Monday, August 25, 2014

CA-16: The safe district that might not be safe

Congressional races rated are rated safe by the prognosticators because there’s no chance they’ll flip. I’m going to talk about a district they all rate as safe but there is a chance it’ll flip. No, I don’t think the Republican should be favored or that it’s a toss-up. I’m saying there’s a chance.

The district is CA-16. It has a D+8 PVI and the incumbent Jim Costa won it by 15% in 2012. He’s up against Johnny Tacherra, an opponent who hasn’t raised a lot of money and is mostly unknown. Tacherra has an internal poll out that shows him ahead. Now it’s an internal poll, something campaigns put out to show a contest is closer than people think. Usually though, the challenger produces a poll that shows them within 5-8, not ahead. Again, I’m not saying he’s ahead, only that I’m not shocked that this is the safe race where a challenger produces such a poll.

Here’s why:

The June primary produced a surprising result, the Republican candidates beat the Democratic ones by 3.2%. CA-7 and CA-36 are both expected to be competitive, but the Republicans in these two districts won by 4.3% and lost by 0.6%. Those primaries had Republicans spending a lot more money than this one did. While Democrats did better in most congressional primaries in 2014 than they did in 2012, it was the reverse in CA-16. Democrats won that one by 4.6%.

What produced this unusual result, where the Republicans skated to more votes, even though Jim Costa spent about 30% more than all Republicans combined? The Republican GOTV operation was extraordinary because of the candidates up ticket. This was specifically Fresno mayor Ashley Swearingen, who is running for controller. CA-16 covers three counties, Fresno, Madera, and Merced. Swearingen got 52% in Fresno county, 54% in Madera county, and 46% in Merced county. And she had to split the Republican vote with David Evans. Overall, Republicans beat Democrats by 65%-32% in Fresno, 71%-26% in Madera, and 61%-35% in Merced. Clearly Republicans were turning out for Swearingen.

Swearingen will face Betty Yee in the controller race in 2014. Yee has raised less money and has cash on hand than Swearingen. So while Swearingen can be expected to get out the vote in the Central Valley, Yee is far more likely to concentrate on her home territory in he Bay area.

The governor’s race is at the top of the ticket. It’s expected to be a one-sided affair and Jerry Brown hasn’t shown a willingness to spend much money. The latest Field poll has him winning the Central Valley by 2%. Considering how unpopular his bullet train is in the Central Valley, that’s not surprising. The other statewide races are also expected to be one-sided. Democrats are unlikely to try to win votes in the Central Valley as a result.

Most of CA-16 is in SD-12. It’s on the ballot this fall. Even though Barack Obama won this district by a decent margin, Democrats have pretty much punted it. Republican incumbent Anthony Cannella won by a surprising 64%-36% in the primary. As of June 30, Cannella had $975,627 cash on hand. The Democrat had $7,793. That’s 125 times more. This is Cannella’s last senate campaign. So he’ll spend his money.

The Republican party in CA-16 will do a big GOTV operation. Swearingen and Cannella will have their faces on the top. Just under them will be Johnny Tacherra. It’s possible they’ll drag him to victory due to the R next to his name, just as they did during the primary.

Of course, I’m not saying I think that’s what’ll happen, only that this district might not be the non-competitive district the prognosticators

Friday, August 22, 2014

CA St-Sen: Democrat Ben Hueso arrested for DUI

Last night California state senator Ben Hueso was arrested on a DUI. He is the fourth Democrat arrested or convicted this year. Democrats had gone five months without an arrest. That's an accomplishment only in places like New York state. Maybe Democrats will take solace in that this arrest is likely a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Hueso, unlike the three other Democrats, is up for re-election in November. Unfortunately, the GOP didn't field a candidate in this district and Hueso's opponent is "some dude" Democrat Rafael Estrada. Estrada had $120 cash on hand on June 30. So he's unlikely to capitalize on this and Hueso is likely to be popping the champagne on election night. I assume someone else will drive him home.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Crossroads Enters California

Crossroads GPS, an independent expenditure PAC often linked with Karl Rove, is entering two California congressional races. They've purchased $895,000 in TV air time to back Republican Doug Ose in CA-7 and $705,000 to back Republican Carl DeMaio in CA-52. While those sound like large expenditures, the two districts are in expensive media markets, Sacramento and San Diego. So those investments might not be that much. The reasons for the district choices seem pretty clear. These are expected to be the two best pick-up opportunities for Republicans. I don't think they'll be the two closest, however, since I think that DeMaio will win by more than either candidate does in CA-26. DeMaio is also much better financed than other Republican challengers. So he probably needs the money less. That said, he's going up against a deep-pocketed Democrat and Republicans were certainly overconfident in 2012.

In the 2012 election, I believe there were seven different independent expenditure groups active in CA-7 and there were several in CA-52. So don't expect this to be the last of the outside money pouring into the races.

Friday, August 15, 2014

They want to offer money to get people to vote

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission is recommending an unusual way they think will boost voter turnout. They think the city should do a lottery where people who show up to vote and can a cash prize.

[sigh] This isn't water restrictions where you want people to use less water and don't care if they want to or not. The end result of that is important. The means isn't. The point here isn't to get more people to vote. The point is to make the mayor and city council more representative of the public and have more people choose who they like and have a stake in who wins. I'm not saying people need to be informed but however they make a choice they make a choice.

As Commission President Nathan Hochman says in the article, people can show up, cast a blank ballot, and then be entered in the lottery. What have you accomplished if you do that? He says that eventually maybe they'll vote. He’s not saying he’ll care who they vote for. I’m not one of those snobs who thinks that only informed people should vote. I just think people should choose to do so.

The solution, which is in the article, is simple. Hold it at the same time as the Presidential election. It’s only four months earlier, so it wouldn’t be a big change in dates. Los Angeles had 23% turn-out. San Diego had its mayoral election on the 2012 election day and 69% of registered voters cast their ballot in the race. Sure, there was drop-off from the Presidential vote, but 69% is a total you won’t get on any other date.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

You can't make people go to the polls

The school board election that I got so much mail was yesterday. The result of all that mail? An 8.3% turnout. That's terrible and certainly not much of a return on their investment. No matter how sophisticated your GOTV operations, you can't get people who don't want to vote to vote. GOTV operations can help get people to the polls and sometimes a few hundred voters can be the difference, but they can't change the electorate dramatically.

Monday, August 11, 2014

LA School Board: Targeting with the wrong message

Tomorrow is the run off for a special election for an LAUSD school board race. It's not important to anyone, including me, but I wanted to mention it because I don't remember getting this many flyers for one race ever. Even in major races. I even got a door knock and I rarely get those. I don't know how much money these guys, and the unions, are spending but it's a lot more than any school board election ever should. As with the Wendy Greuel campaign, none of the mailers have been Republican targeted, and emphasize union or Democratic support. It's just lazy to send mailers to people with the wrong message. You're not going to win my vote telling how the union supports you. You might give it to the other guy.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

NRCC chairman Greg Walden coming to California

California election news has been non-existent. So I haven't been giving you a steady stream of election analysis. NRCC chairman Greg Walden is coming to California to stump for candidates. That's hardly an earth shattering development and maybe you've already clicked over to Youtube to see if there's a cat video. If you haven't, here are the candidates he's stumping for:

Paul Chabot
Jeff Gorell
Dan Logue
Doug Ose
David Valadao
Mimi Walters
Brian Nestande
Carl DeMaio

The list isn't that surprising, as it contains the 5 congressional seats Republicans have any shot at, a Republican open seat that'll be tough to hold, and a potentially vulnerable Republican. The other vulnerable Republican, Jeff Denham, isn't on the list, but Denham is a prolific fundraiser. So I'm guessing he doesn't feel he needs help. Some people might think it's a waste of time to help Dan Logue, who is a long shot at best. Logue met the requirements to be an NRCC Young Gun. Walden needs to at least help him out with a fundraiser.

One name on there that might be surprising is Mimi Walters, the state senator running for John Campbell's CA-45. She doesn't need any help winning the safe seat and could top 65% in her contest. Walters served in the state assembly with new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. I'm speculating here, but Walters likely wants Walden to do a "meet and greet" for her supporters. One call to McCarthy will get Walden to swing by.

Monday, August 4, 2014

CA-25: Strickland wins Palmdale candidate forum

Some people complain about certain aspects of Top Two. One complaint is that when one party finishes 1-2 the other party voters can’t vote for the candidate of their choice. One party finishing 1-2 happened a number of times in 2012 and 2014. One thing that every district, except one, had in common was that it was safe for that party. In the past, that party would’ve chosen their nominee in a closed primary and that candidate would’ve won the general election. So the voter would’ve been able to vote for the candidate of their choice. Instead they get a chance to actually choose who their congressman will be. In several of these elections, they were pivotal.

And they will be pivotal in the CA-25 election between Republicans Steve Knight and Tony Strickland. I will disclose that I volunteered for Tony Strickland in 2012 and was paid to work for the Ventura County Republican party in the primary. I clearly have a dog in the fight, but truthfully I’ll be fine no matter which Republican wins. Both would make fine congressmen.

The Democratic Club of the High Desert had a Palmdale candidates forum and both Strickland and Knight attended. From the article it sounds like the two candidates tried to make a case for why Democrats should vote for them without abandoning their beliefs. That’s smart. I hope they both learned something that’ll help them navigate the unusual election.

The article said that there were “just as many Republicans there as Democrats, with a fair number of non-aligned voters as well.” I know that Strickland didn’t try to fill the audience with his supporters because I never got an invitation from the campaign to come. There was a straw poll and Strickland won that 52-51. This is good news for Strickland on two fronts. First, people have speculated that Strickland won’t be able to win over Democrats, because of his conservative stances. We don’t know how many Democrats he won over, but if Knight did very well with Democrats, then he did poorly with Republicans.

The more important part is where the forum was held, Palmdale. The Antelope Valley is Knight country and he is from Palmdale. Strickland is from Ventura county, which is pretty far from Palmdale. Strickland’s primary strategy was to run up the vote totals in Ventura County, hold his own in Santa Clarita, and hope that he didn’t get too beat up in the Antelope Valley. He did run up the total in Ventura and held his own elsewhere. I don’t have precinct results, so I can’t break it down. Tony Strickland doesn’t need to win precincts in the Antelope Valley to win the election. It’s only a straw poll of people who are interested enough to attend a Friday afternoon candidate forum, but the result has to be encouraging for Strickland.