Tuesday, June 17, 2014

California Congressional Races: Conservative Candidates Fail

Republicans had a poor cycle in 2012, losing 10 of 12 races people thought would be competitive. The GOP punted on a few of these districts this cycle, but is going hard after four districts, CA-7, 26, 36, and 52. The party ended up with four fairly well known candidates who'd been through tough elections, former congressman Doug Ose (CA-7), assemblymen Jeff Gorell (CA-26) and Brian Nestande (CA-36), and former San Diego mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio (CA-52). All four were identified as too moderate by conservatives and each received a challenge from the right. Because there were Democratic incumbents in each race, most of the voters choosing between Republicans in each primary were likely Republican and right leaning voters. Would Republicans end up with their desired moderate or with a candidate some would feel would be too conservative for the district?

The right wing challengers were of varied quality. Two, Igor Birman and Kirk Jorgensen, raised some money, while the other two, Ray Haynes and Rafael Dagnesses, didn't. As we learned with Eric Cantor's loss to Dave Brat, having more money doesn't always lead to a win when challenged by grassroots right wing challengers. None of the conservative challengers won. None came close.

Doug Ose (R) 26.5%
Igor Birman (R) 17.5%

Jeff Gorell (R) 44.6%
Rafael Dagnesses (R) 7.6%

Brian Nestande (R) 34.8%
Ray Haynes (R) 14.9%

Carl DeMaio (R) 35.3%
Kirk Jorgensen (R) 18.5%

These results have been largely ignored and, after the Cantor loss, the story is about conservative grassroots activists. Here in California, though, there wasn't much interest. We'll have to see whether this works out for the GOP. It is worth noting that in Lois Capps' CA-24 district the conservative Chris Mitchum appears to have pulled out a victory. Here there were five GOP challengers and none raised much money, because people don't think the GOP has a shot. Mitchum won with only 15.8% of the vote. We'll have to see how whether Mitchum shows more or less improvement over the 2012 Republican candidate than the other candidates who are regarded as more moderate.

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