By Jim Ellis
March 13, 2018 — California candidate filing closed on Friday, and the jungle primary scheduled for June 5 will be a crowded affair.Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), seeking a fifth full term in office, will face 39 Democrat, Republican, minor party, and Independent opponents on the qualifying election ballot. The top two finishers on June 5, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the general election. At this point, chances are strong that Sen. Feinstein and state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) will be the qualifying candidates.
The open governor’s race is even more crowded. Sixty candidates returned documents for ballot placement. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is favored to finish first, but the major remaining question concerns whether Republicans can coalesce behind one candidate to at least compete in the general election. Seventeen Republicans and 15 Democrats will be listed on the ballot if all submitted the proper qualifying documentation. The remaining contenders belong to a minor party or are Independents. The most likely pair to advance is Lt. Gov. Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, thus creating the double-Democratic general election campaign that Republican leaders hope to avoid.
The 53 US House races also are crowded affairs, with possibilities for candidates from the same party advancing to the general election present in many of the situations. A total of 271 individuals filed to run for the US House. Five incumbent members, all Democrats, drew no opposition. Discounting the possibilities of write-in candidates, Reps. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove/Fairfield), Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), and Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) appear guaranteed for re-election.
Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Anna Eshoo (D-Atherton/Palo Alto), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) drew no major party opponent. Freshman Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley/Monterey) has only one Democratic challenger, but both will advance to the general election regardless of the June qualifying vote result. Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough/San Mateo), Jim Costa (D-Fresno), Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier), and Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) have only one Republican opponent who they will face both in June and November.
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield), one of the seven Democratic conversion targets, also has just one opponent. Businessman and non-profit organization founder T.J. Cox, who was originally challenging Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Modesto) until the past few days, will go head-to-head with the three-term incumbent in the qualifying and general elections.
The 10th District race against Denham drastically changed once two-time opponent Michael Eggman (D) entered the race after originally saying he would not run. Four other Democrats are also in the race, but it is the Eggman candidacy that helped drive T.J. Cox 200 miles south to Rep. Valadao’s Bakersfield-anchored seat.
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) sees eight Democrats lining up against him, but no Republicans nor independents. Attorney Bryan Caforio (D), who scored 47 percent against Rep. Knight in the 2016 general election, is favored to advance to the general election again this year.
Retiring Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) leaves an open race where 11 Democrats, six Republicans, and four minor party and independent candidates are vying to replace him. Only one of the Democrats has ever won election to any office (school board). The Republican field features a former state Senate minority leader, state assemblyman and local mayor (Bob Huff), a former state assemblywoman who has Rep. Royce’s endorsement (Young Kim), Orange County supervisor and former Fullerton mayor (Shawn Nelson), and two local city councilmen (Andrew Sarega and Steve Vargas). Because the Republicans have the candidates with the most name identification and political experience, and with the Democrats fielding eleven candidates, the party leaders hope that two of their candidates could place one-two and prevent their opposition from advancing to the general election.
Turning to the Orange County seats, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) faces four Democrats and an Independent, none of whom have ever before run for office.
Fifteen-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) finds five Republicans challenging him, including former state Assemblyman and Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh, while eight Democrats, again all first-time candidates, attempt to qualify for the general election in a district where Republicans enjoy an 11-point voter registration advantage.
To the south, Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Vista) open district that featured the closest election in the country in 2016, finds 15 candidates returning ballot qualification documents, including eight Republicans, four Democrats, and three minor party and independent contenders. As in the other targeted seats, none of the Democratic candidates have ever won a political office, though retired Marine Corps colonel Doug Applegate came close to unseating Rep. Issa in the last election. Republicans feature a state assemblyman (Rocky Chavez), a Board of Equalization member and former assemblywoman (Diane Harkey), a county supervisor and former mayor (Kristen Gaspar), and a local city councilman (Brian Maryott). Though this race was extremely close in 2016, Republicans still maintain a six-point voter registration advantage.
The California House races will go a long way in helping to determine majority control in the next congressional session.