I decided to do a double feature for these diaries, since the election is close and I wanted to offer my analysis on both of these seats.
CA-24 reverted to a form similar to the 1992-2002 configuration after redistricting and that also returned it to being a competitive seat. Rep. Lois Capps won the seat three times in that configuration and is well positioned to do that again. Years before that, the seat was ancestrally Republican, held for years by Bob Largomarsino, who was primaried out by Michael Huffington. When Huffington vacated the seat to run for Senate against Dianne Feinstein, he was replaced by Andrea Seastrand, who was hardcore right-wing and only narrowly defeated Democrat Walter Capps, he went on to win the seat narrowly in 1996.
Even though that competitive seat is back now, it does have more of a Democratic lean than it did those years ago, which is mostly due to Santa Barbara proper and San Luis Obispo proper, as it has they have tilted more liberal since. Santa Barbara's neighborhoods are very interesting in voting patterns, regardless of income level, all of them vote very Democratic. Some more vote more Democratic than others, which is the case with all neighborhoods in an city, but still, the margins are not as polarized between income levels as some other places are. Santa Barbara is also one of the few places to have an increase in white population (75% white in 2010, vs. 74% white in 2000), yet still trend more Democratic, which is impressive by political standards. In the CA-24 race, Maldonado's biggest hurdle is the heavy lift of gaining in Santa Barbara, not just because of the political demographics, but because of Capps being well liked and also being from Santa Barbara proper. If this was an open seat, it would be a different story, but even then, Democrats would still have a strong chance.
The only areas of the city Maldonado would have a chance to gain votes in are Los Positas and San Roque, which are very Democratic, but less so than the Downtown, Eastside and Westside. Both the Eastside and Westside are majority Hispanic and lower income, while Downtown has a strong abundance of progressive. Los Positas and San Roque are more suburban and middle to upper income. Another neighborhood is The Riviera, which is high income, but very Democratic and reliably so. Unincorporated Mission Canyon is also fairly wealthy, yet very Democratic. Maldonado has the best chance at running up large number in the unincorporated area between Goleta and Santa Barbara, which is more Republican leaning. Overall, Santa Barbara is a really strong Democratic anchor.
The rest of the county votes fairly Republican, but Capps will can do better than the required benchmarks in each of the municipalities in interior Santa Barbara County. Lompoc has a narrow GOP registration advantage (48 voters) while Santa Maria has a Democratic registration advantage (2000 voters) and both these places will be critical to Capps' overall numbers. Staying at 40% or above it is a must. Santa Maria being Maldonado's hometown would suggest that he would over perform, but it is in Capps' current district, so she has an advantage of incumbency there, which could cancel out an over performance by Maldonado.
As you can see, unincorporated Santa Barbara County weighs heavily in the vote distribution. In coastal county, you have Isla Vista, the college community which votes overwhelmingly Democratic and in north county, you have Orcutt, a suburban community that votes overwhelmingly Republican. Turnout among UCSB students in Isla Vista is necessarily for Capps to meet a good benchmark and in a presidential year, she'll get it. Maldonado will look to over perform in Orcutt, but some conservatives might sit it out because of his tax increase vote in the state senate.
Out in San Luis Obispo County, Republicans have registration advantages in most of the cities, but Democratic San Luis Obispo proper equals a good portion of the vote share of the county overall. San Luis Obispo is a fairly progressive town, so Capps meeting the benchmark highly likely. Even if Maldonado heavily over performs everywhere else in the county, as long as Capps posts strong benchmarks in San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, she wins. I do expect her to hold her own better than these benchmarks suggest, I just wanted to demonstrate what a very narrow win would look like.
|El Paso De Robles||4.05%||40.00%||60.00%|
CA-36 was ranked Likely Republican for most of the cycle, as there was always a slight chance that it could become a competitive race. Well, that slight chance panned out, as the race is now a Toss-Up, with committees from both parties dropping big bucks in the home stretch. Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs (or Ft. Myers) faces a strong challenge from Dr. Raul Ruiz of Coachella. Bono Mack has shown that she is in a tough position, as she has attacked Ruiz over his arrest at a protest years ago and for reading a letter from a rebel leader about Leonard Peltier, but neither of those things has stopped PACs from spending. The Desert Sun, the main newspaper in the Coachella Valley, where CA-36 is centered, gave it's endorsement to Ruiz, stating that Bono Mack has done good in the past, but is now too comfortable in Washington and also too negative in campaigning. There was also the revelation of Bono Mack seemingly agreeing in amusement with a radio host who called Coachella a “third world toilet”. Bono Mack has also come under criticism by a prominent band of Native Americans in the area for her negativity and for her claim that the band is controlled by Democrats.
As you know, Bono Mack replaced her late husband, Sonny Bono in the seat back in 1998 and has had little trouble holding the seat since. It has been a Republican-held seat since it's creation after the 1980 census. The closest any Democrat came to winning it was in 1990 when Al McCandless was held to a 5% majority by Ralph Waite (better known for starring John Walton on the series the Waltons). But over time, demographics and redistricting have made this a prime opportunity for Democrats.
From a standpoint of presidential numbers and PVI, this district didn't change, but what did change was the amount of very safe Republican territory that Bono Mack could rely on. Strongly Republican Murrieta was dropped and that took away some of Bono Mack's security. In it's place, less Republican leaning territory was added, such as Banning and Beaumont, along with San Jacinto. Let's look at the numbers.