This diary will look at the competitive House elections in California. There are two important events that help shape this year's elections. Firstly, instead the boring old incumbent protection maps used in the last decade, Californians opted for an independent redistricting committee. Thus, several brand new competitive seats were created and Democrats have the opportunity to make some decent gains in the state. The second issue is that California recently passed a top two primary system. Instead of separate primaries for each party, all candidates run on the same ballot, with the top two highest vote-getters advancing to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. The main concern is being careful not to run too many candidates, which could split the vote and leave a free seat that has two Republicans in the general election. Believe it or not this not new for California, which opted to test out this jungle primary system during the 1998 and 2000 elections. This article is a must read for insight about how those two elections turned out for the state and what it will mean for this year's elections. The main takeaways are:
-The electorate for the primaries is very different from the General election. In fact the primary electorate tends to be much smaller, skew more in favor or Republicans less toward Democratic minorities.
Turnout soars in California between primaries and general elections, as it does everywhere else. In 2000, over 10.4 million people voted in November after fewer than 7.9 million turned out for the primary. More than 12.3 million Californians voted in the 2008 general election, but fewer than 5 million turned out for the primary this June. The data points to one conclusion: A preponderance of the new general election voters each year favor Democrats, and that helps them improve margins from the primarySo the key here is to ensure the Democrat advances to general election whether it be first or second place.
Democratic general election candidates were far more likely to improve upon their primary showings (and to improve by a greater extent) than were Republicans. Of the 83 races in which one party clearly improved its fortunes between primary day and the general election, the net Democratic vote increased (and the net GOP vote fell) in 66 of them, while Republican vote totals improved in only 17.Basically don't get too worked up if Democratic incumbent came in slightly behind. In many of these races (like the ones I've rated likely/lean D) you can treat the Democratic vote as a "floors that they are likely to build upon for the general, when turnout will surely increase." Instead its Republican who come in slightly behind that have to worry about the general election in which they will face a less friendly electorate. Anyways without further ado lets on get on to the competitive races. Follow me below the fold
Winning the House:
Democrats currently have 34D-19R US House Delegation Advantage.
Many of the seats are safe for one party and such I will mainly be looking at the competitive races.
I also like using the LA times Interactive site to follow along with these races.
The ratings I use are as follows:
Lock(0% chance of an opposing party win as the top 2 contain candidates from the same party)
Safe(Candidate is all but assured of a win, about 1% of chance of the opposing party winning, again it will take some major scandal or problem on the incumbent's part to make it happen)
Favored(Candidate is heavily favored, Less than 5% chance of the opposing party winning)
Likely (Candidate still has nice advantage, a 10%-15% chance of the opposing party winning)
Lean (Candidate has decent advantage, a 20%-35% chance of the opposing party pulling an upset)
Tilt (Candidate narrowly favored to win, 45% chance the opposing party wins)
Tossup (no clear favorite)
Likely Democratic (5 seats)
California's 3rd Congressional Seat
President: 55% Obama - 42% McCain
Governor: 50% Brown - 43% Whitman
Senator: 45% Boxer - 46% Fiorina
Incumbent Democrat John Garamendi was drawn into a more competitive seat which still leans democratic. The seat is similar to the old 3rd district map drawn in 1991, held by long time congressman Vic Fazio. Garamendi's main opponent was Republican County Supervisor Kim Vann. The end result of the primaries was decisive lead for Garemendi who took 52.8% of the vote compared to Vann's 25%. Garamendi will be expected to increase his margin of victory with high turnout from yolo county (one of the most Democratic countis in CA, which hasn't voted for an R president since 1952) and UC Davis this fall.
08/27/12 GBA Strategies (D) Garamendi 54% - Vann 39%
07/25/12 DCCC/IVR (D) Garamendi 52% - Vann 37%
With the growth of both San Joaquin County and eastern Contra Costa County the commission drew a district that includes all of Stockton and a portion of eastern Contra Costa County, including Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood. Democrats have a 9-point registration advantage here and both Obama and Brown won it. The key that kept this district Democratic is the eastern Contra Costa County portion, even though most of the population is in the Central Valley. Otherwise, it would have been a highly competitive district.Incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney decided to run in a district that is slightly more friendlier to him that his previous district. The much hyped GOP Contender Ricky Gill, know for his fundraising prowess, ended up with a meager 39% of the vote compared to McNerney's 48%. While the combined partisan vote total is at 52-48 GOP advantage, Democrats still have a healthy registration advantage. Gill has continued to outraise McNerney and now has more cash on hand than the incumbent. But McNerney still should be favored to win in the fall as Obama should easily carry the district. Honestly if Republicans couldn't defeat McNerny in the 2010 red wave, they will have a much harder battle in a bluer district with Presidential headwinds.
07/26/12 Tarrance Group (R) McNerney 47% - Gill 45%
07/11/12 Lake Research (D) McNerney 49% - Gill 33%
California's 16th Congressional seat
Democratic Congressman Jim Costa is running in heavily Hispanic district in which Democrats have a 15-point registration advantage. In the primary Costa led the field with 42.2% of the vote while 3 Republicans split the vote. His nearest Republican opponent, Brian Daniel Whelan, mustered 25.7%. The combined partisan vote was 51.8%-48.2% Democratic advantage.While Costa has faced a close races in 2010, heavy turnout from Latino voters in the fall general election will allow him coast to a 5th term.
California's 24th Congressional District
The new district captures all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties--two neighboring counties with very different political bents. SLO is the more conservative, largely agricultural district, while Santa Barbara leans to the left with a heavy reliance on tourism and the University of California.Democratic Congresswoman Lois Capps was drawn into a competitive but Dem leaning district where she faced Former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado and conservative Chris Mitchum. Capps lead the field with 46.5% of the vote compared to Maldonado's 30.5%. Maldonado's has been touted as strong challenger since he represented much of the district when he was a state senator. He also carried the district against Gavin Newsom in his failed run of Lt. Gov in 2010. But Maldonado's greatest weakness comes from the fact that he has never inspired conservatives in his party. He failed to win the endorsement on the Santa Barbara County GOP, was roundly booed at state GOP convention 2010, and has earned the ire of conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. Now Capps has had experience running in a swing districts before when she first ran back in 1998 for her late husband's seat. This along with a Democratic lean of the seat should be enough to ensure a Democratic victory in November.
10/03/12 Public Opinion (R) Maldonado 45% - Capps 44%
07/23/12 DCCC (D) Capps 51% - Maldonado 40%
California's 47th Congressional District
Democratic State Senator Alan Lowenthal came first with 33.3% of the vote. His nearest competitor was Republican Gary Delong who garnered 29.7% of the vote. Democratic candidates won a combined 48% of the vote in this Long beach District. Lowenthal should be able to consolidate his support in this Dem leaning district and is favored to win here.
DCCC: Alan Lowenthal (D) 47, Gary DeLong (R) 36
Lean Democratic (1 seat)
California's 52nd Congressional Seat
Incumbent Republican Brian Billbray finds himself in a tight spot as his district shifted from a seat that Obama carried with just 51% to now 55%. His Democratic competitor is San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters. Although Bilbray came in first with 41.2% of the vote, his low percentage shows that he will be in deep trouble in the November election. The combined vote in the district is just a narrow 48.8%-44.6% GOP Advantage. Peters has done his best consolidate his support and even picked up the endorsement of Nathan Fletcher, a former Republican (now Independent) mayoral candidate. Recent polling from the DCCC has the race tied at 45%. Peters leads by 1 point with independents and 22 points among moderates. Still I expect Bilbray not to go down with out a fight. Both parties a spending heavily in this district.
10/18/12 Bilbray Campaign (R) Bilbray 48% - Peters 44%
07/18/12 Grove Insight (D) Peters 40% - Bilbray 40%
Tilt Democratic (2 seats)
California's 26th Congressional District
Elton Gallegly's decision to retire opened up a swing district containing the cities of Oxnard, Ventura, and thousand oaks. Democrats were very fearful of getting shut out of the top 2 system here. This was due to the fact there were a total of 4 Democrats running while conservative state senator Tony Strickland was the sole Republican. To make matters worse Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks decide to switch her party affiliation from Republican to independent. Strickland was all but assured of making it into the top 2, the big question was to be who would be his opponent. Would Democrats running split the vote and send Linda Parks to the general election? Or could Democrats coalesce behind one candidate and edge out Parks? Fearing a possible shut out Democratic groups such as Emily's list began pouring money towards Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley. It was soon discovered that Linda Parks had little funding and was even using her own home as her campaign headquarters.
As expected Tony Strickland came in first with 44.3% of the vote. Julia Brownley succeeded in making into the top to with 26.8% of the vote to Linda Parks's 18.4% setting the stage for a competitive race in the fall. The district voted for President Obama easily in 2008 but narrowly favored Whitman and Fiorina in 2010. Now Tony Strickland was a very conservative state senator it will hard for him to reach 50% in this swing district. The key way for Brownley to win will be to consolidate the votes that went to Linda Parks. I give Brownley the slight edge due to the slight Democratic advantages of the seat along with a high turnout election where President Obama should carry the district easily again. Brownley has also begun to rack up endorsements from the LA Times and The Daily News
Daily News (07/26/2012): Brownley 48% - Strickland 44%
California's 41st District
Centered in the once conservative stronghold of the Inland Empire, changing demographics have made this once ruby red sector competitive. The new California maps created a democratic leaning minority/majority district, which contained the cities Moreno Valley and Riverside. Current conservative Republican Congressman Ken Calvert was moved into the much more Republican friendly CA-42, leaving a competitive open seat.
At a first glance this district looks like a very easy pick up as Obama won the district by 21 points, but this does not take account of the candidates running.
Democrats selected Riverside Community College trustee Mark Takano. Takano, who is no stranger to the area. He first ran here 20 years ago when the CA Courts drew a new open Riverside Congressional seat. That year he faced Republican Ken Calvert. Despite the Republican lean (R+6) Takano was able to hold Calvert to just 519 votes! The following year Calvert was caught in a prostitute scandal. Takano decided to challenge him again in the 1994 midterms. Calvert was able to make the scandal a mere footnote in the campaign and decide to viciously attack Takano's for his sexuality. Calvert ultimately triumphed by 20 points in the Republican friendly 1994 wave.
Republicans were wise to select Riverside County Supervisor John Tavagloine to be there standard bearer. The Tavaglione family has had rich history in the state as part of the good old boys network in the area. His term as county supervisor has fostered good relations with the people, so much to the point that many Democrats are amenable to voting for him. Tavaglione is not a crazy far right ideologue and instead portrays himself as a centrist. He has attempted shown himself receptive to gay issues as he has members in his family who are either gay or transgendered. A lot of the voters here love the job he's doing as county Supervisor and wish he would have just stayed on in that position rather than run for Congress.
Many credit Takano's stellar 1992 performance in R leaning seat as reason why Takano should win this race in walk. And truth be told if Takano faced Calvert again as his opponent it would be a much easier race. But instead Takano's opponent is the well connected Tavaglione. The primary results illustrate Tavaglione's strength in the region. The election results gave Tavaglione a lead with 44.99% of the vote compared to the Takano's 36.47%. And when you total the votes the district has a GOP advantage of 54.82% to 45.18%. So Takano will have his work cut out for him in the general election. I've rated this race as Tilt Dem because Takano does have the advantage of a Dem friendly district. If he can bring the Democrats back to his base he should be able to triumph in a high turnout November election. Should Takano win he would be the first openly gay member of color in congress.
08/12/12 EMC Research (D) Takano 42% - Tavaglione 38%
Tossup: 2 seats
California's 7th Congressional Seat
Incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Lungren is in the fight of his political life. Lungren himself hasn't had easy race since the 2006 election when he garnered 59% reelection vote. Since then he scored a 49% in 2008 and just 50.08% in 2010 against Democrat Ami Bera. Lungren's district has only gotten even more competitive with the new California maps and Bera is back again for a rematch. Known for his great fundraising hall in the previous election, Bera has continued to nearly draw even with Lungren this cycle. Election results gave Lungren a lead with 52.9% of the vote to Bera's 40.8%. Recent polling has had this race in tossup region
08/23/12 Garin Hart Yang (D) Bera 47% - Lungren 47%
California's 10th Congressional District
Freshman Republican Incumbent Jeff Denham was drawn into a competitive district which narrowly favored Obama. He faces Democratic Astronaut Jose Hernandez. Despite Denham's best efforts the Republicans failed to prevent Jose Hernandez from using his title as an astronaut for the ballot. Denham still had the advantage as he mustered a strong 49.2% of the vote compared to Hernandez's 28%. A key factor will be where Independent Candidate Chad Condit's votes go. Since the primaries the race has gotten very competitive with both parties spending heavily in the district. Expect this one to do down the wire on election night.
10/01/12 Momentum Analysis (D) Denham 45% - Hernandez 43%
California's 21st District
President: 52%Obama-46% McCain
Governor: 47%Brown-44% Whitman
Senate: 39% Boxer-50% Fiorina
This seat was supposed to be an easy hold until its sitting incumbent, Jim Costa, decided to run for Dennis Cardoza's open seat instead. Our fortunes soured even more as all the big name Democrats decided not to run. In the end the preferred establishment Dem
Candidate, Blong Xong lost to John Hernandez. The new maps made this district more Republican, but as you can see both President Obama and Governor Brown carried it. Republican David Valadao came in a strong first place with 57% of the vote, while Xong and Hernandez split the remaining 43% of the vote. Valadao's strong finish led many pundits to shift this race into the Safe R column. But the you also have to consider that this still a Democratic leaning distinct that has a 70% Latino population. As long as the Latino vote turns out strong this November Hernandez can win. Republicans have begun scrambling as "private polling is moving the wrong way on the GOP favorite, as Valadao's campaign has taken longer than usual to kick into gear." While Hernandez has been low on the cash front he has somehow managed to churn out a few political ads which more than be said of Valadao, who has only run one ad so far. Still Valadao has 650K in his campaign war chest and with that I still will give him the slight edge in this race. Even Valadao does win here, I expect the Democrats will mount a vigorous challenge in 2014.
10/15/12 FM3 Research (D) Valadao 41% - Hernandez 37%
08/15/12 Moore Info(R) Valadao 53% - Hernandez 33%
California's 36th Congressional District
President: 50% Obama-47% McCain
Governor: 43%Brown-49% Whitman
Senate: 42% Boxer-51% Fiorina
This district covers much of the Eastern Parts of Riverside County. Republican congresswoman Mary Bono Mack has been pretty much a fixture in the region, ever since she won this seat in 1998 after her husband, Sonny Bono, died. She has for the most part had only token opponents even as her district has slowly begun to shift to the left. Her most strongest challenge came from Palm Spring Mayor, Steve Pougnet, in 2010. But Pougnet was only able to muster 42% (which is the best showing for Democrat against Bono Mack). Redistricting moved the district ever so slightly to right as Obama had previously won 51.5% in the old configuration.
Mack received 58.2%of the vote to Democratic candidate, Raul Ruiz's 41.8%. Still in a district that is 48% Latino, Mack cannot rest on her laurels just yet. With the right election turnout Mack could be sent to an early retirement. Ruiz has been attacking Mack on a previous email from 2006 where it appeared that she referred to the Coachella (a city in her district) as a third world toilet.
Both Mack and Ruiz have traded dueling polling, with showing themselves ahead in the race. The race has continued to heat up as Mack released a information regarding Ruiz’s arrest as a college student at a “National Day of Mourning” protest of Thanksgiving. Despite this money has been pouring in from all sides. Mack has never truly faced a competitive election such this before. With the right minority turnout Ruiz could send Mack into an early retirement. Right now I give Mack the slight edge to thanks to her financial war chest, but keep the eye on this race as election night draws near.
08/15/12 Finkelstein and Associates(R) Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) 55, Raul Ruiz (D) 38
08/04/12 Lake Research Partners(D) Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) 43, Raul Ruiz (D) 46
CA-1: Safe R
CA-2: Safe D
CA-4: Safe R
CA-5: Safe D
CA-6: Safe D
CA-8: R Lock
CA-11: Safe D
CA-12: Safe D
CA-13: Safe D
CA-14: Safe D
CA-15: D Lock
CA-17: Safe D
CA-18: Safe D
CA-19: Safe D
CA-20: Safe D
CA-22: Safe R
CA-23: Safe R
CA-25: R Favored
CA-27: Safe D
CA-28: Safe D
CA-29: Safe D
CA-30: D Lock
CA-31: R Lock
CA-32: Safe D
CA-33: Safe D
CA-34: Safe D
CA-35: D Lock
CA-37: Safe D
CA-38: Safe D
CA-39: R Favored
CA-40: D Lock
CA-42: Safe R
CA-43: D Lock
CA-44: D Lock
CA-45: R Favored
CA-46: Safe D
CA-48: R Favored
CA-49: R Favored
CA-50: Safe R
CA-51: Safe D
CA-53: Safe D
When you add up all the seats counting the likely, lean, and tilt seats you get:
28 D(from list above) + 8D (competitive)= 36D
13 R(from list above) + 2(competitive)= 15R
36 Dems, 15 Reps and 2 tossups, which would be a net gain of 2 seats right off the bat.
If the Democrats run the table and win all the competitive seats they would end up with a 6 seat gain with a 40D-13R house delegation!
So I expect the Dems to have a net gain anywhere from 2 to 6 seats this November.
Well I hope you enjoyed my diary, feel free to give me your input and comments.
4:11 AM PT: Hey everyone I'm heading to DC for the weekend, I will do my best to respond to comments when I return.