Saturday, May 31, 2014

California Primary: Congressional Races

California’s Top Two primary adds excitement, even to races where the parties only have one candidate. Why? Since everyone can vote for anyone, the primary is a subset of the general election. So not only do we need to watch who finishes in the Top Two, but also the two parties vote share.

In 2006, Republicans actually did better than their primary share more than Democrats did, but in the three elections since, Democrats have done better than their primary vote share in 84%, 89%, and 98% of the races. I think 2012 was a little extreme because online registration was introduced between the primary and general election.

Still, if Democrats have the higher vote share in the primary we should count on their candidate winning 90% of the time in the general election. A good guide would be that if Republicans finish the primary 10% better than Democrats, the race should be a toss-up. If Republicans finish 20% better they’ll likely win over 90% of the time.

These races have candidates being attacked from the right, from the left, a far left self help guru, and a fake candidate in the race to help a candidate in another party. Something for everyone.

In the CA-3 and 47 races, you should watch vote share, since who is going to the November ballot isn’t in doubt. CA-9, 16 24. and 41 all have Democratic incumbents, all are too Democratic to be competitive and all have fields of Republican some dude challengers. My picks are businessman Steve Colangelo for CA-9, attorney Steve Crass for CA-16, cattle rancher Justin Fareed for CA-24, and Riverside City Councilman Steve Adams for CA-41.

CA-4: Without Top Two, the challenge by moderate Republican West Point grad Art Moore would be one that conservative Republican Tom McClintock wouldn’t worry about. With Top Two, this could be similar to CA-15 in 2012. McClintock, like Democrat Pete Stark, is so disliked by the other party. If Moore can make Top Two he might only need to win a small amount of Republican support to win the congressional seat.

Thus, McClintock, and movement conservatives, are very worried about a one-on-one November match-up with Moore, so much that they are trying to build up some dude Jeff Gerlach as the formidable progressive alternative. Gerlach is an NPP and has raised no money, however, so he might not garner all the Democratic vote. If he does, then he beats Moore and McClintock skates to re-election. If he doesn’t watch for all sorts of union money flowing in to knock off McClintock in November. I think Gerlach and Moore will be close for second.

CA-7: There are six candidates. One, incumbent Democrat Ami Bera is assured of advancing. The question is which Republican, Doug Ose, Igor Birman, or Elizabeth Emken also does. Ose is the best financed and seems the likely second place finisher. Dan Lungren won the primary by 12% in 2012. If the three Republicans don’t beat Bera by nearly that amount, write this one off.

CA-10: Democrat Beekeeper Michael Eggman should beat some dude Democrat Mike Barkley handily for second place and will face Republican congressman Jeff Denham.

CA-15 - Incumbent Democrat Eric Swalwell upset Pete Stark in 2012. He’s being primaried by Democratic state senator Ellen Corbett, but there are two huge differences. First, there’s a Republican this time around. Second, her campaign hasn’t gotten traction. This’d be an interesting race if Corbett can sneak into second place, but I don’t expect her to do so. Republican Hugh Bussell finishes second.

CA-17: This one has gotten a lot of press. Incumbent Democrat Mike Honda should finish first. The question is whether Ro Khanna can edge out Republican Vanila Singh for second. A SurveyUSA poll showed Republican Khanna dupe Joel Vanlandingham siphoning enough votes from Singh to allow Khanna to finish second. I think it’ll play out that way.

CA-21: The question is whether well-financed carpetbagging Democrat Amanda Renteria can beat underfunded local Democrat John Hernandez for the right to be served up to Republican incumbent David Valadao in November. I think she will but I thought the DCCC handpicked candidate would finish second in 2012.

CA-25: The successor to Buck McKeon will be a Republican but which one is in question. Republicans took 70% of the vote in 2012 primary, but this time there are four competing with two Democrats, a Libertarian, and an NPP. Republicans Tony Strickland and Steve Knight and Democrat Lee Rogers should be bunched together in the 20’s. Knight hasn’t raised a lot of money. So I think Strickland finishes first and Rogers second.

CA-26 and 36: Establishment Republican Assemblymen Jeff Gorell and Brian Nestande have Republican challengers from the right and both should be victorious and move onto face Democratic incumbents Brownley and Ruiz in these competitive districts.

CA-31: With all the exciting races on the ballot, this one is probably the biggest. The DCCC poll showed none of the four Democrats with more than 15% of the vote and Lesli Gooch, the Republican who was way back, happens to be the one with the most cash on hand and has the most Republican endorsements.

I think EMILY’S List endorsee Eloise Gomez Reyes will finish ahead of DCCC favorite Pete Aguilar. There are three Republicans on the ballot and some dude Ryan Downing could win enough to ensure that two Republicans don’t finish one-two. I think Republicans Paul Chabot and Lesli Gooch finish first and second, but it’s even possible that two Democrats advance.

CA-33: This is the most fascinating congressional primary in America this year. The Top Two could have even more combinations advancing. It could result in two Democrats advancing, a Democrat and an NPP, a Republican and an NPP, or even two Republicans. When Republican Lily Gilani showed no fundraising on her campaign finance report, it seemed certain that she wouldn’t finish Top Two. Since Elan Carr is the only serious Republican, there are three, it's likely that Republicans won't split the vote enough that one won't make it and it'd be a shock if Carr doesn't finish first. In fact, Carr could get as many votes as the second and third place finishers get combined.

Second place could be new age guru/crazy leftie Marianne Williamson. Or it could be state senator Ted Lieu, who is from the more Republican South Bay. Former mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel is trying to run as far to the left as she can. If you're keeping track, this is something like Wendy Greuel 4.0. There was the centrist Greuel who worked for Bill Clinton and Dreamworks. There was the mainstream Valley Democrat Greuel on city council. Then the non-partisan reformer Greuel who was Los Angeles City Controller. That was followed by the union Democrat in her mayoral run. Now she's the progressive Democrat. Maybe that's 5.0. Who Wendy Greuel 6.0 will be if she finishes Top Two depends on the other entrant. We could see a revival of an old operating system or something brand new.

Her reinvention as a progressive may be fruitless with Marianne Williamson being the more authentic progressive. The problem with going back to Greuel 1.0 in the primary is that former Clinton staffer and KCRW host Matt Miller spent years being the political center on "Left Right and Center." Then there's newcomer David Kanuth. He's impressed people with being a fresh face. And there are another six Democrats on the ballot to siphon votes off. Heck, I just got a web ad from an NPP named Tom Fox. I’m picking Williamson for second, as I think a combination of progressives and less partisan voters who like her will be enough to get 12% of the vote. Too bad. Greuel would be very interesting.

CA-45: Republican state senator Mimi Walters may have set a record in announcing her candidacy 42 minutes after John Campbell announced his retirement. Her path to congress will be easier if some dude Democrat Drew Leavens finishes second, as I expect him to. If Retired Marine Colonel Republican Greg Raths does, however, this could be anyone’s ballgame in November. This district should have enough Republican votes in the primary that Raths finishing second is possible.

CA-52: If Republicans were looking to invent a challenger for this cycle, they couldn’t have done better than Carl DeMaio. He beat Bob Filner in this congressional district in the 2012 San Diego mayoral race, finishing way ahead of Mitt Romney. He knows everyone in San Diego and has a strong organization. He’s also raised more money than any first time Republican candidate. And he’s the face of diversity since he’s gay.

So what’s there to worry about? Trauma Surgeon Fred Simon has poured over $1 million of his own money into the race and veteran Kirk Jorgensen has the backing of Congressman Duncan Hunter and Tea Party groups. Yeah, there are a bunch of districts where the GOP would welcome Simon or Jorgensen as the nominee, but here it’s Republicans cannibalizing themselves. I expect DeMaio to finish second, but it could be close. And it could really burn DeMaio’s cash.

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