Tag Archives: Elton Gallegly

GOP Congressmen Endorse Democrat Berman

The unusual effects of California’s new top-two primary law are already coming to light.

Since the June 5 primary, two southern California Republican congressmen, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) and retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24), have both issued formal public endorsements of Democratic Rep. Howard Berman in his Democrat vs. Democrat general election contest with fellow Congressman Brad Sherman. Redistricting threw the latter two members into one district and now they must battle each other in what will be a year-long campaign.

As we have covered here repeatedly, the new California election law allows the top-two finishers in what is termed their “jungle primary” – that is where all candidates are placed on the same ballot and each voter chooses just one combatant – to advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation. Voters adopted the new system through a 2010 initiative vote and it was in effect for the first time on a statewide basis less than two weeks ago. As a result, six Democrat on Democrat congressional general elections have evolved and two Republican versus Republican.

The California business community was largely responsible for qualifying and financing the top-two initiative and did so because they believed it would create greater competition in Golden State elections. During the entire past decade, for example, California voters unseated only one congressional incumbent in their 53 US House districts. Additionally, the movement organizers believed the new system would begin to elect more moderate candidates from both parties. The first results suggest that they might be right on both counts, and Issa and Gallegly’s immediate post-primary action provides evidence to support their second conclusion.

The Berman-Sherman battle in the new San Fernando Valley’s 30th Congressional District is a race of epic proportions. Already featuring a combined spending figure of over $6 million just among the two major incumbent candidates, CA-30 will clearly be the most expensive US House race in the country. Additionally, it will show just how different campaigning in the general election will be when one candidate faces a member of his own party before the entire electorate.

The reason that Berman is beginning to enlist Republican support from people such as Issa and Gallegly is that the hybrid district has 95,432 registered Republican voters, another 8,487 people who affiliate with the conservative American Independent Party, 2,088 Libertarians, and an additional 77,042 voters who state no party preference. Democrats are the largest contingent at 177,638 registered 30th CD members, but even this large number represents only 47.9% of the entire voting universe.

Along with a competitive redistricting map, the top-two primary law is changing the face of California politics. Expect to see more of this cross-endorsement and involvement activity in the 30th and the other districts featuring intra-party general elections. Berman’s Issa-Gallegly move is merely the first salvo in what is sure to become a fascinating game of cross political pressurization.

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.

California’s Changing Congressional Makeup

In what became an expected announcement, particularly considering the developments during the past few days, 17-term Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41) confirmed that he will retire at the end of the current Congress. Mr. Lewis, a former Appropriations Committee chairman and the dean of the California Republican delegation, was first elected to the House in 1978 after serving 10 years in the state Assembly.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission placed Lewis’ home in the new 31st District, a politically marginal seat anchored in the cities of San Bernardino, Rialto, and the congressman’s home of Redlands. But most of his Republican territory wound up in the new 8th District, a seat that begins in San Bernardino County, but which travels up the California-Nevada border all the way to Yosemite. When the map was passed, Mr. Lewis said he would not move his family to claim the 8th, but it also didn’t look like he would risk defeat by running in the 31st, which, more often than not, will elect a Democrat.

The other incumbent placed in CA-31 was Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43). Surveying the district after the lines were made public, Mr. Baca believed his political fortunes were better served by running in the new District 35, even though his home city of Rialto is excluded and having to face a popular Democratic state senator, Gloria Negrete McLeod, in an intra-party challenge that could consume a full year under California’s new election law.

Surprisingly, on the heels of the Lewis retirement statement, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42), currently paired with fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) in new District 39, said he will now run in the vacated 31st. Miller currently represents a small portion of San Bernardino County that is housed in the 31st, and he obviously believes his chances of surviving in a marginal Democratic seat are superior to fighting a Republican-on-Republican war with Mr. Royce. Thus, the big winner in this scenario is Rep. Royce, as he is now the only incumbent in the safely Republican CA-39. He still will have significant primary opposition, however, as Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is an announced Republican candidate who could prove to be a formidable candidate.

The Miller move sends another signal, too. Because Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26), whose current district was split six ways, also represents part of the new 31st it was thought that this could be a landing place for him should Mr. Lewis either run in the 8th or retire. With no further inkling from Mr. Dreier that he is looking at the 31st, the speculation that he too will retire certainly gains credence.

Should Dreier follow suit and leave the House, California Republicans will lose their top four senior members: Lewis, Dreier, Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA-2), and Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24). Their combined length of service is 118 years.

Now that the 31st is officially an open seat, expect action to occur soon. The top Democrat in the race so far is Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. Aside from Rep. Miller, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton and San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos are both potential Republican contenders. Taking into consideration California’s new law that sends the top two finishers from the qualifying election onto the general regardless of political party affiliation, virtually anything can happen in this race.

Though CA-31 leans Democratic, it doesn’t do so by much. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), for example, won here by just two points, 46-44 percent. The Republican attorney general candidate, though losing a close race statewide, carried the new 31st 46-39 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown scored a 49-41 percent win over GOP businesswoman Meg Whitman.

Expect this race to fluctuate between “toss-up” and “lean Democrat” all the way to the November election.

Calif. Rep. Gallegly to Retire

In a move many expected when the California redistricting map dealt him a cruel political blow, 13-term Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) announced over the weekend that he will not seek re-election later this year, thus ending his quarter century tenure in Congress.

Mr. Gallegly had two choices after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission re-drew the Ventura County/Simi Valley (west Los Angeles County) area. He could run in the new 26th District, which comprises most of Ventura County, a place Gallegly has represented for most of his career, but which does not include his home and political power base of the Simi Valley region. While he would be in the incumbent in the new 26th, the district is politically marginal and the chances of a Democrat beating him in November are good. President Obama, who will of course lead the Democratic ticket again in 2012, scored 56 percent here in 2008.

Mr. Gallegly’s other option would have been to challenge fellow Republican Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) in the new 25th CD. This district will likely elect a member of the GOP in November but, aside from including Simi Valley, the new 25th is comprised mostly of McKeon’s political base in Santa Clarita and Palmdale. Gallegly would have been at a decided disadvantage had he run against McKeon but, under California’s new primary election law, it is likely the race would have lasted a full year as both would likely have qualified for the general election because the top two primary finishers advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation.

All of the aforementioned made retirement Mr. Gallegly’s best option. The 26th District is now officially listed as an open seat. The retiring congressman becomes the 27th House incumbent to announce that he or she won’t run for re-election, and the 13th to choose outright retirement. The others are seeking a different office. Adding the new seats created in reapportionment and redistricting to this list, 43 open seat races are already present.

Without Gallegly in the political picture, the new 25th District (McKeon) becomes a Likely Republican seat, while District 26 now goes to “lean Democrat.” The seat’s political complexion is highly marginal, however, and a strong Republican candidate could conceivably win with a break or two.

Incumbents Facing Challenges in 2012 – Part I

Though it is still difficult to forecast the complete US House political picture next year, mostly because redistricting is only about half finished, we already see that more than 40 sitting members will draw serious competition in either the 2012 primary or general election.

Below is a list of 22 incumbents who will be in competitive campaigns next year from states where redistricting is complete. The second half of the overall group will be featured in our Wednesday report.

AR-1 – Rick Crawford (R) – Redistricting added more Democrats to what already was a highly Democratic seat. Crawford will be in a toss-up situation.

CA-3 – John Garamendi (D) – The new 3rd district could conceivably elect a Republican. Watch for a serious GOP challenge to Rep. Garamendi, who is serving his first full term.

CA-9 – Jerry McNerney (D) – Potential challenges in both the Democratic primary and general election await Mr. McNerney, who has chosen to run in a seat that doesn’t include his Bay Area political base.

CA-10 – Jeff Denham (R) – Though Rep. Denham will be the heavy favorite in this new district, it is not as Republican as his current CA-19.

CA-16 – Dennis Cardoza (D)/Jim Costa (D) – The redistricting commission greatly altered the Fresno area. Rep. Costa announced for CA-16 even though his home is in the new 21st, which is much more Republican. Rumors persist that Cardoza may retire.

CA-24 – Lois Capps (D) – The new Santa Barbara seat is a 50/50 district now, so former lieutenant governor and state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R) is a very strong challenger here.

CA-25/26 – Elton Gallegly (R) – Rep. Gallegly can either run against fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) or in the new marginal 26th district (Ventura County). Keep a retirement watch on Gallegly who even announced such before the 2008 election, only to change his mind.

CA-30 – Brad Sherman (D)/Howard Berman (D) – This will be a tough primary and general election for the two veteran Democratic congressmen. One will not return to the next Congress.

CA-31 – Joe Baca (D) – Rep. Baca does not like his new, and more competitive, 31st district and may hop over to the more Democratic 35th CD, created as an open seat.

CA-32 – David Dreier (R) – Congressman Dreier’s current 26th district seat was broken up into six different parts. He will not run in District 32, as this seat is highly Democratic. Most of his options are poor. If Elton Gallegly does not run in District 26, then that seat is a possibility for Dreier. He could also swing down into District 31 if Rep. Baca moves to CA-35.

CA-38/47 – Linda Sanchez (D) – There is a good possibility that Rep. Sanchez will face strong primary opposition either from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38) in the new 38th district, where both of their homes reside, or in the Long Beach-based new 47th district. There, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) has already said he will run. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) is also a potential candidate. This seat is also in play for the Republicans. Former Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36), is saying that he, too, will run here next year.

CA-39 – Ed Royce (R)/Gary Miller (R) – This is a Republican pairing. The winner retains the seat for the GOP, but one of the two will not return. Most of the territory currently belongs to Royce, who has to be regarded as the favorite in this new configuration.

CA-44 – Janice Hahn (D) – Newly elected Rep. Hahn will likely draw a challenge from fellow Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA-37) and state Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D). The seat is heavily minority, so facing either a strong African-American or Hispanic opponent in the general election could doom Hahn’s re-election chances.

CA-52 – Brian Bilbray (R) – Rep. Bilbray was paired with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) in new district 49, but will run in the new 52nd. The seat should elect a Republican, but the Democrats are competitive. Former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D) has already announced her candidacy.

GA-12 – John Barrow (D) – Assuming the current Georgia redistricting map passes the Georgia Senate and is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R), Rep. Barrow will find himself in a much more competitive district. The new 12th will go from a mid-50s Obama district to one in the mid-40s. The African-American population drops precipitously, as well.

IL-8/14 – Joe Walsh (R)/Randy Hultgren (R) – Another Republican pairing. Rep. Walsh’s current 8th district was eviscerated in redistricting. His best chance at winning re-election to a second term is to challenge fellow GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in new District 14. A child support payment scandal surrounding Walsh puts Hultgren in the early favorite’s position.

IL-10 – Bob Dold (R) – Redistricting makes the marginal 10th even more Democratic. Freshman Rep. Dold has already announced he will run for re-election here.

IL-11 – Adam Kinzinger (R)/Judy Biggert (R) – Rep. Kinzinger, like Mr. Dreier in California, saw his current district split multiple ways. He will have several choices of where to seek re-election. New district 11 is certainly one of his options, but none are particularly appealing unless Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL-16) decides to retire. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) could also seek re-election here, though the new 11th is much more Democratic than her current seat. Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-14) has already announced his candidacy in this newly configured seat as has a strong chance to convert it to the Democratic column, particularly with President Obama leading the ticket.

IL-13 – Tim Johnson (R) – Originally paired with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) in the new 15th District, Rep. Johnson has chosen to seek re-election in the marginal 13th District. He can expect serious general election competition.

IL-17 – Bobby Schilling (R) – Though redistricting brought the seat back toward Schilling’s base in the Quad Cities region, the new 17th will be even more Democratic than the previous district. Several strong Dem challengers are already running. Schilling finds himself in a toss-up situation, at best.
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