Monday, April 07, 2008

A look at the California House races

February 5th is long gone, so let's turn our attention to the House races here in California. Unlike two years ago, which Kyle referred to as "a tidal wave sweeping the country... and crashing in California", this time we really have the opportunity to take out some of the most reactionary House Republicans and replace them with good progressive Democrats. Especially in Orange County, Bruin Dems living there really have a chance to make our voices heard, with real competitive races. You can take an active part this summer in helping out these campaigns. Volunteers are always welcome, and who knows, a job may await too.

So, here are the key California House races, with the biggest one ranked first, and so on. And yes, I admit, I cribbed a lot of the info from dday here.

1. CA-04: This will be a big race in the northeastern part of California. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown barely fell short against the ethics-plauged incumbent Republican John Doolittle in 2006, losing 49%-46%. Since then, in the wake of numerous investigations into his connections with Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes, Doolittle decided to retire, opening up his seat. This opened up the floodgates, and now there's a bitter GOP primary battle between former moderate Congressman Doug Ose, who represented CA-03, and the far-right Tom McClintock, who unsuccessfully ran for Governor in the 2003 recall election, and lost the Lt. Gov. race to John Garamendi in 2006. McClintock's a UCLA grad, sadly. He's already painting Ose as a "liberal", LOL. And in a show of hypocrisy, as McClintock sells himself as a fiscal conservative who opposes government spending, but has gotten over $300,000 in tax-free per diem money. In other words, he's basically a "welfare queen". And a carpetbagger too. He actually lives in Thousand Oaks, here in Southern California. It's one thing for Ose, whose district used to include part of what is now CA-04, but for someone 400 miles south of the district?

The NRCC may want to tread carefully in attacking Brown. In 2006, they did the obvious Peanuts reference, which didn't sit well with Charles Schulz's son, with lawyers getting involved for copyright infringement. Good grief! And Charlie Brown has gotten the endorsement of veterans groups like VoteVets. Brown is actually donating 5% of all his campaign contributions to help veterans and their families. Now, it's still a conservative district, with a Cook PVI of R+11 (meaning Bush got 11% more of the vote share here than he did nationally in the last two elections) and only 44.7% Democratic turnout on February 5th.

Here are two good clips of an interview with Brown from last week's state convention in San Jose, courtesy of the folks from Calitics.

2. CA-26: David Dreier's had enough of a free ride in this district. Businessman Russ Warner looks to be the guy who can unseat him. While you may think this is a hardcore Republican district, on February 5th, 50.2% of those who voted in this district voted in the Democratic primary. Remember, the GOP race at that time was still up in the air. And with Dreier somehow forgetting to report earnings on stock sales for the last couple years, it's no surprise he voted AGAINST stronger ethics rules in the House. And Dreier also took money from the sub-prime lender Countrywide, and then proceeded to vote against lending reforms. Typical.

I talked with both Russ and his son Greg, who served in Iraq for 17 months, at the convention in San Jose last week. These are good people. This is also a DCCC targeted seat, which means the national organization also finds Warner to be a strong candidate. Warner has raised over $500,000 for his campaign, the most ever raised by any opponent to Dreier since he first got elected in 1980. He said the DCCC announcement was a great Christmas gift, as they told him they were targeting the race two days before Christmas. Since then, when he's "dialing for dollars", the wallets have been opening up once he mentions the national party's interest in this race. Watch for this race as summer approaches, it will become a big deal. In the meantime, here's an excellent in-depth interview via Calitics of Russ Warner from last week's convention.

3. CA-46: Finally, someone may finally unseat the odious Dana Rohrabacher. This is a man who has close ties with the Taliban, claims global warming is due to dinosaur flatulence, told those opposed to torture that "I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences", called Blackwater CEO Erik Prince an "American hero" (he was a former staffer for Rohrabacher), and gave Jack Abramoff his first break in becoming one of the biggest and shadiest lobbyists on the Hill.

In other words, pure scumbag.

Oh, it affects who he has by his side too. You know how you can judge a man from the company he keeps? Well, his ex-aide Jeff Nielsen just pleaded guilty two weeks ago to molesting a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old boy. Ewww. Now Rohrabacher's lying his ass off trying to distance himself from Nielsen. Except he personally vouched for Nielsen's character when writing a letter of recommendation for Nielsen to get him into USC's law school. (You knew USC had to be involved, didn't you?)

So now, Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook is challenging him. And it looks like the Orange County GOP is taking this seriously, as they tried to bleed her dry by tying her up with frivolous lawsuits about being called "mayor" on the ballot. Fortunately, both the Orange County court and the California Superior Court ruled against them, and ordered the Treasurer of the California Republican Party Keith Carlson to pay all the costs that Cook otherwise would've had to pay! They wouldn't have gone to all this trouble if they didn't think Debbie Cook stood a real chance of beating Rohrabacher. The Democratic turnout here on February 5th was 47.2%. Here is a good interview with Cook from the convention last week, again courtesy of the good folks over at Calitics.

4. CA-42: I'm taking a personal interest in this one, as I've known Democratic candidate Ron Shepston since he was "just" a regular ol' blogger. And he's challenging Gary Miller, who was deemed one of the most corrupt members of Congress by CREW.

Right now, Ron faces a primary challenge in Ed Chau, whose ex-communications director quit and was quite snippy about it. What's funny is that she claims Ron doesn't tell us enough about himself or his stances. Um... he's a blogger, and she doesn't know where he stands on issues? Has she ever read his stuff? Do career politicians talk about how we're in a Constitutional crisis now? Sheesh. Fine, you were backing the other guy. No need to rip on Ron unfairly there. It will still be an uphill battle for whichever Democrat; Dem turnout on February 5th was only 44%.

5. CA-50: This is Duke Cunningham's former seat, which he gave up to go to federal prison for bribery. Even with that huge scandal, Francine Busby couldn't pick up this seat for us in 2005 or 2006, and ex-Congressman and lobbyist Brian Bilbray won it. This time, we have San Diego prosecutor Nick Leibham running against Bilbray. You can read a good in-depth interview of him here. Clinical psychologist Cheryl Ede is also running, and there's talk that she's the more progressive of the two Democrats. But given the Republican tilt of this district (though Dem turnout on February 5th was 50.8%), Leibham may be the better bet. He does have the backing of the state party and unions like AFSCME.

6. CA-03: Dan Lundgren can't like the recent numbers coming out of his district, where 51.8% of those that voted on February 5th voted in the Democratic primary. Dr. Bill Durston, a Vietnam combat veteran, is challenging him. He also wrote a song, "War Is Not a Game".

7. CA-24: Democratic turnout on February 5th was actually 50.6%, which has us thinking this seat is more in play than the Republicans and incumbent Elton Gallegly would like to admit. 2006 challenger Jill Martinez is running again, as are AD-41 delegate Mary Pallant and blogger Marta Jorgensen. Bloggers actually seem to have gotten behind Pallant's candidacy. But this would still be a dark horse race. Nonetheless, something for Caitlin to get excited about here, her district finally matters!

8. CA-44: Ken Calvert has got some corruption issues too, and was also named as one of the most corrupt members of Congress by CREW. Teacher Bill Hedrick is challenging him. Two of Hedrick's sons are serving in Iraq. Dem turnout on February 5th here was 49.3%.

9. CA-52: Duncan Hunter retired to run for President (you may have missed it), and is trying to bequeath his seat to his son, Duncan Hunter, Jr. This is a strong military district. Hunter, Jr., is in the Marines, and even on the Democratic side, you had Green Beret Jim Hester running, who recently dropped out and endorsed Navy SEAL commander Mike Lumpkin. There's also Vickie Butcher running, but she's not military, and she's very progressive, which may not be to her advantage in a district such as this one. Dem turnout on February 5th was 47.2%.

10. CA-45: Mary Bono Mack (widow of Sonny Bono, now re-married) was handed this seat when Sonny was killed in a skiing accident. What's intriguing about this district was that Democratic turnout on February 5th was actually a surprising 51.3%. Blogs have mentioned Julie Bornstein as a good challenger, as she's held elected office in the past as an assemblymember, and has already been endorsed by both Senators Boxer and Feinstein. Still, Bono Mack hasn't done much to distinguish herself for special ignominy.

Oh, and in CA-11, after Jerry McNerney took out the most anti-environment member of Congress, Richard Pombo, in 2006, Republicans want this seat back, and they found a wealthy guy who can self-fund, Dean Andal. Though this district leans Republican, Dem turnout on February 5th was an eye-catching 53.7%. McNerney is only the 2nd member of Congress ever to have a Ph.D. in mathematics, and was a wind engineer, so the contrast between him and Pombo (and the Republican Party in general) on science and the environment couldn't be more stark. The DCCC will make sure McNerney successfully defends his seat.


Sarah Michelle Spinosa said...

This is Ed Chau's former 'snippy' communications director. Your comments about my thoughts on Ron Shepston(D) CD-42, Candidate, are way off base.

First of all, I know what Ron
stands for, but what will he do about it? Recent polls show the American public is looking for more specific policy information from candidates this election season, and that includes me.

Rehashing the same press release for a year does nothing to that end. In fact, Andrew Davey hacked it out about three times on The Liberal OC immediately after my falling out with the local Democratic party. Of course, I called him out for it on Orange Juice.

And I'm not anti-Ron. I'm trying to give him a kick in the butt because he's can't run his campaign on a solely anti-Gary Miller platform, which incidentally is the same advice I gave Ed Chau.

It's time for the Dems in this race to be heard on their own merits, and apparently, I'm the only person involved so far who's even really offering coverage this race.

Frankly, I'm a little ashamed of these guys and of the blogosphere in general for not giving CD-42 more attention, but the candidates aren't speaking up. Here we have a corrupt Congressman who ran unopposed in '06. Where's the urgency?


Anonymous said...

This post is an example of mass foolishness on the blogosphere. None of those seats will change party unless hell freezes over. The whole premise of Wang and Caltic's post is that Democratic primary turnout rate in highly partisan Republican districts mean Democrats are rising in those places. Party primaries in no way telling of how general elections work at in those districts. Stop drinking the kool-aid.

BruinKid said...

That's hardly my premise at all. I would like to make a bet with you on your "none of those seats" comment, but since you are anonymous, alas, I can't.

And what evidence do you have that primary turnout doesn't correlate to the general election? We've seen this translate to actual victories in special elections like the one in Dennis Hastert's old seat. The Cook PVI there was more Republican than some of these seats I listed. Those numbers indicate there are more Democrats than you'd think who live in those districts. It becomes a matter of turning them out to vote, and that's why I stressed at the beginning of the post the part about working for a campaign over the summer. Boots on the ground.

You sound like one of those Democrats who said the blogosphere was foolish to get behind the candidacy of that upstart named Jim Webb, or back some little-known farmer named Jon Tester, over the party establishment picks. I have a suspicion you didn't think we had a chance in winning Hastert's seat either.

There are no rose-colored glasses on my part here. I recognize that most of these races are going to be incredibly uphill challenges. Notice I never actually listed them in tiers like I normally do.

I would think between Brown and Warner, at least one of them will win in November. Everything else after that is still a longshot. But are you willing to state right now with your name attached (instead of as "anonymous") that neither of them will win?

Didn't think so.

Ron Shepston said...

I think Sarah makes good points and I appreciate the input. I understand that the comments are a reflection of the perception from the outside which is the same perspective that the voters have.

I also appreciate the sentiment of the "kick in the butt" and hope that will be followed up with an offer to help.

I sat here and banged out a pretty long comment addressing both Sarah's and anonymous' comments. It got so long that I thought it that it would be better as a separate post.

It will be out soon.

I invite anyone who would like to have a conversation to send me a message via our website I have all the comments forwarded to me. I wanted to make sure that not only staff saw the feedback but I would also.

Finally, let me leave Sarah with this. It's not an answer but a start - I am a person who gets things done when I don't have the authority to force people to do them. More than once in my career someone has asked me "How did you do that". A story - Many years ago I was helping out on a project when I had some spare time on a contract I was on. The guy who was in charge of a part of this project just wasn't making any progress. My boss came up to me and asked "Would you take this over? Do you think you can do this." My answer was that I was sure I could. I hadn't studied the project or possible solutions but I knew that I could do it. I did and it served as a model for future projects.

Once in Congress I know that I will learn what needs to be done and learn the facts needed to solve the problems and address the issues. Then I’ll help mobilize others to help do it. From green energy, health care, the economy, Iraq, the military, politics, race, gender, gender identity among many others we are faced with issues that need answers suited to our society and culture that are not being addressed now. I will be part of those who want to solve and address them for all of us rather than use them to divide us.

I will be a junior member of congress but judging from my past I know that will not stop me from figuring out where the strings are and which ones to start pulling.

As far as specifics, how ‘bout The Responsible Plan? That’s pretty specific and I was one of the first to tell Darcy that I wanted in after her email asking about it. At the time it was a concept; now it’s a plan and it’s a good one. I am not taking credit for it but only for recognizing and encouraging it from the beginning.

I’m looking forward to having a conversation. How many are also interested enough to do something?

Sarah Michelle Spinosa said...

Ron! I'm so glad you've decided to chime in on this and if you'd like to chat, please email me at

I've always felt, and still do (albeit now to a slightly lesser extent), that a Democrat can win this seat. I see this race as more than just a start, which is why I've been disappointed with both you and Ed for not starting a dialog with the voters sooner. I'm glad that you're addressing that very important issue (for them and you) now.

My original intent in re-joining the blogosphere was to get a discussion started on this race, as well as a few others, while the Republicans are still weak.

I intended to do this unofficially for Ed Chau's benefit, but if you've been following my work, you know what happened next.

I'd like to help you. How about I invite you to join my blog? Perhaps we can host some discussion about your candidacy there, as long as you don't expect anything but blunt facts and opinions! How about a guest spot on Orange Juice from time to time? I'm a moderator now, so I'm sure help you there.

I hate to oppose Ed. He's a really good-hearted, altruistic man, but apparently he chose the labor endorsement instead of an online presence and in my opinion lacks some leadership qualities, so I'd be more than happy to offer some more exposure to you instead. He made his bed; he can sleep in it.

Let me know if there is anything else I may be able to do to help you (either officially or unofficially), but please remember that my personal agenda in this race is to get the issues discussed with a minimal amount of rhetoric so that if a Dem wins this seat they can keep it for a long period of time... instead of just keeping it warm for the next Republican.


Anonymous said...

Tester and Jim Webb won by about 5,000 votes between them. They were flukes. By 2012, if there is a Democrat in the WHite House who has already decided to retreat from Iraq and wave the white flag of surrender, they will lose their seats along with Claire McCaskill.

Look at the 2002 Senate Races and you will see the same thing happen in 2012.

Those primary registration numbers don't mean shit. Stop drinking the far-left kool aid. The obvious reason why is because those numbers still represent a minority of the numbers who come in general elections in those congressional districts.

jurnei said...

Update on CA-24:
Marta Jorgensen has dropped out of the race.