Bera and Issa

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 7, 2016 — Competitive action is occurring in several California House districts, but new data has just emerged suggesting that two House incumbents are headed for a tough finish.

Back in 2014, the race between Sacramento County Congressman Ami Bera (D) and former US Rep. Doug Ose (R) became the most expensive race in the country as the two candidates combined for $10 million in spending, not counting independent expenditures.

Now facing Sacramento County Sheriff Doug Jones (R), a new Public Opinion Strategies poll (Oct. 1-3; 400 likely CA-7 voters) is forcing this contest up the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) challenger target list. According to the new POS data, Jones has taken a 47-42 percent lead over the two-term incumbent suggesting that the candidates will be making a mad dash for the political finish line in the campaign’s closing weeks.

Sheriff Jones checks in with a 62 percent favorable job approval rating from the poll, coupled with a 61 percent positive on the personal index. Bera, on the other hand, has dropped to 46:36% percent positive to negative, which isn’t particularly bad considering the controversy that is surrounding his campaign but his standing is far below Jones’.

After pleading guilty to soliciting illegal campaign contributions for both of his son’s victorious campaigns, 83-year-old Babulal Bera was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by a three-year period of home confinement, and a $100,000 fine. The surprisingly tough sentence pronounced in late August – the government asked for one year in prison, the defense requested the home confinement, but the judge ordered both – has created negative effects to Bera’s re-election effort despite the Justice Department’s statement that neither the congressman nor his campaign operatives knew of the elder Bera’s illegal activities.

The latter pronouncement hasn’t stopped the NRCC from launching a corruption-laced ad (above) that is clearly contributing to reversing the congressman’s political fortunes. The other positive for Jones, according to the POS survey, is Donald Trump’s numbers are competitive here, one of the few California districts where that is the case. In CA-7, Hillary Clinton leads Trump only 43-39 percent.

In southern California, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) is facing a spirited and serious challenge from retired US Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D). In the June 7 jungle primary, Applegate recorded a surprisingly strong finish, posting 45 percent to Issa’s 51 percent, one of the closest challenger to incumbent ratios in the state.

With stories beginning to surface of an unattributed poll showing the campaign closing to within two points, Applegate launched two major attack ads on the veteran congressman. The first (above) accuses Issa of substantially increasing his wealth via his federal position, and likens him to Donald Trump who is not faring well in this relatively conservative San Diego/Orange County district. The second (below) attacks Issa and “Tea Party Republicans” for refusing to provide health care benefits to 9/11 first responders.

These two races merit watching through the final days of the election calendar.

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