Election pundit Stu Rothenberg has taken notice of the CA-31 race, noticing that former Rep. Joe Baca and EMILY’s List-endorsed Eloise Gomez Reyes, DCCC backed Pete Aguilar, and San Bernardino City Unified School District Board Member Danny Tillman are all running for the Democratic nomination. He wonders if the 2012 result where no Democrat advanced to the general election could happen again.
Last year the four Democrats split 48.5% of the vote. Rothenberg wonders whether Democrats will "coalesce behind one of their hopefuls." The answer to that is no. In 2012, they should've coalesced behind one candidate. Renea Wickman raised a small amount of money, Rita Ramirez-Dean raised none, and Justin Kim raised a low but respectable $160,286. Pete Aguilar raised nearly three times all the other candidates combined. Aguilar had the backing of the DCCC and the Democratic establishment in San Bernardino county. None of the other candidates should've really registered against Aguilar.
Yet they did combined to beat Aguilar by over 2,000 votes. Why? They each were in the race for a long time, campaigned hard to get votes, and had some strong ethnic ties to certain groups in the district. Wickman was African-American, Kim Asian-American, and Ramirez-Dean was a Trustee at Copper Mountain Community College District. That was enough to take those votes.
This time Aguilar is up against a well known former congressman who raised over $1 million in the last cycle, a candidate supported by the deep pocketed EMILY's List, and another African-American. These candidates should get a higher percentage of the vote than the last ones did. It seems unlikely a Democrat will get above 20%.
What's missing is a Republican candidate who could eat into Miller's total enough to top 20%. There are seasoned legislators who could do what Bob Dutton did. State Senator Bill Emmerson lives outside the district but represents some of it in the senate. He isn't up for re-election, so he has a free shot at any office. I'm unsure but I believe he'll be term limited in 2016. Assemblyman Curt Hagman is also from just outside the district. Unlike Emmerson, however, his district has no territory that's also in CA-31. Hagman will be termed out in 2014. He could run for the state senate but the district he'd run in SD-29 won't be up for election until 2016. So Hagman could be without an office to run for in 2014.
Another option could be Bill Leonard. Leonard represented the area in the assembly and senate for 24 years and then was elected to the Board of Equalization for 8 years. He's certainly well-known enough to garner a lot of votes. Perhaps the easiest option would be California Republican Party chairman Jim Brulte. Brulte represented the area in the assembly and senate.
Bob Dutton could always run again. That's just current and former elected officials. So Republicans have options of candidates who might not beat Gary Miller one-on-one, but the objective would be to get enough votes to make the November election two Republicans.