It's been a few months since I posted here on Daily Kos (family, work, and other stuff have kept me from writing anything of substance), so a lot has happened in the meantime. Rather than posting another data analysis piece, I thought I'd describe some of what has happened, and where things stand now. I'll get back to some data analysis soon, though.
For those of you reading one of my diaries for the first time, I spent some time last fall analyzing the Congressional race in CA-42. My good friend, Tim Sheridan, is running to unseat the incumbent Republican, Ken Calvert. Full disclosure: I am not formally associated with his campaign (ie. they don't pay me the big bucks - or any bucks at all), but I am an avid supporter, so I don't pretend to any particular level of objectivity here. I also helped his campaign set up their own Daily Kos account, Sheridan for Congress CA 42, and will help manage that account until the campaign is able to manage it themselves. My wife also serves as Tim's Campaign Treasurer. So now you know what a partisan hack I am. But having said that, I am writing here entirely on my own, and I am sharing my honest opinion about the campaign and Tim's chances of winning in November.
On that note, go check out his website, like his Facebook page, and throw him a few bucks on Actblue:
Okay, so let's talk about where things stand in CA-42 below the fold...
Here's the short story - Tim Sheridan is now the clear frontrunner to oppose Ken Calvert in November. The District leans Republican, but it is winnable in light of the demographics of the district and the low popularity of Calvert. On the upside, Tim's campaign is dynamic and growing at the grassroots level. The downside is, his campaign is chronically underfunded. Tim is working his butt off, and the effort is starting to pay off in endorsements and more money, but there is a LONG way to go to be financially competitive after the primary on June 3.
Longer story - On the Democratic side, there were five candidates running for this seat last fall. The Democratic nominee in 2012, Michael Williamson, has since dropped out. That leaves Tim Sheridan and "the others." I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but only to highlight that Tim is the only competitive candidate at this point.
Earlier this month, Tim earned the pre-convention endorsement of the Riverside Democratic Party with 36 of 38 votes - 94.7% of the vote. One of the other Democratic hopefuls had the endorsement of two Members of Congress, so this vote is a real testament to the strength of Tim's campaign.
The county Democrats’ vote for Sheridan this week is the first step in the California Democratic Party's process of endorsing candidates for state and federal office in advance of the state’s primary election. The statewide endorsements will occur at a Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, March 7-9. Assuming that Tim receives the CA Democratic Party's endorsement, Tim will be the clear front-runner to challenge Ken Calvert in the primary (June 3). The top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of political party, will qualify for the general election in November. I have every expectation that Tim will be on the ballot in November.
The positives in Tim's campaign:
The big one (in my mind) is Bill Hedrick, the Democratic candidate against Ken Calvert in 2008 and 2012. Bill was a progressive favorite, and lost just 48-52 in 2008. That race was in a different district (before the 2010 redistricting), but his endorsement should be a big green light to the progressive community to get involved in this race.
Tom Schaller, author of "Whistling Past Dixie." Another Democratic stalwart supporting Tim is really great to see. I know that they met many years ago, but that only makes the endorsement more relevant, in my mind.
The San Bernardino/Riverside Counties Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, as well as the Building and Construction Trades Council. This are big endorsements too. It means that the California Federation of Labor will likely endorse Tim at their pre-primary convention, and that can mean significant resources in terms of money and volunteers.
The Riverside County Democratic endorsement. This is huge in itself, because it means that the state level Democratic Party is almost certain to endorse Tim in advance of the June 3 Primary. With four Democrats on the ballot, the risk was real that the Democratic vote would have been split, and perhaps allowed two Republicans to advance to the general election in November. As the Democratic candidate with the endorsement of the party, that risk is greatly reduced.
Tim has been working on this campaign for years, truthfully, and that effort has paid off in spades in terms of volunteers. He has a committed team working on his behalf, and their efforts were critical to winning the Riverside County Democratic endorsement with 95% of the vote.
The enthusiasm is infectious, and that's always a fantastic feature of a campaign, especially one that hasn't appeared on anyone's radar screen nationally. It also means that even with the low fundraising so far, the campaign has been able to make huge strides in raising awareness within the District.
Fun fact - when an article featuring Tim Sheridan was published on politicususa.com back in December, the Ken Calvert campaign actually took the time to run ads on that site. When they have the attention of the incumbent, you know they are doing something right. Although the Calvert ads are not running anymore, here's the article:
Ken Calvert - if there is a less deserving incumbent running for re-election, I'm not aware of him or her. At least America's Dumbest Congressman(tm), Louis Gohmert, is popular back home. Ken Calvert doesn't even have that saving grace. He has accomplished virtually nothing in the 20 years he's been in Congress. Calvert raised $544,000 last quarter, and only $6,000 of that came from small donors. That's about 1% folks. Half came from PAC's, and the other half came from large donors. His website explicitly supports building a fence to keep "illegals" out - in a district that is 38% Hispanic! The only reason he won by such a large margin in 2012 is because the Democratic nominee was "some dude" Michael Williamson who doesn't live in the district, never campaigned during the election, and failed to raise enough money to even require filing with the FEC (less than $5,000). Republicans may hold a registration advantage in the district, but if we experience another wave year in 2014, and Democrats make a serious investment in this campaign, Calvert is exactly the kind of incumbent who would fall.
If ever there was a Republican vulnerable to losing in the upset of 2014, Calvert is it.
Money money money. There is no way to dance around this - the fundraising has been terrible. Tim's campaign has really struggled to raise money, and they have only raised about $10,000 (that is not including Tim's own contributions so far). Knowing how hard Tim is working, and how good he is with people, my guess is that this isn't so much about Tim personally as it has been with the dynamics of the race.
Tim is not independently wealthy, and does not have wealthy friends who can bankroll his campaign. The campaign has to raise money the old-fashioned way. But to a casual potential donor, it's hard to justify spending money on this race. It's an R+10 district with a 20 year incumbent who won by 30 points in 2012, which is an uphill climb under any circumstances. Calvert had $640,000 in the bank as of December 31. That's not a lot by national standards, but in the absence of a well-funded opponent, it's Mount Everest. So a lot of the establishment Democratic donors have stayed on the sidelines so far.
To make matters worse, there have been up to five Democratic candidates in this district. The Democratic nominee in 2012, Michael Williamson, has since dropped out, and another candidate, Boyd Roberts, has barely campaigned. But the two other candidates, Chris Marquez, and Kerri Condley, have been campaigning. The result is that many potential donors have chosen to sit on the sideline during the primary. In California's "jungle primary" system, the top two vote getters in the primary advance to the general election, even if they are from the same party. With the Democratic vote split among four candidates in a relatively conservative district, the concern is that two Republicans will end up receiving the top two vote totals, and shut the Democrats out completely in November.
As mentioned above, Tim's endorsement by the Riverside County Democrats, and likely endorsement by the state CA Dems, means that the risk of a split Democratic vote will go way down. When potential donors see that the Democratic Party is rallying around a single candidate, that makes it more likely that they'll donate. And that is what appears to be happening now.
As with so many grassroots campaigns, a large pool of $5 donors would make a huge difference. Few donors want to risk contributing $1,000 on a campaign that looks like a longshot. But everyone can afford to chip in $5 to support a great candidate who is running a great campaign. And as we all know, the more money a candidate raises, the easier it is to raise even more.
If you live in CA-42, you already know what a waste of space Ken Calvert is. Go donate $5 to help kick him out of office, and get a bold progressive in his place! If you live outside of CA-42, help a principled progressive candidate take on a Republican hack. Ken Calvert is a very flawed candidate, and it only takes one "macaca" moment to completely change the dynamics of this race. Calvert's racially tinged opposition to immigration reform should be enough by itself to motivate everyone on DK to donate $5.
I won't sugarcoat my analysis - I think Tim is running a steep uphill climb here. Calvert has a lot of money (comparatively speaking) and without money of his own, Tim will struggle all the way to the end. But here's the thing - Tim is running hard every single day. He's making the calls, knocking on doors, recruiting volunteers, building enthusiasm for his campaign, getting his name out there. All of that may end up meaning nothing, but all the pieces are in place to take advantage of every opportunity. I really mean it when I say that it only takes one "macaca" moment. If and when it happens, Tim's campaign is in an excellent position to take advantage of it, and some really excellent things might happen. And that's all one can ask for under the circumstances.
If you've made it this far, please chip in $5. Thanks so much!