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While my home state of California continues to fry under the winter sun and faces the worst drought in 500 years, its political world continues to flow with juice and intrigue. As the candidate filing deadline approaches and candidates' year-end campaign finance reports are scrutinized, we begin to get a feel for what 2014 will look like and how Democrats will fare this election.

Some immediate takeaway points:

  • Democrats made things harder for themselves with second-tier candidates in several competitive districts. This is more obvious in the Central Valley state senate districts and the Inland Empire state assembly districts.
  • The Republican bench remains a pathetic joke. The party's habit of nominating millionaires for governor has lost its shine, but the only thinkable alternative of nominating a Tea Partier guarantees an implosion of Alabama Democratic Party proportions.
  • There has been some hype about Latinos and Asian Americans going head-to-head in contentious races. This might actually hold true, but there's more nuance to it than the article suggests, and ethnicity is only one factor among many.

On to the good stuff below the fold.

For reference:

Candidate filing deadline (for seats with incumbents): Friday, March 7
Candidate filing deadline (for open seats): Wednesday, March 12
Primary election date: Tuesday, June 3
General election date: Tuesday, November 5
08/12 PVI: D+10
2012 PVI: D+11
2012 Pres results: 60.2% Obama, 37.1% Romney



Statewide offices

Governor
Incumbent: Jerry Brown (D)
2010 results: 53.8% Jerry Brown (D), 40.9% Meg Whitman (R)
Major candidates: Jerry Brown (D), Tim Donnelly (R), Neel Kashkari (R)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Brown, the curmudgeonly patriarch of California politics, is still as invincible as ever with over $17 million in the bank. Kashkari, former overseer of the 2008 TARP bailout program, is desperately trying to be the establishment standard-bearer for the GOP, raising $900,000 in a few weeks after announcing his candidacy. Donnelly's tea-soaked campaign continues to trudge onward despite lack of funds and support. Whichever Republican gets a spot in June will have the dubious honor of getting crushed in November.

Lieutenant Governor
Incumbent: Gavin Newsom (D)
2010 results: 50.2% Gavin Newsom (D), 39.0% Abel Maldonado (R)
Major candidates: Gavin Newsom (D), Ron Nehring (R)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Newsom continues to flip and flop like a slimy fish, but should win another term as benchwarmer. Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, recently announced his candidacy but functions more like a sacrificial lamb.

Attorney General
Incumbent: Kamala Harris (D)
2010 results: 46.1% Kamala Harris (D), 45.3% Steve Cooley (R)
Major candidates: Kamala Harris (D), Orly Taitz (R)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Harris barely squeaked through last time as the weakest possible statewide Democrat facing the strongest possible Republican in a Republican wave year. After four years of mostly putting her head down and working in the background, she has a lock on reelection and can foster her ambitions for higher office. Her margin of victory could range from big to very big, depending on what people think of the completely unhinged Taitz and if a saner Republican gets in.

Controller
Incumbent: John Chiang (D)
2010 results: 55.2% John Chiang (D), 36.1% Tony Strickland (R)
Major candidates: John Perez (D), Betty Yee (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Perez, the assembly speaker, has vacuumed up endorsements and cash. Yee, a current Board of Equalization member, got into the race first and was almost a shoo-in until Perez came into the picture, leaving Yee with much sympathy from the party but little else.

Treasurer
Incumbent: Bill Lockyer (D)
2010 results: 56.5% Bill Lockyer (D), 36.2% Mimi Walters (R)
Major candidates: Ellen Brown (G), John Chiang (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

While other statewide offices has at least pseudo-contested races, Chiang is still running effectively unopposed. Chiang will stomp any Republican that offers him/herself as tribute.

Secretary of State
Incumbent: Debra Bowen (D)
2010 results: 53.2% Debra Bowen (D), 38.2% Damon Dunn (R)
Major candidates: Derek Cressman (D), Alex Padilla (D), Pete Peterson (R), Dan Schnur (NPP), Leland Yee (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

The field is dominated by Padilla and Yee, sitting state senators from opposite ends of the state, while the others languish behind. Schnur, a former Republican operative and current UC Berkeley instructor, has captured some interest but is little more than an interesting footnote.

Insurance Commissioner
Incumbent: Dave Jones (D)
2010 results: 50.6% Dave Jones (D), 37.6% Mike Villines (R)
Major candidates: Dave Jones (D), Ted Gaines (R)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Unlike the federal health insurance exchange, there have been much fewer hiccups with the state exchange. In this case, no news is good news, and Jones should coast of reelection.

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Incumbent: Tom Torlakson (D)
2010 results: 54.6% Tom Torlakson (D), 44.9% Larry Aceves (I)
Major candidates: Tom Torlakson (D), Marshall Tuck (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Interestingly, this may actually be one of the more contentious races. This has become a proxy battle about charter schools, with Torlakson, a former teacher facing off against Tuck, a nonprofit executive that oversaw several charter schools in Los Angeles. Torlakson has the teachers unions on his side while Tuck will have the reformers. Unlike other offices, this office is nonpartisan and is exempt from top-two in certain cases. If a candidate gets over 50% in June, then it's done; there's no November round.



Congress


Congress election ratings
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes an open seat. A dagger (†) denotes a major intraparty race.
Safe Dem Likely Dem Lean Dem Tossup Lean GOP Likely GOP Safe GOP
2, 3, 5,
6, 9, 11*,
12, 13, 14,
15†, 16, 17†,
18, 19, 20,
24, 27, 28,
29, 30, 32,
33*†, 34, 35*,
37, 38, 40,
41, 43, 44,
46, 47, 51,
53
31*
7, 26, 52
36
21
10, 25*
1, 4, 8,
22, 23, 39,
42, 45*, 48,
49, 50
34 CDs 1 CD 3 CDs 1 CD 1 CD 2 CDs 11 CDs
CD-07 - Sacramento suburbs: Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove
Incumbent: Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove)
08/12 PVI: EVEN
2012 PVI: D+1
2012 Pres results: 50.7% Obama, 46.7% Romney
2012 Cong results: 51.7% Ami Bera (D), 48.3% Dan Lungren (R)
Major candidates: Ami Bera (D), Igor Birman (R), Elizabeth Emken (R), Doug Ose (R)
Rating: Lean Democratic

Bera has raised more money and has more cash on hand than all his opponents combined. The Republicans will have a huge fight, especially between the moderate former congressman Ose and Tea Party darling Birman, Tom McClintock's former chief of staff, emerging battered and bruised to face Bera in November.

CD-10 - Central Valley: Modesto, Turlock, Tracy
Incumbent: Jeff Denham (R-Turlock)
08/12 PVI: R+1
2012 PVI: D+1
2012 pres results: 50.5% Obama, 46.9% Romney
2012 cong results: 52.7% Jeff Denham (R), 47.3% Jose Hernandez (D)
Major candidates: Jeff Denham (R), Michael Eggman (D)
Rating: Likely Republican from Lean Republican

Denham has been hitting the right notes so far (save his shutdown votes) and has raised over $1 million, compared to the $384k haul for Eggman, a beekeeper. Right now, I think 2016 might be a better bet to flip this seat.

CD-15 - East Bay: Hayward, Livermore, San Ramon
Incumbent: Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin)
08/12 PVI: D+17
2012 PVI: D+18
2012 pres results: 68.0% Obama, 29.8% Romney
2012 cong results: 52.1% Eric Swalwell (D), 47.9% Pete Stark (D)
Major candidates: Eric Swalwell (D), Ellen Corbett (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Likely Swalwell

One year after knocking off a 20-term incumbent, Swalwell has mostly placated the establishment but has not yet solidified his hold on the district and the grassroots. The Democratic endorsement, usually little more than a formality for incumbents, is up for grabs at the state party convention in March. Corbett, the state senate majority leader, will give Swalwell a strong challenge but probably not prevail at both the convention floor and the ballot box.

CD-17 - Silicon Valley: Fremont, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale
Incumbent: Mike Honda (D-San Jose)
08/12 PVI: D+20
2012 PVI: D+23
2012 pres results: 71.9% Obama, 25.5% Romney
2012 cong results: 73.5% Mike Honda (D), 26.5% Evelyn Li (R)
Major candidates: Mike Honda (D), Ro Khanna (D), Vanila Singh (R)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Likely Honda

For all the hype about "disrupting politics" and the rise of tech influence in the political area, it should be Khanna's constant opportunism and district-shopping that should be disrupted with prejudice. Honda still has a lock on the Democratic base, but will have to work to convince independent voters to choose him again. Khanna, for his part, has Singh nipping away at his Indian-American flank, and might not make it to November if Singh is indeed bankrolled by Hindu nationalist tycoon Shalabh Kumar.

CD-21 - Central Valley: Hanford, Wasco, Bakersfield
Incumbent: David Valadao (R-Hanford)
08/12 PVI: D+2
2012 PVI: D+5
2012 pres results: 54.6% Obama, 43.5% Romney
2012 cong results: 57.8% David Valadao (R), 42.2% John Hernandez (D)
Major candidates: David Valadao (R), John Hernandez (D), Amanda Renteria (D)
Rating: Lean Republican

Valadao is never safe, but he still has the upper hand as Renteria, a former Dianne Feinstein staffer and chief of staff to Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow, is still unknown in much of the district. The outcome may hinge on the result of the overlapping SD-14, which may drag this race one way or the other.

CD-25 - Antelope/Santa Clarita Valleys: Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley
Incumbent: Buck McKeon (R-Santa Clarita)
08/12 PVI: R+3
2012 PVI: R+2
2012 pres results: 47.8% Obama, 49.7% Romney
2012 cong results: 54.8% Buck McKeon (R), 45.2% Lee Rogers (D)
Major candidates: Steve Knight (R), Lee Rogers (D), Tony Strickland (R)
Rating: Likely Republican

The field has boiled down to three main candidates, with state senator Steve Knight and former state senator Tony Strickland battling it out. The vagaries of the top-two primary (namely, low Democratic turnout) mean that the two Republicans might be the two candidates making it to November, shutting the Democrats out entirely. That could doom Steve Fox in AD-36 (more below). Even if Lee Rogers, a podiatrist, makes it through, the GOPer in the other slot has the advantage given turnout. Like CD-21, it might have to wait until 2016 to flip.

CD-26 - Ventura County: Oxnard, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks
Incumbent: Julia Brownley (D-Oak Park)
08/12 PVI: D+4
2012 PVI: D+4
2012 pres results: 54.0% Obama, 43.7% Romney
2012 cong results: 52.7% Julia Brownley (D), 47.3% Tony Strickland (R)
Major candidates: Julia Brownley (D), Jeff Gorell (R)
Rating: Lean Democratic from Likely Democratic

Gorell's entrance into the race complicates Brownley's reelection prospects. Unlike Strickland in 2012, Gorell, an assemblyman, is much less polarizing and has a moderate reputation. Lower turnout in Latino-heavy Oxnard is a significant factor, but Brownley's incumbency and inoffensive tenure should pull her through.

CD-31 - Inland Empire: Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Redlands
Incumbent: Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga)
08/12 PVI: D+6
2012 PVI: D+7
2012 pres results: 57.2% Obama, 40.6% Romney
2012 cong results: 55.2% Gary Miller (R), 44.8% Bob Dutton (R)
Major candidates: Pete Aguilar (D), Joe Baca (D), Paul Chabot (R), Leslie Gooch (R), Eloise Gomez Reyes (D), Danny Tillman (D), John Valdivia (R)
Rating: Likely Democratic

Gary Miller's retirement has created a circus for both sides as Democrats struggle to avoid a repeat of 2012. Fortunately or unfortunately, the two frontrunners are now Democrats: Aguilar, mayor of Redlands, and Reyes, an attorney. No one knows who will emerge alive in June, and Democratic chances of picking up this otherwise solidly blue seat hinge on exactly that.

CD-33 - West LA/South Bay: Hollywood, Santa Monica, Palos Verdes
Incumbent: Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles)
08/12 PVI: D+12
2012 PVI: D+11
2012 pres results: 60.6% Obama, 36.8% Romney
2012 cong results: 54.0% Henry Waxman (D), 46.0% Bill Bloomfield (NPP)
Major candidates: Emily Carr (R), Wendy Greuel (D), Ted Lieu (D), Matt Miller (D), Marianne Williamson (NPP)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Tossup Greuel/Lieu

Waxman's retirement opened a torrent of pent-up Democratic ambition, only to see it shut off abruptly with two candidates making it through: Wendy Greuel, former LA mayoral candidate and state senator Ted Lieu. Lieu grabbed the state party pre-endorsement, but Greuel has heavy hitters such as Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom on her side. The race can go all the way to November, or one of these two can get cut down in June by vote-splitting with the minor candidates.

CD-36 - Coachella Valley: Palm Springs, Coachella, Hemet
Incumbent: Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert)
08/12 PVI: R+1
2012 PVI: D+1
2012 pres results: 50.7% Obama, 47.5% Romney
2012 cong results: 52.9% Raul Ruiz (D), 47.1% Mary Bono Mack (R)
Major candidates: Raul Ruiz (D), Brian Nestande (R), Ray Haynes (R)?
Rating: Tossup

The newest voter registration numbers show the GOP overtaking the Dems, turning a half-point deficit to a two-point lead. While registration numbers aren't everything, it means Ruiz will have one of the toughest fights of the California delegation to defeat moderate assemblyman Brian Nestande.

CD-52 - Northern San Diego, Poway, Coronado
Incumbent: Scott Peters (D-San Diego)
08/12 PVI: D+2
2012 PVI: D+2
2012 pres results: 52.1% Obama, 45.7% Romney
2012 cong results: 51.2% Scott Peters (D), 48.8% Brian Bilbray (R)
Major candidates: Scott Peters (D), Carl DeMaio (R), Kirk Jorgensen (R)
Rating: Lean Democratic

Peters and DeMaio are neck-to-neck in fundraising and cash on hand, with Peters having a slight edge. Peters can also self-fund and will probably do so as the race tightens towards November.



State senate


State senate election ratings
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes an open seat. A dagger (†) denotes a major intraparty race. These districts are being used for the first time after the 2011 redistricting, so to determine incumbents the closest corresponding old district is used.
Safe Dem Likely Dem Lean Dem Tossup Lean GOP Likely GOP Safe GOP
2*, 6*†, 10*,
18*, 20*, 22,
24, 26*†, 30,
32*, 40
14, 34*
12
4, 8, 16,
28*†, 36*, 38
11 SDs 0 SDs 0 SDs 2 SDs 0 SDs 1 SD 6 SDs
15 incumbent Dem
5 incumbent GOP
26 SDs 0 SDs 0 SDs 2 SDs 0 SDs 1 SD 11 SDs
SD-06 - Sacramento, West Sacramento, Elk Grove
Incumbent: Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento)
08/12 PVI: D+15
2012 PVI: D+17
2012 pres results: 66.1% Obama, 31.4% Romney
Major candidates: Roger Dickinson (D), Richard Pan (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Tossup Dickinson/Pan

This district now features a marquee race between two assemblymen to succeed Darrell Steinberg, the termed-out state senate president pro tem. Roger Dickinson has the lion's share of endorsements, but Richard Pan has much more cash on hand. Dickinson has party establishment backing and was close to clinching the party pre-endorsement, but Pan, a pediatrician, will be defended to the hilt by powerful healthcare and medical interests. With so many factors in play, June should give a clearer picture of who actually has the upper hand.

SD-12 - Central Valley: Merced, Madera, Salinas
Incumbent: Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres)
08/12 PVI: D+6
2012 PVI: D+7
2012 pres results: 57.6% Obama, 40.3% Romney
Major candidates: Anthony Cannella (R), Tom Hallinan (D)
Rating: Likely Republican from Lean Republican

For some reason, Democrats have been unable to thread the needle here. This time around, they could only muster a second-tier candidate who has raised a little more than $1,000 (not a typo). Anthony Cannella's moderate reputation might carry the day and doom Democratic prospects until he is termed out in 2018.

SD-14 - Central Valley: Fresno, Hanford, Bakersfield
Incumbent: Andy Vidak (R-Hanford)
08/12 PVI: D+6
2012 PVI: D+8
2012 pres results: 58.3% Obama, 39.8% Romney
Major candidates: Andy Vidak (R), Luis Chavez (D), Richard Valle (D)
Rating: Tossup from Lean Democratic

In an otherwise prime Democratic pickup, Democrats have to resort to second-tier challengers. Luis Chavez, a Fresno Unified School District board member, is virtually unknown outside of Fresno, while Richard Valle, a Kings County supervisor, is tinged with past charges of sexual assault (which were dismissed in 2012). Given the lackluster field, I am moving this to Tossup to see what the June results will look like.

SD-26 - West LA/South Bay: Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Palos Verdes
Incumbent: Ted Lieu (D-Torrance)
08/12 PVI: D+16
2012 PVI: D+16
2012 pres results: 65.0% Obama, 32.3% Romney
Major candidates: Ben Allen (D), Betsy Butler (D), Sandra Fluke (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Lean Butler

Ted Lieu is now running for Congress, leaving behind a district that will definitely see a tough intraparty battle. After being turfed out by fellow Democrat Richard Bloom in the 2012 AD-50 race, former assemblywoman Betsy Butler is gunning for another stint in Sacramento, again with establishment support. However, hard feelings remaining from two years ago is threatening to replay here, with Ben Allen vacuuming up support from most of the anti-Butler forces. Now throw in Sandra Fluke and her national attention, and this race has turned into a spectacle of money, glamour, and personality befitting its Hollywood constituency.

SD-34 - North OC: Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Santa Ana
Incumbent: Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana)
08/12 PVI: D+1
2012 PVI: D+4
2012 pres results: 53.3% Obama, 44.4% Romney
Major candidates: Janet Nguyen (R), Jose Solorio (D)
Rating: Tossup from Lean Democratic

This may very well be the seat that determines whether Democrats keep the all-important two-thirds supermajority in the state senate. Both parties are running their strongest candidates in one of the most racially polarized legislative districts in the state. Fundraising has been neck-to-neck between Orange County supervisor Janet Nguyen and former assemblyman Jose Solorio, with Nguyen raising more money but Solorio having more cash on hand. The two most prominent ethnic minority groups here, the Vietnamese and Latinos, are assumed to overwhelmingly vote on ethnic lines. Democrats have a slight voter registration edge at 38.25% to the GOP's 35.34%, but usually lower Latino (and Democratic) turnout compared to the Vietnamese (and other Republicans) and the impending rush of outside spending makes this race a nail-biter until all the votes are counted in November.



State assembly


State assembly election ratings
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes an open seat. A dagger (†) denotes a major intraparty race.
Safe Dem Likely Dem Lean Dem Tossup Lean GOP Likely GOP Safe GOP
2*, 4*†, 7*†,
9*†, 10†, 11,
13, 14, 15*†,
16*†, 17*†, 18,
19, 20, 21,
22, 24, 25*†,
27, 28*, 29,
30, 31, 37,
39, 41, 43,
45, 46, 47,
48, 49, 50,
51, 52, 53*,
54, 56*, 57,
58, 59, 61,
62*†, 63, 64*†,
69, 70*†, 78,
79, 80
8, 32, 66
36, 40*, 44*,
65
60
1, 3*, 5,
6, 12, 23,
26*, 33*, 34,
35, 38, 42*,
55*†, 67, 68,
71, 72, 73*,
74*, 75, 76,
77
50 ADs 3 ADs 0 ADs 4 ADs 0 ADs 1 AD 22 ADs
AD-08 - Sacramento suburbs: Arden-Arcade, Carmichael, Rancho Cordova
Incumbent: Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova)
08/12 PVI: D+1
2012 PVI: D+2
2012 pres results: 51.6% Obama, 45.5% Romney
2012 asm results: 54.3% Ken Cooley (D), 45.7% Peter Tateishi (R)
Major candidates: Ken Cooley (D), Doug Haaland (R)
Rating: Likely Democratic

After winning in 2012 by over eight points, Ken Cooley has had a noncontroversial record so far. GOP legislative staffer Doug Haaland will challenge him, but a district full of government employees won't look favorably upon the party of supposedly small government.

AD-10 - North Bay: San Rafael, Petaluma, Santa Rosa
Incumbent: Marc Levine (D-San Rafael)
08/12 PVI: D+25
2012 PVI: D+25
2012 pres results: 73.8% Obama, 23.3% Romney
2012 asm results: 51.2% Marc Levine (D), 48.8% Michael Allen (D)
Major candidates: Marc Levine (D), Erin Carlstrom (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Lean Levine

A year after defeating the establishment candidate in an upset, Marc Levine seems to still be shunned by Democratic leadership. With his campaign consultants blacklisted by organized labor and a business-friendly record for such a progressive district, Levine is again on the chopping block. Santa Rosa city councilwoman Eric Carlstrom has garnered several labor endorsements and managed to deny Levine the state party endorsement, the only incumbent with such a dubious distinction. However, Levine's Marin base is larger than Carlstrom's, and his incumbency bends the electoral winds in his favor.

AD-15 - East Bay: Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland
Incumbent: Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley)
08/12 PVI: D+38
2012 PVI: D+39
2012 pres results: 86.8% Obama, 9.6% Romney
2012 asm results: 86.8% Nancy Skinner (D), 13.2% Eugene Ruyle (PF)
Major candidates: Elizabeth Echols (D), Andy Katz (D), Sam Kang (D), Tony Thurmond (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Tossup Echols/Thurmond

Nancy Skinner, a progressive stalwart, is termed out, leaving a Democratic free-for-all. The general election is almost guaranteed to pit two Democrats against each other, the problem being which two. Skinner has endorsed Elizabeth Echols, a regional director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Echols nearly clinched the state party pre-endorsement. Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond city councilman, has hefty endorsements of his own, including Attorney General Kamala Harris and congressman George Miller. I would choose these two as the top-two favorites.

AD-16 - Tri-Valley: Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Livermore
Incumbent: Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo)
08/12 PVI: D+8
2012 PVI: D+8
2012 pres results: 57.7% Obama, 40.1% Romney
2012 asm results: 59.2% Joan Buchanan (D), 40.8% Al Phillips (R)
Major candidates: Catherine Baker (R), Steve Glazer (D), Tim Sbranti (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic, Lean Sbranti

This district is now ground zero between unions and their skeptics for influence in the Democratic Party. The current frontrunner is Tim Sbranti, the mayor of Dublin and PAC leader for the California Teachers Association. His most prominent Democratic opponent is Steve Glazer, Orinda city councilman and advisor to Governor Jerry Brown. Glazer was most (in)famous for circulating petitions to ban transit worker strikes after workers for BART (the Bay Area commuter rail system) went on strike twice in 2013. There's also a credible moderate Republican, attorney Catherine Baker, running. While liberals and establishment Democrats rally around Sbranti, it remains to see which moderate, Baker or Glazer, will make it to November.

AD-17 - Eastern San Francisco
Incumbent: Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco)
08/12 PVI: D+38
2012 PVI: D+39
2012 pres results: 87.0% Obama, 9.4% Romney
2012 asm results: 86.2% Tom Ammiano (D), 13.8% Jason Clark (R)
Major candidates: David Campos (D), David Chiu (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

Google buses, Twitter tax breaks, tech workers, and skyrocketing rents: the political battle surrounding the tech industry and its consequences will go into overdrive here. Two men named David C., both Harvard law school grads in their forties who moved to San Francisco as adults, got married (to other people) a few months ago, and got elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2008 as progressives, will battle it out here. David Chiu, the straight Asian board president, is the more moderate candidate, while David Campos, a gay Latino, is more progressive. Ammiano has endorsed Campos, while Chiu has raised twice the money and has 2.5 times the cash on hand. With the state party staying out of this one and the two campaigns fighting furiously over the demographic puzzle of LGBT, Chinese, Latino, and young voters, this 11-dimensional chess game will last until November.

Disclosure: I will be helping out on David Chiu's campaign.

AD-21 - Central Valley: Modesto, Ceres, Merced
Incumbent: Adam Gray (D-Merced)
08/12 PVI: D+4
2012 PVI: D+6
2012 pres results: 55.6% Obama, 42.0% Romney
2012 asm results: 58.2% Adam Gray (D), 41.8% Jack Mobley (R)
Candidates: Adam Gray (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic from Likely Democratic

Adam Gray has hewed closely to his moderate Democratic district's leanings and still doesn't have a Republican opponent, so I'm moving this to safe Democratic. Despite this area's population of conservative valleycrats, Gray should have a lock on reelection.

AD-32 - Central Valley: Hanford, Delano, Bakersfield
Incumbent: Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield)
08/12 PVI: D+3
2012 PVI: D+6
2012 pres results: 56.2% Obama, 41.8% Romney
2012 asm results: 52.9% Rudy Salas (D), 47.1% Pedro Rios (R)
Candidates: Rudy Salas (D)
Rating: Likely Democratic from Lean Democratic

Like Gray in AD-21, Rudy Salas has been voting his district and is currently running unopposed, so his seat rating gets an upgrade. Unlike AD-21, given that Democratic performance here is highly dependent on volatile Latino turnout and high electoral floor for any Republican candidate, this district does not merit a safe rating yet.

AD-36 - Antelope Valley: Lancaster, Palmdale, California City
Incumbent: Steve Fox (D-Palmdale)
08/12 PVI: R+3
2012 PVI: R+1
2012 pres results: 48.8% Obama, 48.5% Romney
2012 asm results: 50.1% Steve Fox (D), 49.9% Ron Smith (R)
Candidates: Steve Fox (D), Tom Lackey (R)
Rating: Tossup

The original Republican recruit, businessman Lou Gonzales, unexpectedly dropped out in January, allowing Palmdale city councilman Tom Lackey to take his place. Lackey ran here in 2012, coming in third place 365 votes (0.9%) behind the second-place Fox. Democratic voter registration has slipped, turning a 0.3% margin over the Republicans to a 0.4% deficit. With depressed midterm turnout and Fox's fluke win, Democrats will have to work extra hard if they don't want Fox to be the first incumbent California Democratic legislator to lose to a Republican since 1994.

AD-40 - Inland Empire: Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Redlands
Incumbent: Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga)
08/12 PVI: D+2
2012 PVI: D+3
2012 pres results: 53.1% Obama, 44.7% Romney
2012 asm results: 50.4% Mike Morrell (R), 49.6% Russ Warner (D)
Candidates: Melissa O'Donnell (D), Marc Steinorth (R)
Rating: Tossup

Mike Morrell is running in the SD-23 special election and is projected to win that seat, leaving AD-40 vacant for the rest of session. Morrell nearly lost this district in 2012 to an underfunded Democrat, making this a prime Democratic target. However, Melissa O'Donnell, a teacher and realtor, is an underfunded candidate herself, while her main opponent, Rancho Cucamonga city councilman Marc Steinorth, is still plodding along. Presumably they're waiting to ramp up their campaigns in November, but I don't quite understand why a marginal district is seeing so little interest from the candidates.

AD-44 - Ventura County: Oxnard, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks
Incumbent: Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo)
08/12 PVI: D+2
2012 PVI: D+2
2012 pres results: 52.4% Obama, 45.5% Romney
2012 asm results: 52.9% Jeff Gorell (R), 47.1% Eileen MacEnery (D)
Candidates: Jacqui Irwin (D), Rob McCoy (R), Sylvia Muñoz Schnopp (R)
Rating: Tossup

Jeff Gorell bailed out of the seat to run for Congress, leaving behind a seat on the verge of tipping to the Democrats. Unlike 2012, Jacqui Irwin, a Thousand Oaks city councilwoman, seems to be a serious contender. She also hails from the conservative eastern end of the district, with Latino-heavy Oxnard anchoring the liberal western end. On the other side, there aren't any top-tier Republican candidates, with only Sylvia Muñoz Schnopp, a Port Hueneme city councilwoman, and Rob McCoy, a pastor. I'm actually quite optimistic about this race, but I'm leaving it at tossup for now given the dearth of information.

AD-55 - San Gabriel Valley/North OC: Diamond Bar, Chino Hills, Yorba Linda
Incumbent: Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills)
08/12 PVI: R+5
2012 PVI: R+4
2012 pres results: 45.6% Obama, 52.2% Romney
2012 asm results: 59.7% Curt Hagman (R), 40.3% Gregg Fritchie (D)
Candidates: Ling-Ling Chang (R), Phillip Chen (R), Steven Tye (R)
Rating: Safe Republican

Curt Hagman is termed out and running for San Bernardino county supervisor against Gloria Negrete McLeod, leaving behind a three-way battle for the safe GOP but Dem-trending seat. All three candidates hail from Diamond Bar, a middle-sized Asian-majority suburb in the San Gabriel Valley. The current frontrunners are Ling-Ling Chang, a Diamond Bar city councilwoman, and Phillip Chen, a Walnut Valley Unified School District trustee. The GOP establishment is split between the two, with Hagman endorsing Chen and state senator Bob Huff supporting Chang. No Democrat has announced for this race.

AD-60 - Inland Empire: Corona, Jurupa Valley, Riverside
Incumbent: Eric Linder (R-Corona)
08/12 PVI: EVEN
2012 PVI: D+2
2012 pres results: 51.9% Obama, 45.8% Romney
2012 asm results: 51.8% Eric Linder (R), 48.2% Jose Luis Perez (D)
Candidates: Eric Linder (R), Oliver Unaka (D)
Rating: Likely Republican from Lean Republican

I'm not sure if Democrats triaged this district, but they currently only have a semi-anonymous candidate in Oliver Unaka, a consultant. As of now, I don't see this as a competitive race unless Unaka starts picking up his pace.

AD-64 - Harbor Gateway: Watts, Compton, Carson
Incumbent: Isadore Hall (D-Compton)
08/12 PVI: D+36
2012 PVI: D+39
2012 pres results: 88.7% Obama, 10.0% Romney
2012 asm results: 100.0% Isadore Hall (D)
Candidates: Micah Ali (D), Mike Gipson (D), Steve Neal (D), Prophet Walker (D)
Rating: Safe Democratic

With Isadore Hall being termed out, this ultra-blue traditionally African-American seat faces a wide-open field. Mike Gipson, a Carson city councilman, has the endorsements of Hall, the state Democratic Party, and many electeds, but also has the least cash on hand. Micah Ali, a Compton Unified School District trustee, has the most money but has few endorsements, Steve Neal, a Long Beach city councilman, has some endorsements but only a small part of Long Beach is in here. Prophet Walker is a project engineer and community organizer working with former prisoners and at-risk youth, and is an ex-convict himself. At this point, I would name Gipson and Neal as the favorites to head on to November.

AD-65 - North OC: Fullerton, Buena Park, Anaheim
Incumbent: Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton)
08/12 PVI: EVEN
2012 PVI: D+2
2012 pres results: 51.9% Obama, 45.7% Romney
2012 asm results: 52.0% Sharon Quirk-Silva (D), 48.0% Chris Norby (R)
Candidates: Sharon Quirk-Silva (D), Young Kim (R)
Rating: Tossup from Lean Democratic

Young Kim, a staffer for congressman Ed Royce, has outraised and has more cash on hand than Sharon Quirk-Silva. It's not entirely surprising, since Quirk-Silva wasn't expected to win her 2012 election in the first place. Quirk-Silva's incumbency is definitely a boost, the state Democratic Party is guaranteed to weigh in here to keep their assembly supermajority, and Democrats still have a 0.4% voter registration edge. However, Quirk-Silva will have to kick it up a notch at this point.

AD-66 - South Bay: Redondo Beach, Torrance, Palos Verdes
Incumbent: Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance)
08/12 PVI: D+4
2012 PVI: D+5
2012 pres results: 54.2% Obama, 43.2% Romney
2012 asm results: 54.8% Al Muratsuchi (D), 45.2% Craig Huey (R)
Candidates: Al Muratsuchi (D), David Hadley (R)
Rating: Likely Democratic

After several false starts, Republicans have settled on businessman David Hadley. Muratsuchi has been voting like a mainstream Democrat: not full-blown swing-district moderate but not too progressive either. While he may be a bit more liberal than this district is fully comfortable with, Muratsuchi should be fine unless there is a GOP wave.



Compared to my November ratings, many of these ones are downgrades for Democrats and may come off as too conservative to some people. Again, the field is not set, and after all the 2012 gains and with midterm dropoff, Democrats are playing a lot of defense. Yes, there's no top-of-the-ticket Republican running, but that has never stopped Republicans from voting.

Having said all of that, the picture is still foggy and there's no single dominant political narrative favoring one party or the other. June will give us a good barometer of how candidates will fare in November; that is, if they make it there. As always, political analyses and election ratings may change as we hurtle towards Election Day.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nice job (4+ / 0-)

    Quibble:While worst drought in 500 years was arguably true on Jan 28th, that is no longer the case.

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 08:19:32 AM PST

  •  Excellent mapping work (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, GoUBears, MichaelNY

    “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

    by KingofSpades on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 08:35:47 AM PST

  •  Great diary kurykh! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Thank you for posting it.

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 08:39:53 AM PST

  •  Excellent diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV, MichaelNY

    I really enjoyed it. Though I still think the term-limits law is bizarre, it seems counter-productive.

    Leftist Mormon in Utah, Born in Washington State, live in UT-04 (Matheson).

    by Gygaxian on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:04:39 AM PST

    •  You (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      can thank Willie Brown for term limits. During his time in the assembly he was famously known as the Ayatollah of the state assembly since like Sheldon Silver and Mike Madigan, he was able to be Speaker forever.

      Term limits was a way of getting rid of Willie Brown at the cost of a lot of institutional memory being lost in the process. Plus it resulted in a round of musical chairs being played every four years.

      Hell even Tom McClintock of all people said term limits was a mistake....after realizing he could be in the House for the foreseeable future.

      The Republican party is now an extreme right-wing party that is owned by their billionaire campaign contributors. - Bernie Sanders

      by ehstronghold on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:37:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  disingenuous to leave the parties out of that (0+ / 0-)

        term limits was a way for the GOP to get rid of a democratic speaker, and to curb their own moderate wing from rebelling against the rising tide of wingnut reactionaries and siding with the democrats.

        the voters of the state didn't care that willie brown was speaker. the right wing of the GOP was apoplectic that they couldn't ram their agenda down the state's throat the moment they won a narrow majority in the state leg.

  •  A few questions (0+ / 0-)

    What makes CA-52 lean D and CA-36 tossup when the latter has poorly funded GOPers and the former doesn't?  Is it because Dems in the 52nd are more reliable at turning out?

    Also, did you note that in SD-34, Solorio got a fundraising head start?

    Finally, my hunch says AD-44 leans Dem here.

    “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

    by KingofSpades on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:33:01 AM PST

    •  Personally (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sacman701, MichaelNY

      I would have slotted both into the tossup category. Though i could see why he puts CA-36 in the tossup and not CA-52 since Obama won CA-36 by the skin of his teeth with Ruiz actually overperforming him thanks to Mary Bono Mack's spectacular implosion in the fall. Obama did a tad better in CA-52 though it's still a swing district.

      Plus Brian Nestande is actually a moderate in the sense that he did cross the floor once or twice on high profile issues. DeMaio is basically a party line Republican who just happens to be gay.

      The Republican party is now an extreme right-wing party that is owned by their billionaire campaign contributors. - Bernie Sanders

      by ehstronghold on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:30:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  DeMaio is pro-choice. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        In a suburban district, that's mega-important for many center-left voters to give him a chance at winning them over.

        21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
        politicohen.com
        Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
        UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

        by jncca on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:27:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  nice to see some 2014 election focus (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alibguy, brunoboy, MichaelNY

    Very good stuff.  It's nice to see someone writing about the 2014 elections (rather than just bitching about Hillary in 2016), and in my home state no less.

    The Oakland Mayor's race is going to be interesting this year too, the current mayor Jean Quan seems to be hated by everyone (including Chinatown, where you might think she'd have identity politics going for her) and it sounds like it's going to be a mixed field...

    The real estate speculators have been sniffing around Oakland like crazy of late, so this could turn out to be the one election that determines the soul of the place for years to come.

  •  Great analysis! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Really happy there is a California race summary up here.

    I think we have recruiting issues in many of these competitive districts. No strong candidates in SD-12 or SD-14, I am surprised. It is possible Leticia Perez's loss in SD-14 scared many stronger candidates away but hopefully turnout there will be better in the midterm than in the July special election so our nominee can win there.

    I am glad you listed the CA-33 race as a tossup because that Greuel poll showing her ahead by 8 was an internal and she is better known than Lieu is thanks to her mayoral race.

    As for SD-26, I am not sure if that should be a tossup or lean Democratic because while Fluke may not be the establishment choice when compared to Butler, she is pretty well known for her encounter with Rush Limbaugh and she should be able to raise money from places like Daily Kos. But still, it is important to get the establishment support in LA and if Sandra does not get that, it could be tough for her.

    For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/ CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37. Go Trojans!!

    by Alibguy on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 11:58:12 AM PST

  •  Great roundup (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brunoboy, MichaelNY

    You put an amazing amount of effort into these and I look forward to them.  Crazy how few competitive seats there are in the legislature.  I feel pretty good about keeping 2/3 control though...Republicans have a couple opportunities to bring us down, but then again so do we to expand our numbers.  The lack of strong candidates in some races is concerning, but we have some room for error.

    As for the congressional races, we've got a few holds to worry about, but for the most part it looks like we're still on offense.  The next cycle is probably where the real action will be though.  California Democrats need to be ready to make the most of 2016 turnout.

  •  CD-17 Safely D, but tossup Honda/Khanna (0+ / 0-)

    The Republican Singh has lined up support from a conservative Indian-American Super PAC, but Khanna's got a huge fundraising edge over both Singh and Honda right now, and Honda caught some flack in the local press over the weekend for declining to debate.

    Mercury News editorial: Mike Honda should debate Ro Khanna
    http://www.mercurynews.com/...
    Herhold: Mike Honda affected by changing of California's congressional guard
    http://www.mercurynews.com/...

    Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

    by cks175 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:20:08 PM PST

    •  Generally speaking (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jncca, sacman701, ehstronghold, MichaelNY

      the candidate refusing to debate is in a much better position than the candidate asking for debates.

      Asking for debates is something you do when you're behind and need something to shake up the race.  Declining debates is a luxury for those already in the lead.

      In any case, Honda is a long-term incumbent, reasonably popular, and without scandal.  Incumbents like that aren't so easily turned aside...if it was that easy, we'd see 20 successful primary challenges every year.  Instead, they are fairly rare events that mostly have obvious explanations...Republicans that aren't conservative enough, Democrats that aren't liberal enough, indictments or other scandals, redistricting that took out an incumbent's political base, and so on.

      None of those apply here.  I think Honda is pretty safe.

      •  Good points, but I think this will be a closer (0+ / 0-)

        race than you've called at this point.  

        Looking at Honda's high name recongition now, compared to Khanna's low name recognition, it's understandalbe that Honda would decline to debate.  

        Khanna's staff is heavy with Obama 2012 veterans and top fundraisers.  I read one analysis that likened this to taking the Obama 2012 "template" and seeing how it works in a Congressional campaign.  And with the money raised to date, it could shape up to be the most expensive Congressional race in the country.

        If the combination of Khanna's fundraising success and his campaign staff talent do result in increased name recognition for him, it could turn out to be a very interesting race.

        Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

        by cks175 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:57:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Skaje, Alibguy, MichaelNY

        Here's a good question: who was the last incumbent to not have a scandal, be ideologically in tune with the district, have served more than one term, and to lose a primary in a non-redistricting year?

        It hasn't happened since 1990 or earlier, that's for sure.  This would be fairly unprecedented, although Top Two makes it at least possible.  

        Disclosure: I volunteered some with the Honda campaign.

        21, CA-18 (home), CA-13 (school)
        politicohen.com
        Idiosyncratic, pro-establishment. Liberal, not progressive. For the poor, the children, the planet, and the rule of law.
        UC Berkeley; I think I'm in the conservative half of this city.

        by jncca on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 01:14:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree on Honda (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          Plus Honda has some major endorsements from major party officials as well as the backing of 92% of the Democrats in the state party.
          http://mikehonda.com/...

          The problem with Khanna is that he may have money but what is his major issue he is using to attack Honda? It is unclear to me.

          For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/ CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37. Go Trojans!!

          by Alibguy on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 03:20:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Khanna is quite clearly (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Alibguy, MichaelNY

            just trying to buy himself a seat.  It's not about ideology or any specific criticism of Honda.  Khanna has looked at a few other congressional seats in the past in his goal to elect himself to Congress.  He settled on this one for some reason.

            •  I'm supporting Honda (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              Khanna should have run for Pete Stark's seat in 2012.

              For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog http://racesandredistricting.blogspot.com/ CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37. Go Trojans!!

              by Alibguy on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 11:03:54 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Since 1984 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          Excluding 1992, 2002, 2004 TX, 2006 GA and 2012, I believe 26 incumbents have lost renomination. 21 of the victors went on the win in November.

          Nine had served two years or less: Parker Griffith (2010), David Davis (2008), Joe Schwartz (2006), David Levy (1994), Ernie Konnyu (1988), Neil Abercrombie (1986), Alton Waldon (1986), Katie Hall (1984) and Frank Harrison (1984). In another reason to despise him, Mufi Hannemann was the only victor to cost their party the ensuing general.

          Six lost at least in part due to scandal: Carolyn Kilpatrick (2010), Alan Mollahan (2010), Merrill Cook (2000), Jay Kim (1998), Barbara-Rose Collins (1996) and Buz Lukens (1990).

          Seven lost for clearly ideological reasons, four from the right and three from the left. From the right: Bob Inglis --> Trey Gowdy (2010), Wayne Gilchrest --> Andy Harris (2008), Chris Cannon --> Jason Chaffetz (2006) and Greg Laughlin --> Ron Paul (1996). From the left: Al Wynn --> Donna Edwards (2008), Marty Martinez --> Hilda Solis (2000) and Mark Siljander --> Fred Upton (1986).

          In 1984, 18-year Texan incumbent Abraham Kazen lost to Albert Bustamante because his district had become dominated by Mexicans.

          In 1994 in Oklahoma, Virgil Cooper shocked 16-year incumbent Mike Synar en route to losing to Tom Coburn. Cooper ran slightly to Synar's right, but this seems like it was more about 94's turbulence and a turning out of the old guard.

          Also in 1994, Sheila Jackson-Lee beat 6-year incumbent Craig Washington in a fairly bland campaign, with Jackson-Lee making some points off of Washington missing a decent number of votes, in essence a stronger version of Bridenstine.

          The most analogous race to what Khanna is trying to do is probably Chaka Fattah beating 3.5 year incumbent Lucien Blackwell, yet again in 1994. While there was a minor issue with signature forging, Fattah was a major candidate and essentially said that he didn't disagree with Blackwell on issues, but that they would sound better coming from a person half his age; supporting negotiation over flamboyance. However, Blackwell was not a long-term incumbent, Fattah had ran against him in his initial special election and Khanna seems rather mean-spirited; I have a hard time seeing him give a eulogy like this: http://capitolwords.org/...

          ME-01 (college) ID-01 (home) -4.75, -2.10

          by GoUBears on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:46:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Short (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      of Honda having several "get off my lawn" moments like Pete Stark did last year, I don't see Honda losing.

      The Republican party is now an extreme right-wing party that is owned by their billionaire campaign contributors. - Bernie Sanders

      by ehstronghold on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 02:08:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tom Ammiano (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brunoboy

    First, thank you for your excellent analysis of the California political landscape.

    Second, I am so sad that the Assembly is losing Tom Ammiano.  My biggest complaint about Democrats in Sacramento is that they are so frightened and intimidated by Republicans, many of them become semi-Republicans out of fear.  Tom has been fearless and I appreciate him so much.  We will miss him.

  •  I think AD-44 leans Democratic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KingofSpades

    As I mentioned in my diary, Rob McCoy is probably going to make the top two, since he's got Rand Paul behind him and that means big money. McCoy is quite conservative for this district and Irwin would have the upper hand, since she's from Thousand Oaks, which is a good area for a Democrat to be from in this district.

    27, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

    by DrPhillips on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 03:10:12 PM PST

  •  Very good info (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    But i would like to know somewhat more (if possible) about political and ideological positions of candidates in competitive districts. One of the main arguments for "top 2" in extremely (even by national standards) politically polarized California was: "it gives more chances to moderates in both parties and crossover coalitions then usual party primary". Is it so? Or situation remains "as usual", with Democratic candidates heavily concentrated on "solid left" and Republican - on "hard right"?

  •  Great job! (0+ / 0-)

    I know this is not that important a question, but does anyone know what theme song Eggman adopted for his campaign? I really think that if he didn't adopt "I am the Walrus," he missed a bet.

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 02:12:16 AM PST

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