Tag Archives: California

More California Primary Updates

With almost 1 million mailed and provisional ballots still being counted after the California primary last Tuesday, a bit more is becoming known about the general election congressional pairings.

In the 2nd District, Republican Dan Roberts has opened up a larger lead for the second general election position. He now has a 1,532 vote advantage over liberal author Norman Solomon (D). Roberts finishing second would be good news for Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D), the first-place qualifier, because the new CA-2 is heavily Democratic and will vote that way in November.

In the 8th District, anchored in San Bernardino County and which then travels up the Nevada border, it now appears certain that a double Republican general election will occur. The smattering of new vote returns places Democrat Jackie Conaway in fourth position and propelled businessman Gregg Imus ahead of Assemblyman Paul Cook for first place. Republican businessman Phil Liberatore is now third. Few uncounted votes remain, so it does appear that Imus and Cook will be the two who advance through to November.

With only 5,100+ votes to tally county-wide in San Bernardino, the CA-31 double Republican general election featuring Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42) and state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton appears to be clinched. Miller placed first with 27 percent of the vote, followed closely by Dutton’s 25 percent. Despite Democrats having a 41-35 percent advantage in voter registration, this seat is now guaranteed to send a Republican to Washington for the next Congress.

In San Diego, the picture as to which Democrat will face Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-50) is becoming somewhat clearer. San Diego Port Commission chair Scott Peters, a former San Diego city councilman, has opened up a 954-vote lead over former state assemblywoman Lori Saldana. The original count separated the two by less than 650 votes. This district will see a competitive general election battle regardless of who becomes Bilbray’s eventual opponent. The Republicans have a 36-32 percent edge in voter registration, but Bilbray failed to break even 42 percent in the June 5 primary.

Major Primary Voting Today

Today, Gov. Scott Walker (R) faces Wisconsin voters to determine whether he should be recalled from office. All late polling shows a very close race, with Walker right at the 50 percent mark and his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, hovering in the high 40s. Clearly, this race will come down to favoring the side that does the best job of turning out its votes.

In New Jersey, 9th District Democratic voters are forced to choose between incumbent Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9). The winner of today’s vote will claim the seat in the November general election. A tight finish is forecast. New Jersey lost a district in reapportionment, which forced these two incumbents to fight for one seat.

Turning to Iowa, Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA-2) is the prohibitive favorite to repel a primary challenge from state Sen. Joe Seng. The state legislator appears strong on paper but is making little effort to secure the congressional nomination.

Out west, New Mexico’s 1st District open seat Democratic primary is in toss-up mode. Statewide, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and former representative Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) will win their respective parties’ Senatorial nominations. Likewise for Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) and Sen. Jon Tester (D) in Montana. Voters will also nominate a Democrat and Republican in the open at-large Treasure State House seat tonight. South Dakota voters will choose a Democratic opponent for freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL).

But the state with the most elections is California, where a new primary election law is changing the face of Golden State politics. Today, the top two finishers in every district election will qualify for the November vote regardless of political party affiliation. This will likely lead to at least seven Democrat vs. Democrat general elections and possibly two Republican vs. Republican. See yesterday’s post for a breakdown of how the races look going into the election there.

Calif. Primary Preview

Tomorrow, California voters go to the polls along with those in five other states, the latter we reviewed on Friday. Because of the Golden State’s new primary election law, the top two finishers in all partisan elections will advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation. This, along with a congressional redistricting map that adds more competition to California politics, creates an entirely new dynamic and changes campaign strategies. For a state that defeated only one incumbent during the entire last decade, as many as 22 of the 53 congressional seats will see some level of legitimate competition.

District 1 (Wally Herger-R retiring: Open Seat) – This northern-most California open seat will almost assuredly stay in the Republican column. Tomorrow’s vote will answer whether this will be a double-Republican general election, meaning state Sen. Doug LaMalfa and former state senator Sam Aanestad both qualifying for the November vote. Or will Democrat Jim Reed slip into second place by solidifying the Democrats?

District 2 (Lynn Woolsey-D retiring: Open Seat) – This Marin County/north coast district will go Democratic in the fall and will likely see two Democrats move into the general election. State Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) will certainly be one qualifier. The question is will liberal author Norman Solomon or businesswoman Stacey Lawson secure the second position.

District 3 (John Garamendi-D) – Expect Rep. Garamendi and Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann (R) to be the general election participants in what should be a competitive general election, in a seat that is much more Republican than the incumbent’s current 10th District.

District 7 (Dan Lungren-R) – Tomorrow’s vote will likely yield a re-match between Rep. Lungren and physician Ami Bera in what again promises to be a competitive general election. Lungren is favored, but not by much.

District 8 (Jerry Lewis-R retiring: Open Seat) – The new 8th District, stretching northward from San Bernardino up the California-Nevada border, will likely send two Republicans to the general election. Assemblyman Paul Cook (R) will probably advance with eight Republicans vying for the second position.

District 9 (Jerry McNerney-D) – This Stockton-San Joaquin Valley seat is much different from Mr. McNerney’s previous district. It is decidedly Democratic, but Republican Ricky Gill has already raised well over $1 million. This general election battle could get very interesting, but McNerney is the clear favorite.

District 10 (Jeff Denham-R) – Retired astronaut Jose Hernandez (D) will likely be the qualifier against freshman Rep. Jeff Denham in a district that has only a 38 percent carry-over rate from his current district. National Democrats like Hernandez. Denham is the decided favorite.

District 15 (Pete Stark-D) – Expect a double-Democrat general election between Rep. Stark and Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. Stark only represents 46 percent of the new district, so things could get very interesting here in November.

District 16 (Jim Costa-D) – Rep. Costa decided to run in this Central Valley district rather than the new 21st that contains 79 percent of his current constituency. Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s retirement allowed Costa to run here, which is a more Democratic district. This seat could become competitive in the general election, but the Republican qualifier will likely be a relatively weak candidate. Costa has the inside track to re-election.

District 21 (Open Seat) – Rep. Costa not running here gives the Republicans their best conversion opportunity in the state in the person of Assemblyman David Valadao. Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong will likely be the Democratic qualifier. Valadao is favored in November.

District 24 (Lois Capps-D) – The new redistricting plan created several very marginal districts, and this Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo County district is one of them. Former lieutenant governor and state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R) will advance to the general election and oppose Rep. Capps. This will be one of the hottest congressional races in the country and is a pure toss-up.

District 26 (Elton Gallegly-R retiring: Open Seat) – The 26th is another very marginal district that both parties can win. Republicans will advance state Sen. Tony Strickland to the general election. The second position will be a fight between Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a Republican who is running as an Independent.

District 29 (Open Seat) – This will be another double-Democrat general election and will heavily favor Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas to be the eventual winner.

District 30 (Brad Sherman-D/Howard Berman-D) – This likely double-Democrat general election will be the most expensive congressional race in the country as veteran Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman must square-off for this one seat. Sherman represents 58 percent of this new constituency, while Berman has only 20 percent carry over from his current 28th CD. This will be a hard-fought and bitter general election battle.

District 31 (Gary Miller-R) – Rep. Miller’s move to the 31st District avoids a pairing with fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce in new District 39. The vote tomorrow will determine which of three candidates qualifies for the general election: Miller, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, and Redlands Democratic Mayor Pete Aguilar. Miller represents no people in the new 31st and hopped over here when Rep. Jerry Lewis, a resident of this district, announced he would retire. This is one of the most interesting races in the entire state. A likely general election toss-up.

District 35 (Rep. Joe Baca-D) – Rep. Baca gives up District 31, which includes his home city of Rialto, to run against Democratic state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod. Both will qualify for the general election and set up another double Democrat campaign. Baca represents 61 percent of the heavily Hispanic Ontario-based district. This could be a competitive November election, but no doubt a safe Democratic seat.

District 36 (Mary Bono Mack-R) – Rep. Bono Mack gets a CD fully contained within Riverside County and is two points more Republican than her previous district. She and emergency room physician Raul Ruiz and she are the only candidates who have filed, so both will advance to the general election regardless of tomorrow’s vote. Bono Mack is a big favorite in November.

District 41 (Open Seat) – The new Riverside County congressional seat is another of the marginal seats created in the 2011 redistricting plan. The two likely general election participants are Democrat Mark Takano, who has already lost three congressional races in this region, and Republican County Supervisor John Tavaglione. This will be a toss-up election in the fall.

District 44 (Janice Hahn-D/Laura Richardson-D) – Another of the incumbent pairings, this campaign will go to the general election featuring two Democratic Reps, Hahn and Richardson, in a heavily minority district. The real battle here begins on Wednesday morning.

District 47 (Open Seat) – Another new open seat has been created in the Long Beach area. State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) is likely to be a general election finalist. The second position could go to Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong. Former representative Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36) is in the race, but does not appear to have caught fire. Democrats are favored here in November, but the GOP does have an outside chance at scoring an upset.

District 51 (Bob Filner-D, running for San Diego mayor: Open Seat) – This will be yet another double-Democrat general election. Expect state Sen. Juan Vargas and former state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny to qualify for the general.

District 52 (Brian Bilbray-R) – This is another challenger race that could become serious in a district that is only a 40 percent carry over from Rep. Bilbray’s current CD. The congressman should finish first tomorrow night. The big question is will the second place finisher be Democrat Scott Peters, the San Diego Port Commission chairman, or former state assemblywoman Lori Saldana.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Today’s spotlight takes us to southern California to underscore just how much difference redistricting and election law changes can make in campaign strategy. The new CA-26 was deliberately designed as a 50/50 seat, and the state’s novel primary law is forcing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) into making some rather unorthodox spending decisions.

CALIFORNIA (current delegation: 34D-19R) – The new 26th District is fully contained within Ventura County, which sits between cities and counties of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. According to the latest census count, Ventura has 823,318 residents, which makes it a major political division. The new 26th was designed with the idea of creating a marginal district that would remain competitive throughout the decade. As an open seat, because Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) is retiring, the district appears to be performing as intended.

Sixty-four percent of the district’s territory comes from Gallegly’s 24th District. Thirty-five percent is added from Democratic Rep. Lois Capps’ 23rd CD, with just a sliver from Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D) current 30th (1 percent). Though President Obama captured 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, the 2010 numbers tell a completely different story. In the governor’s race, Democrat Jerry Brown, the eventual winner, came up one point short in the 26th, as Republican Meg Whitman nipped him 47-46 percent. Republican Carly Fiorina came in ahead of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) by an almost identical 47-45 percent spread. Finally, to counterbalance the Obama double-digit win, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Steve Cooley, notched a 49-38 percent score against Democrat Kamala Harris, the statewide winner by less than half a percentage point.

In addition to redistricting, the other major California electoral change concerns how the state nominates candidates for the general election. Instead of featuring a closed primary election system that sends one Democrat, one Republican, and multiple Independent candidates to the general election, the new system puts forth only the two top vote-getters regardless of political party affiliation. The new procedure is creating havoc in District 26.

The Democrats were solidly behind their Ventura County supervisor, Steve Bennett, early in the race. Both the local and national party felt Bennett gave them their best chance of attaining victory in the marginal seat. After officially entering the race, Bennett decided to return to local government instead, and withdrew from the congressional campaign. This left the Democrats without a strong candidate until they were able to recruit three-term state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley; but the heart of her current legislative district is in Santa Monica and not Ventura County. For their part, Republicans coalesced around state Sen. Tony Strickland, who had twice been a statewide candidate.

It is the second supervisor in the race, Republican Linda Parks, who will test just how the new law works. Instead of running as a Republican, knowing that Strickland would take the majority of the GOP primary votes, she decided to declare herself as an Independent, thinking that this would be her best chance of snatching a run-off position away from the Democrats. Parks is a major Ventura County political figure, serving her third term on the Board of Supervisors after winning election as mayor of Thousand Oaks after serving on the locality’s city council. This contrasts heavily with Brownley, though representing some of Ventura County, who actually hails from Santa Monica in Los Angeles County – a point that Parks consistently reiterates.

The set-up here is forcing the DCCC to involve itself in the June election because they fear that both Strickland and Parks could qualify for the general, thus leaving them without a candidate in a seat that they can certainly win.

The DCCC is therefore actively communicating with voters, sending mailers that “Photoshop” Parks into a setting with Republican leaders such as Sarah Palin and former president George W. Bush. Others drive home the point to Democratic voters that Parks is actually a Republican. But Parks counters by highlighting other campaign messages from her previous opponent, ironically Sen. Strickland’s wife, Audra, who challenged her for the board two years ago, that identified her as a liberal and being too aligned with the Democrats. Parks is cleverly juxtaposing both mail messages to prove that she is, in fact, independent because both parties have launched similar attacks against her.

Redistricting and the election law process were done to change the voting system in California, and it appears those goals have been accomplished. The developments in the 26th District until the June 5 qualifying election will be very interesting to watch. It is clear we are seeing unusual happenings here, which are expected to continue.

Santorum Exits: What Else Changes?

The surprisingly abrupt suspension of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign will affect more than just the national political contest. While Santorum’s decision effectively crowns Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, several other political contests will also change because of yesterday’s developments.

Looking ahead to contested Republican primaries where a Santorum candidacy would either positively or negatively affect the turnout model in places that vote for president and Congress together, many candidates will now have to re-adjust their own political campaign efforts. The lack of having an active presidential race will clearly alter the voter participation rates in their particular races.

One such contest that comes to mind is the upcoming Indiana Senate campaign where six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is facing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in what is becoming a contentious and hard-fought Republican primary election. Polling shows the race to be within single digits but, among self-identified Republicans, Lugar is clearly in trouble. Under Indiana law, the primary election is open so Independents and Democrats can choose to vote in the Republican primary. Lugar runs stronger with Democrats and Independents so inclined to vote Republican, but it is difficult to gauge at this point in time the overall size of such a pool of voters.

It is probably a bit too early to predict with any certainty just how Santorum’s exit from the presidential campaign will change the Lugar-Mourdock race. One school of thought suggests that the senator might actually benefit because Santorum’s absence now gives the most conservative voter less of a reason to vote. On the other hand, the lower overall turnout will make those most motivated to visit the polls all the more important and influential. The more intense voter tends to support the non-incumbent in these types of electoral situations, thus Lugar’s position becomes tenuous since Mourdock, as the lone GOP challenger, is solely benefiting from all of the anti-incumbent sentiment.

Another race where the lack of a Santorum presidential challenge could make a difference is in the Texas Senate race. There, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who should be the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright on May 29, could find his chances of being forced into a July 31 run-off increasing as the rate of turnout drops. Texas has notoriously low primary election participation rates so, as in Indiana, the more motivated voters generate greater influence within a smaller pool. Thus, conservative challenger Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, could benefit from this development.

Cruz’s only chance to wrest the nomination away from Dewhurst is to force him into a run-off election by holding him below 50 percent in the primary. With eight other candidates on the ballot, including former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and former NFL and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James, a lower turnout might make the run-off scenario more plausible.

Many congressional races will be effected, too. With contested Republican primary campaigns in action throughout North Carolina – GOP nomination challenges to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC-3) and Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and crowded open seat races in the 9th (Rep. Sue Myrick), 11th (Rep. Heath Shuler), and 13th CD’s (Rep. Brad Miller) along with Republican challenger primaries for the right to face incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) in the general election – the new turnout model could greatly alter all Tar Heel State political outcomes.

The same can be said for the California House races, particularly as the state institutes its new primary system that allows the top two finishers in every campaign, regardless of political party affiliation, to advance to the general election. With Republican voter turnout percentages, now without an active presidential race on their side, probably falling into line with Democratic participation rates, several campaigns – such as Rep. Gary Miller’s 31st District election and the newly created open 41st (Riverside County) and 47th (Long Beach area) districts – will likely change direction. Which way they will move is still unclear.

Much more analysis will come for all of these campaigns as we get closer to their respective election dates. It is clear, however, that politics in a macro sense will drastically change as a result of Santorum conceding the presidential nomination to Romney.