle for the Senate majority.

Today, we look at eight of the races and provide a quick update on the latest developments. Concentrating on the 16, if Republicans win any four they will hold at least a bare majority.


ARIZONA

The race between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) and Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has been flip flopping in the polls. Seven polls have been released in September. Rep. Sinema has led in five by an average of 3.4 percentage points. Rep. McSally took the lead in two surveys, with a mean of two percentage points.

A new independent group entitled Defend Arizona has launched a series of ads attacking Sinema that highlight previous statements advocating leniency for men who engage in child prostitution when the latter individual looks older than her age. How this line of attack will affect the race remains to be seen.


FLORIDA

Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is facing the strongest challenge of his career from Gov. Rick Scott (R). This race has been frequently polled, and no September study gives either man a lead of more than two points. Three polls project a Scott lead of one or two points. One survey gives Sen. Nelson a one-point edge, and a fifth study finds the two candidates deadlocked in a flat tie at 49 percent apiece.

Some believe that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s presence on the statewide ticket as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee will help Sen. Nelson, others believe it will hurt. Those arguing that Gillum helps say that he will increase minority turnout, and that Nelson will tangentially benefit because such voters would likely vote straight Democratic. Those believing Gillum is a negative indicate that he will be portrayed as being too far left, which could be an impetus to spur more conservatives to vote.


INDIANA

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) faces former state representative and international businessman Mike Braun (R). Fox News conducted the only September poll in this race. Among likely voters, Braun had a two-point lead. But the registered voter universe tipped the scale toward Sen. Donnelly by a margin of just one point.

This is one more race that is a pure toss-up as we approach the last month of campaigning.


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Sen. Feinstein Slips Below 40 Percent

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 10, 2018Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) was first elected a California senator back in 1992 when she won a special election to fill Pete Wilson’s unexpired term. Wilson left the Senate when he was elected governor in 1990, ironically, defeating Feinstein to win the post. He then appointed state Sen. John Seymour as his replacement, who then lost the special election challenge to Feinstein. She won a close re-election in 1994, and then won easily in 2000, 2006, and 2012. Despite being 85 years of age, the senator currently is running for a fifth full, six-year term.

However, this 2018 campaign is a much different one for the veteran senator. Pitted against another Democrat in the general election thanks to California’s top two (regardless of political party affiliation) primary nomination system, this contest appears to be the most difficult one she has faced since losing to Wilson in the governor’s campaign, and then barely winning Senate re-election four years later against then-Congressman Michael Huffington (R).

While the senator has led in every poll and finished first in the jungle primary, she has yet to top 50 percent. The new survey released late last week from Probolsky Research (Aug. 29-Sept. 2; 900 registered California voters), actually places her not only below 50 percent, but well under 40 percent. According to the Probolsky, Sen. Feinstein leads state senator and former state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) by only a 37-29 percent margin.

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Collins & Hunter Indictments:
The Political Status

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2018 — The news media has heavily covered the indictment proceedings against New York Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) and California Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) and though the legal process will drag on for some time against both men, their political situations will be resolved much sooner.

Both NY-27 and CA-50 are safe Republican seats, neither of which were major Democratic targets. News stories had been circulating that indictments were possible for both men, and safe republican districts california new yorkparticularly so of Rep. Hunter, but neither seat would have fallen into play without the legal flap. Now, the Republicans are even in danger of being shut out from what are typically safe GOP seats, just when their precarious majority is hanging in the balance.

When his insider trading indictment was announced, Rep. Collins’ first reaction was to continue running for re-election. But he quickly changed his mind and announced his intention to withdraw from the race. The problem is New York election law doesn’t allow party nominees such an easy out.

Since the NY federal primary has passed, there are only three ways a candidate can pull his or her name from the ballot.

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Reviewing the Latest Senate Data

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Senate.svgBy Jim Ellis

Aug. 23, 2018 — With 43 state electorates now having chosen nominees (most recently Alaska and Wyoming on Tuesday), it’s a good time to check just how the top Senate races are performing as the calendar turns towards Labor Day.

Currently, the national political map yields 16 Senate races where both parties have the potential to win. Below is a recap snapshot of the 11 competitive states where public polls have been released from mid-July to the present:


ARIZONA
Emerson College Polling (likely to be released yesterday or today)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) — 50%
Rep. Martha McSally (R) — 42%

OH Predictive Insights (July 23-24; 600 likely Arizona voters)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) — 48%
Rep. Martha McSally (R) — 44%

Note: The Arizona primary is Aug. 28. Rep. Sinema is a lock for the Democratic nomination, and all polling shows Rep. McSally leading beyond the margin of error for the Republicans.


CALIFORNIA
Public Policy Institute of California (July 8-17; 1,020 likely California voters)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) — 46%
St. Sen. Kevin de Leon (D) — 24%

Note: While the California race is not in play from a partisan standpoint, the campaign has competitive potential between the two Democratic contenders.


FLORIDA
Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies (July 24-25; 625 likely Florida voters)
Gov. Rick Scott (R) — 47%
Sen. Bill Nelson (R) — 44%

Florida Atlantic University (July 20-21; 800 registered Florida voters)
Gov. Rick Scott (R) — 44%
Sen. Bill Nelson (R) — 40%

Note: The Florida primary is Aug. 28. Both Sen. Nelson and Gov. Scott are sure winners in their respective nomination campaigns.
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Feinstein: More Warning Signals

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

July 30, 2018 — The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a new survey of the Golden State electorate, and the pollsters uncovered some new information about the double-Democrat US Senate race that voters will decide in November.

According to the PPIC data (July 8-17; 1,711 adult California residents, 1,420 registered California voters, 1,020 likely California voters — questionnaire provided in English and Spanish), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) would lead state senator and former Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), 46-24 percent, a margin that again shows incumbent weakness. In no poll has Feinstein ever reached the majority support plateau of 50 percent or more. Additionally, in the June 5 jungle primary, she received just 44 percent of the vote, but that compares to Mr. de Leon’s 12 percent, and he finished second. In all, 32 candidates were on the Senate jungle primary ballot.

But this PPIC poll found new key information, which provides even worse news for Sen. Feinstein. Though she still must be rated as the favorite, it is becoming clearer that de Leon is developing at least a narrow victory path. A desertion among Republicans could be problematic for Feinstein, and that appears to be happening.

In a two-person race, the PPIC poll finds just 70 percent making a candidate choice. But that does not mean the remainder is fully undecided. Actually, 20 percent are saying they will deliberately skip this race, almost all of which align themselves with the Republicans or are not affiliated with a major party.

The same phenomenon happened in the 2016 general election US Senate race when then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) defeated US Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Some theorized that Rep. Sanchez could be a strong candidate because she was more likely to attract Republican votes than the much more liberal Harris. Sanchez is a female Hispanic from southern California and had a textbook profile to, at least on paper, win a statewide race there. But, such didn’t prove true because so many Republicans simply skipped the Senate race even though they were in the polling booth or cast a mail ballot.

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Against Pelosi? Maybe Not

By Jim Ellis

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

July 24 2018 — Several media stories have already been written about Democratic House candidates reportedly saying they will not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for leadership elections scheduled in November. Their actual utterances require closer examination, however.

The Vox news organization tallied the list of such candidates earlier in the month and found 25 who they record as stating opposition to Rep. Pelosi. But examining the actual candidates’ statements indicate that most are leaving themselves some wiggle room when it comes to actually voting against her, while many others in this group are simply not in a strong position to win.

According to Vox, the following Democrats have clearly stated their intention not to support Pelosi for a leadership position, including Speaker:

AR-2: State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock)
Opponent: Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock)
Race Outlook: Likely Hill
• Tucker is running a television ad opening with a statement that he will not vote for Nancy Pelosi.


CA-39: Retired Naval Officer Gil Cisneros
Opponent: Former Assemblywoman Young Kim (R)
Incumbent: Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda) – retiring
Race Outlook: Toss-up
• When asked in a Politico interview if he would support Pelosi, Cisneros answered, “No.” Then he thanked her for serving California, but said new leadership is needed.


ME-2: State Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston)
Opponent: Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor)
Race Outook: Poliquin Favored
• Vox quotes Golden in an interview with the Lewiston Sun Journal as saying he has “no intention of voting for Nancy Pelosi. None at all.”


NC-9: Businessman Dan McCready
Opponent: Baptist former Pastor Mark Harris
Incumbent: Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) – defeated in Republican primary
Race Outlook: Toss-up
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Feinstein Loses

By Jim Ellis

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

July 17, 2018 — Five-term Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) lost the official California Democratic Party endorsement to her general election rival and fellow Democrat, state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), this past weekend in Oakland, attracting an embarrassing seven percent of the vote among the Democratic Party delegates.

Sen. Feinstein knew she was headed for defeat within the party structure formal endorsement process, so she was campaigning for the delegates to vote “no endorsement.” This ploy garnered more votes than she received, as 28 percent of the delegates supported the party taking no official action in the Senate race. Thus, Sen. de Leon received 65 percent of the delegate vote, exceeding the minimum threshold of 60 percent to claim the party endorsement.

The action means that de Leon will be designated the official party candidate on the ballot, obviously an unusual situation for a challenging Democrat opposing an incumbent of the same party. So unusual, in fact, that in no other race where two Democrats are facing each other in the general election, from the statewide contests through the state assembly races, did the party delegates choose the challenger over the incumbent.

In winning the party endorsement, Sen. de Leon will be entitled to direct party funding and access to the state party’s fundraising and voter databases. Though having access to these resources should result in him raising an estimated several hundred thousand dollars, such an amount is just a drop in the bucket as to what a candidate in the nation’s most populous state needs in terms of financial resources necessary to compete.

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California Poll Shows Nunes-Janz
Race As Being Competitive

By Jim Ellis
ca-22-devin-nunes-california-map
July 5, 2018
— A new Public Policy Polling survey conducted for the liberal group, End Citizens United (June 22-24; 632 registered California voters) of the race in CA-22, finds Democratic challenger Andrew Janz closing the gap between he and veteran Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare/ Fresno) as the pair advance toward the November general election. According to the PPP results, Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is leading the House oversight of the Justice Department’s Russia campaign collusion investigation, leads Janz, 49-41 percent.

The poll suggests that Janz, an attorney and first-time candidate who had already raised over $1.8 million through the middle of May, is competitive in the central California congressional district. However, as we look more closely at the poll, it is also important to note that the sponsoring organization, End Citizens United, is in no way supportive of Rep. Nunes, could be a vehicle for an independent expenditure supporting Janz, and we see that push questions were offered in order to form a specific conclusion.

After the initial ballot test question was asked, if the reported questionnaire order was, in fact, how the queries were presented to the individual 22nd District respondents, a series of statements were recited to the respondents that cast negative aspersions over Rep. Nunes accepting campaign contributions from “corporate special interests,” and saying that Janz will accept no such money.

The actual verbiage is as follows: “Andrew Janz is not taking any money from corporate special interests. His campaign is primarily funded by real people. If elected, Andrew Janz will work for the people of the Central Valley, not special interests in Washington. Devin Nunes has accepted over $600,000 in corporate PAC money and voted to give corporations a massive tax cut while raising taxes on thousands of Central Valley families. Having heard this, let me ask you again: The candidates for Congress this November are Democrat Andrew Janz and Republican Devin Nunes. If the election was today, who would you vote for?”

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Examining The Tuesday Turnout

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 29, 2018 — In continuing the effort to monitor primary turnout as a potential indicator of how the general election may unfold and whether a Democratic wave is forming, today we examine the preliminary participation numbers from the June 26 primaries.

Previously, in the 26 states where primaries were held, it appears that a normal turnout pattern had developed. Generally, more Democrats were voting in the states that typically vote Democratic, while more Republicans participated in those places where Republican candidates win the greater number of offices. In the five pure primary (non-run-off) states that held primaries on Tuesday, such a pattern continued. Utah was not included in the following analysis because the state did not feature any political contest where both Democrats and Republicans held a primary vote.

Democrats decisively turned out more people in Maryland (the Senate Democratic primary attracted 560,477 votes while the Republicans only produced 169,047), as one would expect, since the Free State is one of the strongest Democratic entities in the country. Conversely, more Republicans than Democrats voted in the Oklahoma primary (452,194 to 395,038 in the gubernatorial race), and that ratio, too, was anticipated.

Colorado, generally considered a swing state but one moving toward the Democrats in most elections, again saw more Democrats participating in Tuesday’s election. In the open governor’s race, 627,839 Democrats voted in the gubernatorial primary as compared to 493,445 Republicans. Once more, these numbers are predictable and represent a rather normal voter turnout pattern.

While talk of a “blue wave” continues and polls continue to show that more Democrats are interested and enthused about the coming midterm elections in the fall, such is not apparent in actual voting behavior within the two largest and most prolific Democratic states. In California, as we previously reported, while more Democrats than Republicans voted in the statewide jungle primary, in the seven targeted congressional districts more people voted for Republican candidates in six of those seven.

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Still Counting . . .

By Jim Ellis

i-vote-i-countJune 21, 2018 — Even in the age of advanced technology, vote counting can be a surprisingly long process. Despite political primaries being conducted weeks ago in California (June 5) and Maine (June 12), as of this writing, election officials still have not determined a winner, or second general election qualifier, in at least three campaigns.

In California, the 48th Congressional District’s second general election qualifier remains undeclared. There, Democratic businessmen Harley Rouda and Hans Keirstead are fighting to determine which of the two will advance from a pool of 15 candidates challenging veteran Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

On election night, Rohrabacher clinched first place with 30.3 percent of the vote over the field of 15, while Rouda placed second. With the California process being notoriously slow because of the large number of mail ballots that must be counted and are allowed to be postmarked the day of the election and received through that following Friday, it appeared evident that the substantial number of outstanding votes could well change the outcome for the second place qualifier. Hence, the abnormally long post-election process began.

Today, the official count, though still not complete, now finds Rouda re-capturing second place, this time by a scant 69 votes of the more than 173,000 votes cast, counted, and recorded district-wide, and the 57,285 ballots divided only between Rouda and Keirstead.

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California Still Counting;
CD-48 Still Undecided

By Jim Ellis

The California state flag

The California state flag

June 13, 2018 — The notoriously long California vote counting system continues to grind along, and a week later a major election is still in doubt — the 48th Congressional District, a seat fully contained within Orange County. Among the 16 jungle primary candidates, incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has secured the first run-off position and advances into the general election. The ongoing battle is for second place between biomedical company CEO Hans Keirstead and businessman Harley Rouda, both Democrats.

This is an interesting election since the national and state Democratic Parties are split. The California State Democratic Party convention gave its official endorsement to Keirstead, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and many Democratic leaders officially backed Rouda.

On election night, Rouda had taken the lead, but the laborious post-election count has now put Keirstead in second place with a growing lead. His previous edge over Rouda was 87 votes. The latest count, released Monday night, increases Keirstead’s edge over Rouda to 372 votes, continuing the pattern of Keirstead moving up in the post-election count.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2018 — Voters chose their general election nominees in eight states last night with most races ending as predicted, though a few surprises also occurred. Here’s the rundown:

ALABAMA

the-primariesGov. Kay Ivey scored an outright Republican primary victory, defeating Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and two others. The governor scored 56 percent of the GOP primary vote. She will now face Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the general election. Maddox defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, 55-29 percent, in last night’s Democratic primary. None of the other four candidates even reached 10 percent support.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) placed first in her multi-candidate primary, but scored only 39 percent support. She will now advance to a July 17 run-off election with party-switching former Democratic Congressman and ex-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who recorded 28 percent of the vote. In 2010, Roby unseated then-Democratic incumbent Bright, so the run-off will be a re-match of sorts. Her low vote total suggests that Rep. Roby is in danger of losing re-nomination in the secondary election. The winner faces business analyst Tabitha Isner who won the Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote. Either Roby or Bright will be favored in the general election after the run-off concludes.

In the other challenged primary race, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) notched a 61-39 percent win over businessman Clayton Hinchman. Earlier, this looked to be a significant challenge, but Rep. Brooks easily secured re-nomination.


CALIFORNIA

The California tabulation is incomplete as votes can still be received through Friday. Ballots postmarked yesterday will count as long as they reach the county elections office by 5 pm on Friday. Therefore, some second place finishes in the various races are somewhat undetermined though the current leader for the final general election qualifying position will likely hold on through the final counting phase.

As expected, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) finished first (33 percent) in the open governor’s race and advances into the November general election. Republican attorney and former presidential candidate John Cox (26 percent) clinched second place making both the state GOP leadership and Newsom happy. The Republicans needed a statewide candidate in the general election to help with voter turnout for the down ballot races, while Newsom clearly wanted a Republican against him in the general as opposed to another Democrat. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa finished third (13 percent) and state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was fourth (10 percent). In all, 27 individuals received votes for governor in the state’s jungle primary format.

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Big Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 5, 2018 — Today voters in eight states — Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — will choose nominees for the 2018 general election in the single primary election day with the largest number of voters participating. Here’s a rundown on where things stand in each of the eight states:


ALABAMA

the-primariesThe most interesting race on the Alabama primary card is the state’s governor’s race. Incumbent Kay Ivey (R) runs for a first term after succeeding resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R), when he left office last year as part of a plea bargain agreement for campaign finance violations.

Polling gives the governor wide leads to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and Baptist minister Scott Dawson. For the Democrats, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb are vying for the party nomination. Gov. Ivey is the favorite today and in November.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) faces a multi-candidate Republican primary, including former US Rep. Bobby Bright, the man she unseated in 2010 when he was the Democrat incumbent. Also in the race is state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and former Roy Moore campaign manager Rich Hobson. Rep. Roby is favored, but the possibility of being forced to a run-off exists if she fails to obtain majority support.

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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 “Jungle Primary” Reverberations

By Jim Ellis

May 14, 2018 — Back in 2010, when initiators created the movement to change the California primary system to feature a jungle format — where the top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of the percentage of vote they attained or party affiliation — they had hoped their ultimately successful ballot initiative would favor candidates closer to the political center. Approaching the June 5, 2018 primary, however, we see that this top-two system might produce quite different and possibly unintended outcomes.

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-480

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-48)

In a pair of competitive Southern California Republican congressional districts, recent polling suggests that Democrats could find themselves on the outside looking in for the November election despite having high hopes of converting the two seats.

The districts are CA-48, where veteran 15-term US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) seeks to be part of another two-year congressional session, and CA-49, the open Orange/San Diego County seat from which Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring.

The pair of early May polls, one from Change Research (CA-48) and the other Benenson Strategy Group (CA-49), reveals that two Republicans could potentially advance to the general election in both districts, thus preventing Democrats from competing in the general election. Though it’s mathematically possible that two Dems could also progress to November in both places, the latter scenario is less likely because the GOP holds a voter registration edge in each CD.

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

In the 48th, Republicans have a 10-point 40.7-30.1 percent registration advantage over Democrats with an additional 24.5 percent declaring No Party Preference, meaning the latter are Independents. In the 49th, the GOP advantage is a lesser 36.7–31.1 percent with 26.6 percent not stating a party preference. Therefore, without coalescing the Democratic vote in each district behind one strong candidate, the chance plainly exists that Republicans could potentially slip two contenders in through the proverbial backdoor. In both the 48th and 49th, too many Democratic candidates are strong enough so as to prevent such a base unification.

The Change Research survey (May 2-3; 590 likely CA-48 jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Rohrabacher leading the field of four tested candidates (though a total of 16 candidate names will appear on the primary ballot, including three Democrats and one Republican who have withdrawn, but too late to erase their ballot positions). Rohrbacher is in front in the poll with just 27 percent of the vote, followed by Democratic scientist Hans Keirstead, who has 19 percent, and ex-state assemblyman and former Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh, with 17 percent. Democrat Harley Rouda, a businessman and attorney, garners 11 percent support.

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