Friday, January 31, 2014

Handicapping CA-33

Since Henry Waxman announced his retirement two heavy hitting Democrats, former city controller Wendy Greuel and State Sen. Ted Lieu have announced their candidacies. These two are heavy hitters because both are well known experienced candidates who'll raise a lot of money. Lieu's senate district largely overlaps CA-33 and while only about 30% of the district is in the city of Los Angeles, the people in the district know her.

I should mention that self-help author Marianne Williamson and producer Brent Roske are already running. Indications are they'll run as NPP (No Party Preference) although both appear to fall somewhere on the left. Williamson is well known and has sold millions of books. She may put her own money into the race. Roske is unknown and has indicated he won't spend any money in his campaign. Williamson may impact the race. Roske is unlikely to get many votes.

A lot of other names are swirling about. I think Secretary of State Debra Bowen and former Assemblywoman Betsey Butler are the two biggest possibilities. Butler, however, may try for Lieu's senate district, which will be vacant now that he isn't running for re-election. Freshman Assemblyman Richard Bloom has been mentioned but I think he'd be overwhelmed in this field and is a good bet to keep his current district.

State Senator Fran Pavley has been mentioned, although some dismiss her because her election would mean a special election in her swingy state senate district. I don't know Pavley but I don't think that'd discourage her. Because she isn't up for election now, she'd only have to give up her state senate district if she wins.She's termed out in two years, so she has to be looking at what she'll be doing next. Waxman served 40 years. If she wants to go to congress, this may be her only chance for a while. While it is true that her election would result in her vacating a swing senate district, that district will be vacant in 2016 either way. At worst she costs her party two years in the district.

The most talked about name may be someone who has never been a candidate, has no real connection to the district, and no fundraising base. I'm speaking, of course, about Sandra Fluke. I'm not going to waste my time describing Fluke. I think that's been done enough. It's tough not to be dismissive of Fluke. She'd be going up against popular local candidates with deep bank accounts. Yes, she could run on the "War on Women" but is that really an effective line of attack against Wendy Greuel?

I know some people think this district is moon bat left very progressive but it isn't. It certainly contains Santa Monica and the Westside, which are very left wing, but the district overall isn't far left. In fact, we need look no further than the 2012 AD-50 race. That district contains the most progressive part of this district. Progressive incumbent Betsy Butler against more standard Democrat Richard Bloom. Butler got 49.5%. So the moon bat progressive couldn't win a one-on-one battle in the progressive part of the district. And the rest of the district isn't hospitable to a progressive. In fact, Henry Waxman lost the rest of the district by 8,000 votes.

Fluke's only shot is if enough mainstream Democrats enter the race that they split the vote enough that she can make top two with 12-14%, which is probably her ceiling. I think she'd get half that. We'll have to see how many are in before we can predict that.

NPP candidate Bill Bloomfield is leaning toward running. That's a good news/bad news thing for Fluke. Bloomfield will likely clear the Republican field, because any Republican who might run isn't going to be a big fundraiser. They'll likely be intimidated by Bloomfield's money and his defeat of the Republican in the 2012 primary.

That's good news for Fluke because a big Republican field could result in two Democrats being top two. She'd lose such a race to someone who can attract Republican and moderate votes. It's bad news for Fluke if she makes top two because Bloomfield could beat her. He got 46% against the heavy spending well known well trusted incumbent. While Republicans may see Waxman as far left, mainstream Democrats liked him. It isn't hard to see some mainstream Democratic defection from Fluke. If her opponent were Mike Gin or Kit Bobko, then she wins the race even with a bad campaign.

While I think Bloomfield could beat Fluke, he might also be a threat against any Democrat. He got 46% in 2012, a Democratic year with a Presidential electorate. He'd likely do better with a mid-term electorate in a more Republican year. He'd still have to replicate his 2012 accomplishment of winning over Obama-Feinstein voters, but it's not like he's forgotten how to do that.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

CA-33: Henry Waxman Retiring

Is it a surprise when a 74 year old congressman announces his retirement? It really shouldn't, although few were expecting Henry Waxman (D, CA-33) to announce his retirement today. He did give Politico, the Washington Post and the New York Times enough of a heads up that they'd have glowingly long portraits ready to run. They all came out at the same time this morning. Waxman is the epitome of the Westside progressive and was very popular with Democrats and incredibly unpopular with Republicans.

Waxman was drawn into an unusual district in 2011, with very liberal areas of the Westside like Santa Monica and Venice along with Republican leaning areas south of the airport. As a result of mixing these two disparate voting blocks, it was a district that Steve Cooley won in the Attorney General race in 2010, but Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown won by enough to discourage any Republican. Bill Bloomfield, a Republican turned NPP, spent heavily in the district and over performed what a Republican should get and lost 54%-46%. Bloomfield blew Waxman out in the South Bay based AD-66, 58.2%-41.8%, but lost the rest of the district 61.5%-38.%.

Some Democrats have already ruled out running.

None of these are surprising. Shriver and Kuehl are the two Democrats with a chance to succeed Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. They aren't going to abandon an election where they have a good shot for a clown car primary. While it might be tough for those outside of Los Angeles to understand, going from LA County Supervisor to the back bench of congress is a big demotion. Brownley likely got the John Garamendi treatment. There's no way Democrats would let their incumbent in a swing seat run in a safe Democrat district.

The list of possible Democratic candidates here is a long one. They include Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who finished 3rd in a congressional election in 2011, State Senator Fran Pavley, former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, City Attorney Mike Feuer,and LA City Councilmen Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz are all possibilities, although both of them live outside the district. State Sen. Ted Lieu and Assemblyman Richard Bloom should also be mentioned, although doing so would mean giving up their current seats. If they want to be in congress, it might be worth it. And those are just the elected officials. This is a district with a lot of wealthy liberals, including many actors who might think they want to be in congress.

Because it contains some heavily Republican areas, the district has a Republican bench. While there hasn't been much enthusiasm among Republicans up until now, Waxman's retirement is sure to bring a lot of interest. It could be a great opportunity for the GOP to finish 1-2 in a primary. The primary will likely be 42-46% Republican. If you have two Republicans and a lot of strong Democrats it wouldn't be hard to see the Republicans finish in the low 20's and no Democrat get more than 17%.

Edit: This morning I was certain former City Controller Wendy Greuel would run, but I didn't include her because someone convinced me that she lived in the Valley and that's where her support was. I shouldn't question myself. Greuel is in.

Monday, January 27, 2014

CA-Governor: The Republican Candidates

Saturday morning there was a townhall put on by a local Republican group. There were probably around 125 people in attendance. I’m guessing but they were likely active Republicans who’d volunteered on campaigns before. They had Shawn Steel, RNC National Committeeman, Sen. Robert Huff, Republican Senate Leader, and RPLAC chairman Mark Basil Vafiades, among others give an update about the party. Then they had candidates address the audience. The two gubernatorial candidates spoke.

Tim Donnelly spoke first. He was engaging and funny, mentioning the controversial web video with Maria Conchita Alonso. It's not hard to see what people like about Donnelly. I know some people think Donnelly will be a disaster for the GOP, as people will run from a party that runs a "wacko fringe" candidate. I disagree. Contrary to what "people in the know" think, Donnelly doesn't have a negative image with California populace.

People counter that after Jerry Brown runs a lot of negative advertising people will run screaming from the GOP. I don't see Jerry Brown doing a lot of negative advertising. If the election is as one-sided as it appears, he's far more likely to take the high road like Dianne Feinstein did in 2012. She never mentioned her opponent, let alone went negative on her. Brown has spent the last three years selling himself as a common sense moderate Democrat who Republicans can be proud to have as governor. He won't mess up that image if he doesn't need to do it to help him win the election.

And no, I don't see outside groups doing that either. In 2012, there was a lot of outside money spent in California one congressional and legislative races, but none on the Presidential or Senate races. I'm sure it's possible that local spending will attempt to tie congressional candidates to "crazy Tim Donnelly," but doing that would be a two step process. People knew the negatives for Mitt Romney and Meg Whitman. You'd have to educate them on Donnelly's negatives, hope they take, and then attach him to the candidate. That sounds like a lot of work.

The only way they'd run negative ads on Donnelly is if he's an actual threat and polling in the mid to high 40's. If they do that and knock him down to 39%, Donnelly's in the same place he is now. Even if Donnelly does badly, I don't think it'll hurt the Republican party.

Neel Kashkari spoke next and he fell flat. He opened up by telling people that he ran a government program that didn't cost the taxpayer a dime and actually made the government a $13 billion profit. (He didn't mention this was TARP, as that names doesn't go over well). You'd think this'd be music to the crowd's ears. Republicans wouldn't object to a lot of what government does if it didn't cost us anything. He got crickets. Kashkari was careful, emphasizing jobs and education and not mentioning his support for gay marriage or abortion. And he was uninspiring.

Frankly, I don't see what Kashkari brings to the election that'll help him make top two. He's unknown by most Californians. He doesn't have any grassroots support or organization. Running as a moderate won't help that because moderates aren't as enthusiastic as conservatives or liberals. He likely hasn't raised much money and he won't be putting much of his own money in. So I don't know how he'll raise his profile. He only has strong appeal to Indian-Americans. While that may help him raise some money, they aren't a big voting block. So how will he get more votes than Donnelly in the primary?

If it's a choice between Kashkari and Donnelly, I think Donnelly would be more helpful to the Republican party. While it's possible that Donnelly will turn off some moderates from the party, Kashkari isn't likely to win them. Maybe they'll stay home no matter who runs. Donnelly has incredibly strong appeal to the Tea Party and some conservatives. He's building a tremendous grassroots organization, loaded with conservative activists. That organization will get people to the polls. Some of these people are high turnout voters, but others are so disillusioned with the Republican party they might stay home if Kashkari were the nominee.

Keep in mind that swing districts don't consist entirely of swing voters. There are a lot of conservative voters in those districts. They're balanced out by liberal voters. Candidates like Gary Miller have districts loaded with conservatives. Donnelly is from San Bernardino County and I'm sure he can use all the Donnelly enthusiasm there'll be in Rancho Cucamonga and Upland.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Coattails in California

The L.A. Times reports that Republicans fear that a weak Republican gubernatorial candidate could lead to down ticket losses. Is that true?

The presence of coattails is regarded as a given. Certainly there have been years where a party's Presidential candidate does extremely well and that party does well down ticket. On the other hand, Republicans lost a number of senate races in 2012 in states where the voters punched Mitt Romney's name, sometimes by huge margins. I've seen very little about whether a gubernatorial or senate candidate has similar coattails, although these people seem to think they do.

There are two different coattails voters. The first is a swing voter who decides to vote with a particular political party down ticket based on how they feel about the top of the ticket. I know this is conventional wisdom, but I really question it. Swing voters aren't sheep who just punch a button down ticket for who they like at the top of the ticket. They may decide that they dislike a party (Republicans in 2008 and Democrats in 2010) and want the other party in office, but that may influence their top of the ticket vote more than the other way around. I don't dismiss there are some voters like this, but not as many as people think.

The second coattail voter is the casual voter. Every election gets some voters who vote in some elections, while others take an election off. These voters can be dedicated to one party and vote for that party. In 2008, some casual Democratic ticket voters showed up, while Republicans stayed home. The 2010 vote was the reverse.

But what about California? There's no way to definitively prove coattails, but the 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial races make an interesting contrast. In 2006 the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, got 55.9% of the vote. The 2010 nominee, Meg Whitman, got 40.9%. A wide spread like this one should produce the coattail effect, if it exists.

Below is a list of California congressional districts where there was one Republican and one Democratic candidate in both 2006 and 2010. So it includes 43 of the 53 state's congressional districts. The results are two party, so they include only the Republican and Democratic votes in both the gubernatorial and congressional elections. The chart can be found here.

Schwarzenegger beat Whitman by anywhere from 9.8% to 20.5% in the districts.In 15 districts the Republican did better in 2006, while the party's candidate did better in 28 in 2010. Overall, Schwarzenegger averaged 58.4% in the districts while Whitman averaged 42.7%. Yet the average Republican in 2006 got 40.9% of the vote and 42.7% in 2010. While you might not expect the average Republican to be 15.7% better in 2010, you'd expect them to be somewhat better if there coattails. You certainly wouldn't expect them to be 1.8% worse.

Some people might point out that Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't closely identified with the Republican party and might have less of a coattail effect. That's true, but he'd been famous for nearly three decades and was well known as a Republican. He'd even spoken at the party convention. Whitman's ties to the Republican party were nonexistent. She hadn't been active in politics and few people knew what party she was registered with before she ran. She'd even rarely voted. If Neel Kashkari finishes top two, he'll have a similar non-identification with the party. Tim Donnelly is more closely identified with the Republican party, but he's not very well known.

Another factor that might come into play was the national environment. It favored Democrats in 2006 and Republicans in 2010, the reverse of the California gubernatorial result. That's true, but if that was a bigger factor in both 2006 and 2010, then it'll also be a bigger factor this year.

There is a Republican floor in California. Elizabeth Emken was an unknown, underfunded, candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012 who ran against a well funded, extremely popular incumbent, Dianne Feinstein, in a Presidential year with a Democrat at the top of the ticket who got 61.2% of the two party vote. Emken got 37.5% of the vote. This election will be a mid-term more favorable to Republicans. Brown isn't as popular as Feinstein and the Republican gubernatorial nominee should have more funding than Emken. If Kashkari or Donnelly are a disaster, they should get at least that 37.5% At that level the drop from Meg Whitman would be a fraction of what it was from Schwarzenegger to Whitman. If Republicans were able to do better with Whitman than Schwarzenegger I doubt Kashkari or Donnelly doing a few points worse than Whitman will drag down Republicans.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

AD-44: Jason Hodge Drops Out

Democrat Jason Hodge was running for the 44th Assembly district. I say was because right after I wrote this post, Hodge dropped out of the race. Why did Hodge drop out? “We’re looking at a primary that’s 35 percent Democratic,” Hodge said. “Currently three people are running for a small slice of the vote. It’s possible none of us could get out of the primary.” For the exact reason I cited in my blog post. Did I put the idea in his or someone else's head? I'm sure no one will admit it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

California Top Two: Shutouts Could Happen

Now that we've looked at CA-25 and the Secretary of State race as possibilities where Democrats could get shut out of Top Two, the next question is "where else could this happen?" The good news for Republicans and bad for Democrats is that it won't happen for Democrats in Republican or swing districts. There are two reasons for this. First, the June primary leans heavily Republican. For example, AD-40 went 58.2%-41.8% Republican in the primary but was 50.4%-49.6% in the general election. This is good news for Republicans because they can possibly steal an election in the primary, as they did in CA-31 in 2012, but also bad news because it means that winning big in a primary doesn't make a district safe. Second, there are no districts currently where there are two Democrats running and three or more Republicans running. Those districts with three or more Republicans currently have only one or zero Democratic candidates. Obviously, this can change up until the March 7 filing deadline.

I've identified three districts that could result in two Republicans making Top Two and they should all be disturbing for Democrats. The first is AD-40, the San Bernardino county seat open because Republican Mike Morrell is running for the State Senate. There are currently two Republicans and three Democrats running. As I mentioned above, the district went 58.2%-41.8% Republican in the primary. We don't know if we should expect similar results this year. While the November 2014 election will likely be more Republican than November 2012 that may not be the case for the June primaries. At the very least it shouldn't be more Democratic. None of the five candidates holds a major elected office in the district. If it ends up being two Republicans vs. three Democrats, it's likely both Republicans will get at least 25% of the vote. Unless a Democrat catches fire, 25% might be too high a hurdle if Democrats get 41.8% of the vote.

The Ventura County based AD-44 is very similar to AD-40. President Barack Obama won AD-40 with 54.3% of the vote and AD-44 with 53.5%. Barbara Boxer got 47.0% and 47.1%. Like AD-40, AD-44 is open because Assemblyman Jeff Gorell is running for higher office. The June 2012 primary results were almost the same as AD-40, 58.1%-41.9%. This district currently has three Democrats and three Republicans. The Democrats are a Port Commissioner, councilmember, and community college trustee. There might not be a lot distinguishing them. None of the Republicans are high profile, however. This 'll likely mean that no Republican will run away with the Republican vote and all three could split the vote. With three Republicans splitting their vote and three Democrats splitting theirs a two Republican Top Two is less likely than AD-40.

The last district that could result in two Republicans in Top Two is a real surprise. It's the Gateway Cities based SD-32. This State Senate district wasn't up for election in 2012, but SD-17, which pulled in similar Obama-Romney numbers, was. SD-17 went 59.4%-40.6% Democratic in the June primary. That would normally mean it wouldn't be a candidate for two Republicans to finish Top Two, but there are a whopping seven Democrats running here. That includes two former State Assembly members, a Councilman, and several school board officials. I don't know how they'll divide up the roughly 60% of the Democratic vote, but it's not hard to see no candidate exceed 15-17%. If the Republicans divide up the remaining 40% fairly equally, they could finish first and second. While the other two districts are toss-ups, this is a solidly Democratic district that the Democrats could lose.

It's still early enough that more candidates could file in these districts or several could drop out. We don't know if a candidate could separate him/herself from the pack and take enough to finish Top Two.

Monday, January 20, 2014

California Secretary of State

Republicans are an extreme long shot to win any statewide office in California and this year should be no different. Right now the GOP might not have a candidate for a number of offices. There's one office that might put everything into chaos due to top two. That's Secretary of State.

There are two top Democrats in the race, both state senators. There's a third Democrat, who is a Vice President with Common Cause. There's also a Green. There's one Republican, Pete Peterson, who is Executive Director of Pepperdine Davenport Institute and one NPP, Dan Schnur, Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. Schnur used to be a spokesman for Pete Wilson. As of now, there are no AI or Libertarian candidates.

There were three statewide offices that were contested on both sides in 2010, Governor, Attorney General, and Lieutenant Governor. Democrats got between 50.2% and 52.1% of the vote in the three. Yes, June primaries in California look like you're in a purple state. A Green candidate is going to get 2-3% of the vote in a statewide election. So it's likely that the vote will be split fairly evenly between the Democrats on one side and the Republican and NPP on the other.

One Democrat could really gain momentum and top 30% of the vote. That's what happened in the three contested Democratic primaries in 2010. It's also possible that Padilla and Yee, the state senators, could get 22% each, with the third Democrat getting 5%. After all, neither is well known far outside their districts.

Peterson and Schnur could split the remaining 48 of the vote. And there's no reason to think they won't split it fairly evenly. Like Yee and Padilla, neither have a very high profile and hold similar jobs to one another. The 2012 Senate race was the only statewide election with top two and that was a race with an extremely popular and well known incumbent. So there's no way of knowing how an NPP will be treated. Will Schnur get significant Republican votes and some left leaning votes or will the Republican votes go largely to the Republican candidate? NPP candidates were underwhelming in confessional races. Most notably, Linda Parks, a well known former Republican, didn't come close to top two. It's likely she lost a lot of Republican support by going NPP. So Schnur could split the 48% non-left leaning vote or Peterson could take much of it. If you're looking for a race where two non-Democrats finish top two, this could be it. We'll get a good idea after filing closes March 7.

Friday, January 17, 2014

CA-25: Top Two

Ever since the CA-31 Top Two primary resulted in Democrats getting shut out, people have speculated whether it could happen again in a competitive district and, if so, where. We'll be able to tell better after the filing deadline, but CA-25 could be the place. Are we looking at a Knight vs. Strickland general election?

Republicans racked up the votes in the 2012 primary. Buck McKeon got 50.5% and Republicans got 70.2% overall. Lee Rogers, the lone Democrat, got 29.7%. Rogers did a lot better in the general election, but Democrats typically do a lot worse in primaries than they do in general elections. This wasn't an anomaly. The Democratic vote could be less than 2012's 29.7% if the year skews Republican. Even if it's better, it might not exceed 35%. Rogers will have to compete with two other Democrats.

There were seven 2012 congressional primaries in competitive or semi-competitive districts where there was no Democratic incumbent and more than one Democrat in the race. In five of the races, the lead Democrat got between 40% and 55% of the non-Republican vote. In the other two, the lead Democrat got 69% and 81%. So Rogers' maximum is probably 28%.

There are two prominent Republicans in the race, state senator Steve Knight and former state senator Tony Strickland. Both should be prolific fundraisers and garner a lot of votes. There were a number of primaries where two well known candidates from the same party got a similar number of votes. In CA-31, Gary Miller beat Bob Dutton by 1.9%. In CA-52 Gary Peters beat Lori Saldana by only 0.5%. If Strickland and Knight are splitting 65% of the vote, it's not hard to see both getting at least 29%.

People are speculating that the district could be competitive. That's unlikely. It could happen that no Democrat will even be in the November election.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Abel Maldonado Drops Out of California Gubernatorial Race

The conventional wisdom is that no one is going to beat Democrat Jerry Brown in the California gubernatorial race. Any Republican is just in the race as fodder. I can't disagree with that assessment. Abel Maldonado was put forward as the "great Latino hope." Sure, he wouldn't win, but he'd improve Republican standing with Hispanics. That wisdom was questionable. Maldonado was an underwhelming candidate for congress in 2012 and had been running an underwhelming campaign for governor. Today, he dropped out. I know some Republicans think Tim Donnelly will drag downy the rest of the ticket, but I doubt he'll be worse than Maldonado would've been. You only get so many points for just showing up.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

McKeon, Garamendi, and Jerry Brown

Politico is now reporting Buck McKeon is retiring, but McKeon still won't say he's retiring.
"The Congressman will make an announcement when he is ready to make the announcement," spokeswoman Alissa Curley said in a statement to Post Politics.
After expressing that he wanted to run in Contra Costa County, John Garamendi did a 180 and restated his desire to run in his current district, CA-3. I'm guessing he got an earful from Nancy Pelosi, Steve Israel, and maybe the White House.

Jerry Brown stated that he won't run for President, but has yet to say that he is running for re-election as California governor. Everything he's done has indicated he is and there's no reason to think he won't. Why won't he say he's running? Imagine the chaos if he doesn't run?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

CA-25: Buck McKeon Retiring?

Earlier today Jon Fleischman, publisher of the influential Flash Report, Tweeted that Buck McKeon was retiring. Fleischman was the first to break three of California's GOP retirements (Herger, Lewis, Gallegly) in 2012.

A McKeon retirement has been speculated for months. McKeon gave a non-denial denial later in the day that he hadn't made a decision yet. I can't think of another district where not one, but two challengers are fundraising but will only run if the incumbent retires. Yeah, "if."

This District isn't winnable for Democrats. A lot has been made of Buck McKeon's 2012 55%-45% win over some dude Lee Rogers. The theory goes that if McKeon has a real opponent he might've lost. There's nothing to this. While a better candidate might've done better, McKeon is notorious for not campaigning and spending more time outside the district helping other Republicans. The McKeon family was far more concerned with helping Buck's wife Patricia win an assembly seat. Tony Strickland and Steve Knight are candidates who've been through tough elections and will put a lot more effort into an election than McKeon has.

McKeon's performance wasn't that bad. He finished 3.8% ahead of Mitt Romney. The average Republican in California competitive/semi-competitive seats finished 3.3% ahead of Romney. Darrell Issa was 4.8% ahead of Romney and Dana Rohrabacher was 5.0%. That's not that much better. This simply isn't a 60%-40% seat no matter who runs. But it's also not a 50%-50% seat either.

We also should keep in mind that 2014 will be a mid-term and every statewide Democratic candidate lost this district in 2010, even the ones who blew out their Republican opponent. Even Diane Feinstein couldn't win the district. This was an R+14 for Emken.

The Democrats don't have a candidate who can win here. Yes, I know I've said that about Riverside County and CA-41 but that was a district that Obama won by 26 points. If Obama is winning by that amount, Democrats can run anyone and still win. They can't do that in a district Obama lost.

Could it be competitive in 2016? I doubt it. The district went from R+3.4 in 2008 to R+2.9 in 2012 when so many other districts were making big moves toward the Democrats. The aforementioned CA-41 went from D+6.9 to D+10.9. So it seems unlikely to move to D+ territory it'd need to for it to be competitive. Democrats will again run "some dude," while the GOP will run a sitting congressman.

CA-11: Garamendi Considering Seat

There is a perception out there that the Democrats in California are a well-oiled machine. One thing people don't notice is that the Democrats may have cost themselves not one, but two congressional districts in 2012 because their sitting congressmen didn't want to run in certain districts. Nearly 80% of Jim Costa's district was in the new CA-21. Costa decided to run in the safer CA-16. That district contained territory from several congressmen, but the plurality was from Dennis Cardoza's district. Cardoza could've run in CA-16 against Costa or run in either CA-1, which had quite a bit of his old district, or CA-21. Cardoza retired. Democrats lost both CA-10 and CA-21.

It's hard to remember now, but in 2011 Joe Baca was regarded as a strong incumbent congressman. Had he run in CA-31, it's likely that multiple Democrats wouldn't have tried for the seat and Baca would've made top two. He ran in CA-35 and Democrats lost CA-31. Today, Congressman John Garamendi decided not to rule out a run for CA-11, retiring congressman George Miller's seat. CA-11 is 47% of Garamendi's old seat and 46% of Miller's old seat. It's safe for any Democrat and Garamendi's current seat, CA-3, is potentially competitive every two years. Garamendi would face a tough foe in State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, although Garamendi did defeat him in the 2009 special election for his old district.

The bigger story, however, is that Garamendi running in CA-11 would leave CA-3 an open seat. Carly Fiorina won the district in 2010. The district moved only slightly more Democratic in 2012, so there's no reason to think the GOP wouldn't be competitive for an open seat there. Considering what happened with CA-21 and CA-31, Democrats should be afraid of this scenario.

Monday, January 13, 2014

San Diego Mayoral Race

Volunteers for San Diego Democratic mayoral candidate David Alvarez were walking precincts in Rancho Bernardo this weekend, including Republican households. This is a curious move. Rancho Bernardo is about as red as you can get in the city of San Diego. Carl DeMaio got 80% in one precinct and got at least 60% in almost all of them.

I've walked precincts for candidates and it's rare that they're able to have enough volunteers to hand out all the packets in all the precincts. So you usually concentrate your walking in the neighborhoods that'll be most favorable to your candidate and include ones that are slightly less favorable and go down the line. If you have three hours to walk a neighborhood, you'll get a lot more votes knocking on a lot more doors in a favorable area.

This is a special election, which means it'll be lower turnout than 2012. This Alvarez precinct walking decision either means that Alvarez has a ridiculous number of volunteers and is covering every precinct in the city or that he's desperate and realizes he can't win counting on turn-out in heavily Democratic areas. Considering the new SurveyUSA poll has him trailing by a lot, I'd guess it's the latter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

CA AD-36: Lou Gonzales Drops Out

If the Republican party has any life left in California, AD-36 is a district the party has to win. Carly Fiorina won the district by 15 points. Meg Whitman won by 9 points. In fact, even Mimi Walters and Tony Strickland, who got killed statewide, won this district. Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein won the district by just a few votes. Democrat Steve Fox only won by getting 67% of the votes on the final day of counting provisional ballots. If the GOP can't win this district back in a mid-term the party is in a death spiral and will keep losing ground.

Republicans rallied around businessman Lou Gonzales to challenge Fox, discouraging others from entering the race. Gonzales has dropped out, leaving the GOP without a candidate. This is a must have district that should easily flip to the GOP. Of course they won't win without a candidate.

Edit: I've been told Republicans will announce "a quality candidate" within two weeks.

CA-17: A Republican Enters

Long-time congressman Mike Honda is being challenged by former Obama administration official Ro Khanna in what figured to be a young v. old type of race reminiscent of the 2012 CA-15 race between long time congressman Pete Stark and Dublin city councilman Eric Swalwell.

Swalwell had the good fortune that there was no Republican in the primary race. Besides Stark, the only other candidate was Chris Pareja, who had no party preference. Pareja, who spent no money, got 21.7% of the vote, while Swalwell got 36.2% and finished top two. Since Pareja wasn't a Republican, he likely didn't get as high a percentage of the Republican vote that a registered Republican would have. There are some Republicans who'll only vote for a Republican, but if there's no Republican they might go with the Democrat over an NPP.

Stanford anesthesiologist Vanila Singh has entered the CA-17 race as a Republican. In the 2012 primary, Republican Evelyn Li got 27.6% of the vote, while Charles Richardson, an NPP, got 5.7%. There were only three candidates, a Republican, Democrat, and NPP. So we don't know if the Li and Richardson vote was purely right leaning independents and Republicans or if there were anti-Honda Democrats in there.

Li's percentage in the general election actually declined to 26.5%. Honda's percentage jumped from 66.7% in the primary to 73.5% in the general. At first glance, this might mean that Richardson's votes will go to a Democrat. I'm not so sure. California primary electorates are notoriously more Republican than general electorates. Li and Richardson had 30,079 votes to get their 33.3% in the primary. Li got 57,336 votes to get 26.5% in the general. The general just had more Democratic voters and that pushed Li's percentage so low. If Singh matches Li's percentage, Khanna may have a rough time finishing top two. He'll have to get a substantial percentage of Democrats. That'll be difficult to do against a long time incumbent who has endorsements from the entire Democratic establishment. If Singh gets the 33.3% that Li and Richardson got, Khanna will have to actually beat both Singh AND Honda in the primary to advance. Swalwell didn't beat Stark in the primary. I see that scenario as unlikely.

Khanna's best hope is that there's at least one more Republican on the ballot. If you look at similar districts in 2012, like CA-27 or CA-38, you'll see that "some dude" Republicans will split the vote. I'm not advocating anything underhanded here but if Khanna wants to assure making top two, someone from his camp could call one of his big money tech executive supporters and that tech executive could find a registered Republican and get him on the ballot. Okay, I am suggesting something underhanded, but it's not like anyone from Khanna's camp reads this blog, is it?

Is there a Democratic Party split?

Amy Walter of Cook Political postulates that there really is no Democratic Party divide.
But, if there is this liberal/moderate split in the Democratic Party, I haven’t seen any evidence of it.
Walter looks at the numbers and draws the wrong conclusion. One only needs to read dailykos and know that there is a divide. Or you could look at the votes of Mark Pryor. Or hear Robert Gibbs scoff at the "professional left." We know there are pro-coal, pro-life, pro-gun, and even pro-business Democrats. To say there's no difference between the positions of Elizabeth Warren and Mark Begich is ludicrous.

What Walter misses is that she's using numbers based on Democrats and Republicans self-identifying which camp they fall into. Republicans have a fairly clean divide between moderate and conservative. For a large part, those that identify as each do differ in where they stand on issues.

If there's no real difference, however, between a moderate and a liberal Democrat, then we're obviously dividing the two groups improperly. Why would you have two terms for people who believe the same thing? Clearly, they're both moderates or both liberals. Walter mentions that "The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is also much smaller than the self-identified conservative wing of the Republican Party." She doesn't ask why. The reason is that some so called "moderate Democrats" are liberals. When you get so many liberals identifying as moderates, then the moderates' positions are going to look a lot like the liberals' positions.

A better way to determine if people are conservative, moderate, or liberal would be to have them do one of those Internet ideology tests we've all taken. Ask them to answer 10 or 20 questions and then classify them thusly. I'm guessing you'd see a broad range of answers from people who identify as Democrats. Once you've identified people who are actually liberal and actually moderate, I'm guessing you'll see some kind of divide in the "deficit/spend on the poor" question she uses.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

LA County Supervisor: Shriver in, Gruel Out

The LA County supervisors each have around 2 million constituents and control an enormous budget. These are positions with an enormous budget, a ton of power, and are largely unknown to the average person. They don't have the high profile that the Los Angeles city mayor does. People serve forever. Three of the seats have had only 2 supervisors going back to the 70's, while the other two have had 3 supervisors. If not for term limits there wouldn't be 2 new supervisors getting elected this year. The seats are also very gerrymandered to produce a Hispanic Democrat, a Black Democrat, a progressive White Democrat, and 2 Republicans.

Today former Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel decided not to run for the 3rd District supervisor seat, which is up this year. This should hand the seat to JFK nephew Bobby Shriver, the only heavyweight candidate who is currently in the race. Shriver has never run for anything so big, but his opposition is relatively unknown and can't raise the kind of money he can. If he manages to lose this seat against this competition, he's inept.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Election Recap

This provides a 2013 election recap. I'm including elections where the winner had less than 70% of the vote, as elections where the winner has more are often not contested.

California State 45th Assembly District - Democrat 51%-49%
California State 52nd Assembly District - Democrat 51%-49%
California 16th Senate District - Republican 52%-48%
California 32nd Senate District - Democrat 60%-40%
California 40th Senate District - Democrat 64%-36%

President Obama got at least 63% in all these districts in 2012. The first three on the list were very bad for Democrats. The other two were underperformances but about what might be expected of Democrats, especially in an off year.

Colorado SD 3 Recall Democrat 56%-44%
Colorado SD 11 Recall Democrat 51%-49%

These results were awful for Democrats. I think these seats were 58-59% Obama. Democrats outspent Republicans dramatically in these recalls and they still lost.

Iowa SS-13 - Republican 58%-42%

Kentucky 56th State Representative - Democrat 44%-34%
Kentucky 52nd State Representative - Republican 59%-41%
Kentucky 13th Senatorial District - Democrat 54%-35%
Kentucky 7th State Representative - Republican 51%-49%

Michigan SR-49 - Democrat 63%-32%

Minnesota State Legislative District 14A - Republican 55%-43%
Minnesota State Legislative District 19A - Democrat 54%-36%

Missouri 8th congressional district - Republican 67%-27%
Missouri LD157 - Republican 59%-41%

I don't know about the LD but the congressional result was a few points worse than the 2012 result. That's probably not meaningful. The Democrat did only get 27%.

Massachusetts 6th Bristol - Democrat 53%-47%
Massachusetts 16th Worcester - Democrat 64%-36%
Massachusetts's 5th congressional district - Democrat 66%-32%

I don't know about the Massachusetts State Legislature elections, but Ed Markey's margin was 51 points, 19 points better than Katherine Clark did. Like the MO-8 election, it could simply be due to the seat being open and the other party trying.

Maine State Senate District 19 - Democrat 51%-46%

New Jersey Assembly - Democrat 50%-50%
New Jersey State Senate - Republican 51%-49%
New Jersey Governor - Republican 60%-38%
New Jersey Senate - Democrat 55%-45%

While the Christie result might be considered expected, the other results are, IMO, the most shocking of 2013. The races above might be attributed to the circumstances in a single district and individual candidates. These are statewide results.

The Senate race was a major shocker to me. I don't know the final numbers but as of July 24, 2013 Booker had spent $2,582,837 to Lonegan's $171,538. Booker was well known and well-liked. Lonegan ran as a Tea Party Republican in a blue state and the election was at the height of the government shutdown. Yet somehow Lonegan got the highest percentage a Republican has gotten in a New Jersey senate race since 2000.

Three weeks later the two parties split the legislative vote. Maybe this was simply Christie's coat tails. Still, this is a D+7 state and Republicans did a lot better than anyone thought they could do.

South Carolina State House of Representatives District 93 - Democrat 66%-34%
South Carolina 1st Congressional District - Republican 54%-42%

This was the best congressional result for a Democrat in 2013. It's an R+11 district and one that Tim Scott won by 26 points. It may have simply been Mark Sanford and all his baggage.

Virginia Governor - Democrat 48%-45%
Virginia Lieutenant Governor - Democrat 55%-45%
Virginia Attorney General - Democrat 50%-50%
Virginia House of Delegates
Virginia State Senate

I don't have the results for the Senate or House of Delegates. I hope someone can share those with me. On the one hand, this is a purple state, one that had been won by the party that didn't have the White House for a long time. And Democrats swept it.

On the other hand, the Republicans had a weak candidate who was heavily outspent and ended up finishing better than expected. In fact, all these results were a few points better than expected. National politics may have come into play, but that could go both ways. Republicans had recently been blamed for shutting down the government and the negative Obamacare stories were starting to pile up.

Washington Legislative District 26 - State Senator - Republican 52%-48%

Wisconsin Assembly District 82 - Republican 64%-36%
Wisconsin Assembly District 21 - Republican 56%-44%