Tag Archives: Lois Capps

The Battle for California

The 17 California House races are showing varying levels of competition, and the US Chamber of Commerce just laid down the gauntlet to help Republican candidates in 10 of the districts. The Chamber publicly disclosed they will spend upwards of $3.3 million just in the 10 Golden State districts. Among the group are three GOP incumbents, Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), and Brian Bilbray (R-CA-52). These ads feature a positive message.

In three others, Democratic incumbents are hit with negative ads. They are Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA-3), Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), and Lois Capps (D-CA-24).

Three new open seats are in the next group: CA-26 (Tony Strickland-R vs. Julia Brownley-D), CA-41 (John Tavaglione-R vs. Mark Takano-D) and CA-47 (Gary DeLong-R vs. Alan Lowenthal-D).

Finally, another Republican incumbent, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-7), also is receiving help but the ads in his Sacramento County district focus negative attention on his Democratic opponent, physician and 2010 congressional nominee Ami Bera.

All of the political ads begin with Darlene Miller, owner of the 2008 US Chamber Small Business of the Year, talking about the necessity of understanding which candidate to support. The graphics and voice-over then transition into the individual message for the particular district. The most creative of the ads may be their spot against Jose Hernandez, Rep. Denham’s Democratic opponent and former NASA astronaut whose own ads highlight his career exploring space. Based upon his announced support for Obamacare, the tag line asks “Jose, what planet are you on?”

Expect more outside organization media buys to now surface from all sides of the ideological spectrum.

Several Races Tighten: Fla., Ohio, Calif.

Rep. Connie Mack IV

Four new polls were released on Friday and each showed developing races that are becoming close. In yet another study that depicts Rep. Connie Mack IV
(R-FL-14) performing very well against two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Survey USA produces numbers reflecting a hot Florida Senate race. According to S-USA (July 17-19; 647 likely Florida voters), Mack actually leads the incumbent Democrat 48-42 percent. The same sample gives President Obama a 48-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney, telling us there is no Republican skew in the respondent sample.

Since May 1, eight public polls of this Florida race have been released from six different pollsters (Quinnipiac University conducted three of the surveys as part of their monthly polling program). In five of the eight Nelson leads. In the other three, challenger Mack has the advantage. The swing goes all the way from 49-36 percent in the senator’s favor (Public Policy Polling; May 31-June 3) to Mack leading 46-37 percent (Rasmussen Reports, July 9). This provides us a net curve of 22 points. Such a large polling variance often reveals an extremely volatile campaign with an electorate willing to change course on a dime. There has been enough polling to tell us that the Florida Senate race features true competition and the thought that Sen. Nelson would have a relatively easy ride to re-election has now been firmly dispelled.

Staying in the Senate, Rasmussen Reports (July 18; 500 likely Ohio voters) projects that the Ohio race is continuing upon a competitive path. The latest RR data gives first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) a 46-42 percent lead over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The senator has maintained at least a small lead for most of the previous 12-month period. In the presidential race, this Rasmussen sample returned a 47-46 percent spread in the president’s favor.

Other polls have shown much stronger leads for Sen. Brown. Seven surveys have been taken of the Ohio Senate race since the beginning of May, from four different pollsters. All show Brown ahead. His advantage ranges from the four-point lead in the current Rasmussen poll all the way to sixteen (50-34 percent; Quinnipiac University, June 19-25).

Polling also indicates that two southern California congressional campaigns are very close. In the new 24th Congressional District, in what appears to be a pure 50/50 toss-up seat for incumbent Rep. Lois Capps (D), Public Opinion Strategies, polling for Republican Abel Maldonado’s campaign (June 26-28; 400 registered CA-24 voters just now released), projects a two-point race with the incumbent leading 48-46 percent. In the jungle primary, Capps received 46.4 percent, Maldonado obtained 29.7 percent, and Republican Chris Mitchum, son of late actor Robert Mitchum, garnered 21.5 percent. With the combined Republican primary vote exceeding a majority of the ballots cast (51.2 percent), the general election battle is clearly becoming a toss-up.

To the southeast in Long Beach, another survey indicates a close race developing in a newly created open seat, numbered District 47. Here, Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal and Republican Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong qualified for the general election with the former scoring 33.8 percent to the latter’s 29.4 percent in a field of eight candidates.

Though this district sets up well for the Democrats, a Probolsky Research survey for the DeLong campaign (June 28-July 3, 400 registered CA-47 voters – released just now) gives Lowenthal only a 44-41 percent advantage as the general election campaign begins in earnest.

This race merits attention and should be considered a lower-level upset opportunity for Republicans. Lowenthal has been underwhelming on the fundraising front, raising just over $511,000, which pales in comparison to DeLong’s $862,908. Gov. Jerry Brown carried this seat 50-41 percent; Sen. Barbara Boxer won it 49-41 percent; and Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris lost the district 39-45 percent. The Democrats’ voter registration advantage is a little over 10 percent more than Republicans. This campaign carries a Lean Democratic rating with movement toward the toss-up column.

California Primary Highlights

The new California primary, as we knew it would with the new voting system that sends the top two finishers to the general election regardless of political party affiliation, produced some surprises.

We will provide in-depth coverage of these results when the large number of absentee ballots are finally added to last night’s totals, numbers that could change the order of some of the individual race standings. But, for now, the highlights:

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, considering this is largely a Democratic seat, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42), a major redistricting victim, appears to have qualified for the general election in the San Bernardino-based 31st District, very possibly against another Republican. With the election night votes counted, Miller led the jungle primary with 27 percent of the vote, no small feat in a new district where he has literally no carry over from his previous constituency, while state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R) is currently placing second with 25 percent. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) is third with 23 percent, but the absentee ballots could alter this order. Should it stand, this result would be a boon for Republicans because it would guarantee the party’s victory in the fall, since the general election would be between two members of the GOP. This would be an extraordinary outcome in a district that likely will elect Democrats in most elections.

Absentee ballots will definitely decide the outcome of the new 8th District, also largely a San Bernardino County seat, just to the east and north of CA-31. There, a four-way split among three Republicans and a Democrat will be sorted out to determine which two individuals advance to the general election. Two Republicans, right now, lead, but all four candidates are showing a 15 percent total. The pair of leaders are Assemblyman Paul Cook and homebuilder Gregg Imus. Democrat Jackie Conaway, a law office manager, is third and businessman Phil Liberatore, another Republican, is fourth, but the order could change drastically once all of the ballots are finally tabulated. San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, originally thought to be a potential general election qualifier, is in fifth place with 11 percent and likely out of the competition.

In the 30th District mega-congressional race between Democratic incumbents Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, both will qualify for the double-Democratic general election. Sherman placed first, with 42 percent, over Berman (32 percent). This is likely to become the most expensive congressional race in the United States. Sherman currently represents 58 percent of this new district while Berman only has 20 percent, thus explaining the order of last night’s outcome.

In another Democratic incumbent pairing, freshman Rep. Janice Hahn claimed a 60-40 percent placement victory against Rep. Laura Richardson, meaning the two will again square-off in the general election. Only about 33,000 votes were cast in this election, not counting more absentee ballots to follow but, since this was already a two-way race, the two would have advanced to the general election regardless of last night’s outcome.

In one of the new seats that the California redistricting commission created, GOP state Assemblyman David Valadao scored 57 percent against two Democrats in his Bakersfield-anchored congressional seat. Unless the absentees change the order, Valadao will face businessman John Hernandez in the general election and not Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong, as many expected. The size of Valadao’s primary victory gives him a major advantage in the general election. Such an outcome would be another major score for the California GOP.

In the marginal 26th District, GOP state Sen. Tony Strickland will advance to the general election very likely against state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D). Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a Republican who chose to run in this race as an Independent, is third, some eight percentage points behind Brownley so it is unlikely that the absentee count will change this order.

In the Oakland area, 20-term Rep. Pete Stark is headed for a double-Democratic general election against Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell, as expected. This could become, however, a very serious contest as Stark only finished first last night by a 42-36 percent margin. This is a campaign to watch in the fall because Stark is clearly in jeopardy of losing his seat, but the Democrats retain the district regardless of the final outcome.

In a race that avoided a double-Democrat general election, state Assemblyman Jared Huffman advanced to the November vote and will claim the seat at that time, as Republican Dan Roberts edged a split Democratic field for second place. The Democratic nature of the CD will yield an easy Huffman win later this year. Had another Democrat qualified, this contest would have become very interesting.

A dozen incumbents, including members such as Stark, Henry Waxman, Jeff Denham, Lois Capps, Grace Napolitano and Brian Bilbray to name a few, finished with less than 50 percent of the total vote, suggesting further potential competition in the general election.

Much more to come on the California races once the final vote tallies become known.

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.

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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