Friday, April 6, 2012

The California Primaries to Watch June 5

I've started with updates on some of the districts. Before I go further I'll break them down into categories, so you know which ones to watch. The one that most people are interested in, CA-30, isn't in my top category, because it won't be competitive in November. So throw out your preconceptions, print this out, and watch the districts on primary night.

High Impact Races

These districts will be competitive in November and could go to either party. We can enjoy Berman v. Sherman all we want, but in November that race will have a Democrat winning and won't change the balance in the House. While some candidates are very likely to finish top two, no one in these districts should be considered a lock.

CA- 26 - To me, this is the race to watch. Tony Strickland is the only Republican in the race and he's almost certainly going to finish top two. There's one Democrat, assemblywoman Julia Brownley, who is considered the cream of the crop. What elevates this to #1 is the presence of Republican No Party Preference candidate Linda Parks. Parks' popularity means that it's possible no Democrat will finish top two, which would mean the Democrats wouldn't pick-up a district that many people feel they should be favored to grab. Parks will straddle the Republican-Democratic line. She won't give up her caucus plans, because if she commits to one party, it'll hurt her chances to get votes from people registered with another party and DTS voters will question her independence.

CA-52 - This race is below the radar but is loaded with fun fun fun. This is congressman Brian Bilbray's district. Unlike his other endangered colleagues, e.g. Dan Lungren, he's in danger in the primary. He's got four Republicans challenging him, including two, John Stahl and Wayne Iverson, who are tea party affiliated and will attack Bilbray from the right. Such a crowded field should benefit Bilbray, diluting the voters who oppose him.

The Democratic field is led San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters, who is very highly thought of in San Diego. He's opposed by two Democrats, one of whom, Lori Saldaña, could upset him on election night. There's also a chance that both Peters and Saldaña could advance if the Republican vote is split enough.

Did I mention there are two independents and one of them Jack Doyle is the former two-term Mayor of Santee? Doyle is highly unlikely to make top two, but he could take 10% of the vote. That has to come from somewhere.

CA-31 - This should be low impact on the Democratic side. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar should beat three unknown challengers. But Redlands isn't a big city and he got in the race late. Open seat favorites get upset by grassroots candidates in every election. If Aguilar loses, Democrats likely won't take this seat.

The real competition should be on the Republican side. State Senator Bob Dutton and Congressman Gary Miller are both heavy hitters. Miller has incumbency, money, and endorsements on his side. But he's also been dogged by ethics questions and Dutton was Republican minority leader in Sacramento.

CA-47 - There's a slew of candidates on both sides of the aisle, but State Senator Alan Lowenthal is clearly the Democratic heavy hitter. Like Aguilar in CA-31, he should cruise to victory, but a loss would make this a tough district for the Democrats.

There are also two significant Republicans here. Long Beach city councilman Gary DeLong has raised substantial money and has the state party endorsement. Steve Kuykendall, however, is a former congressman who defeated current rep Janice Hahn in a Democratic leaning district. So he clearly knows how to win.

For Partisans Only

The party that'll win in November is set and these races won't matter in November. There is, however, a lot of drama. Political junkies and party partisans will likely pay more attention to these races than the ones above.

CA-30 - I've written enough about this race that I don't need to explain why it's here.

CA-2 - This race is fun and I'll go more indepth on it next week. There are a lot of strong Democratic candidates, both establishment and grassroots. Republicans may yawn, but the Netroots certainly won't.

CA-8 - This is another district I'd like to hit next week. The district is unusual, not only because it doesn't have any significant cities, but because the cities are separated by mountains and deserts, yes, deserts, and are really separate from each other. There lots of Republican office holders, but there may not be any heavy favorite.

CA-1 - Covered this week. A bit of inter-party drama.

Wake me in November

These districts promise to be competitive in November and the primary outcome will almost certainly impact that. All the districts except one have an incumbent and there should only be drama on one side of the aisle.

CA-24 - Will the Republican challenger to Rep. Lois Capps be well-funded and well-connected RINO Abel Maldonado or underfunded tea party challenger Chris Mitchum. Yes, Mitchum's father is who you think it is.

CA-21 - There's only one Republican, GOP rising star David Valadao, but there are two Democrats. Fresno city councilman Blong Xiong is the establishment favorite, but he has a number of issues that make businessman John Hernandez a threat.

CA-3 - Is Congressman John Garamendi vulnerable? I think so, but the field of challengers has no definite favorite.

CA-9 - 24 year-old Ricky Gill is definitely the favorite to take on Congressman Jerry McNerney, but don't be shocked if high tech exec John McDonald makes a race of it.

CA-10 - It's possible this race could move higher. Congressman Jeff Denham is expected to be challenged Astronaut/Scientist/Engineer Jose Hernandez, a prize Democratic recruit. Yes, he's the one who was on the space shuttle. Lawyer Mike Barkley was in the race fist and independent Chad Condit could steal votes away from Hernandez. You see, Condit is the son of former Democratic rep. Gary Condit. While Gary Condit didn't leave under the best circumstances, he did give Chad a very recognizable name.

CA-16 - Congressman Jim Costa is being challenged by three unknown Republicans. I think Costa will sail to re-election, but I'll want to look at the numbers on election night. So should you.

CA-41 - Democrat Mark Takano and Republican John Tavaglione should take 80-90% of the vote between them. There won't be much of a race here, but we should watch to see the Republican and Democratic totals.

CA-7 - Congressman Dan Lungren and challenger Ami Bera will also top 90% between them. Because there is a Libertarian and an NPP in the race, it'll be tough predict how it'll go in November.

CA-36 - Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and challenger Raul Ruiz are the only two candidates here. So both go to November regardless of their vote totals. If Ruiz isn't close in June, he won't be in November.

In the weeds

CA-15 - I've already indicated why I'm watching this race, but the top two is known. The vote totals should tell us about November.

CA-44 - Only two candidates here, but they are Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson. Both advance, but the vote totals should be telling.

CA-35 - Like CA-15, the top two are known and the vote totals are a mystery.

CA-46 - There is an outside shot this district could be competitive in November. I'm probably more interested in the vote totals than I should be.

CA-33 - Congressman Henry Waxman should face off against the lone Republican Chris David. There is a candidate from every column in this race, however, and that could shake things up.

CA-29 - City councilman Tony Cardenas should win in a landslide. But he has a Democratic challenger and independent David Hernandez who may have left the Republican party because he thought that label would hurt him here.

CA-51 - This district is very Democratic and could produce a race between two Democrats in the fall. That should make the race more interesting, but I have a hard time getting pumped up for it.

There are 19 other districts where June will give us an opponent who'll lose in November. There are 6 districts where there are only 2 candidates, but the primary outcome will be one sided for the incumbent. Karen Bass is the only person unopposed.

So there's your cheat sheet. With more than 8 weeks to go, I reserve the right to change it.

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