Monday, December 14, 2015

CA-21: Democrats in the Valley

One thing that perplexes election watchers who aren't from California is how Barack Obama could win districts in the Central Valley and Democrats could still lose them in congressional, state senate, and state assembly races. I've talked about this before, including my very last post. The Fresno Bee has weighed in with an article that hits the points I've hit on repeatedly. Democrats won’t win in districts like CA-21 because 1) they’d have to push someone who isn’t a progressive 2) they have no interest in listening to the country bumpkins who don’t know anything about anything.

Progressives don't win in the Central Valley. What's more Democrats have a tendency to run people from outside the district and, sometimes, far outside. They ran someone last time who was from Washington DC and had ties to a neighboring district nearly 20 years before. If they run someone local they have a chance to win. Likewise they can't run in the Central Valley the way they run in other districts. The Central Valley voter is heavily agricultural. So it's vital the candidate be able to know farming and connect with farmers. As the article mentions, they can't treat rural Hispanics the way they do city Hispanics. They have different needs. A Republican might win 15% of urban Hispanics but can win 40% of rural Hispanics.

Of course Republicans hope Democrats never figure this out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

California Assemblyman Henry Perea to resign

Despite a ridiculous registration advantage, the California Central Valley has been a graveyard for Democrats. They’ve done a bit better lately but it’s one of the few places that a Republican can consistently hold a D+4 seat in congress and D+7 seats in the state senate. Democrats generally lack good candidates who can win elections. Instead, they often go with inexperienced candidates who have no profile in the districts they run in.

Michael Rubio was a strong candidate, but he withdrew from running against David Valadao in 2012 and then resigned his state senate seat to take lobbying job at Chevron. The one Democrat who was a threat to beat Valadao, and probably would’ve been favored, was Assemblyman Henry Perea. Unlike most Democrats in the Central Valley he beat Barack Obama’s percentage of the vote in 2012. He’s termed out of the legislature. So the speculation was whether he’d take a second shot at the Fresno mayor’s office or take on David Valadao. While Perea had made no move to do either yet, he had plenty of time. Instead of running for office, he’s resigning and taking what I assume is a lobbying job.

Democrats need the so called “business Democrats” to win in places a progressive can’t, but those who support business interests in the legislature are then prime candidates for jobs with the same businesses. I don’t think the Democrats have much of a shot of beating Valadao in 2016.

Friday, November 6, 2015

California Business Interests and their politics

California’s Top Two was put in place with the intention of getting more moderates elected. It appears to have worked well, just not in the way the proposition writers intended. They thought that having everyone vote in a primary would lead to the most moderate candidate making top two and then winning the general election. In some instances swing districts have elected moderate candidates, but where they've had the most success is getting the more moderate candidate elected when the results of top two have produced two candidates from the same party.

The California business community has had a lot of success in getting business friendly Democrats elected and legislation has been more business friendly than expected. Some of those Democrats have been in moderate districts. One of them is Cathleen Galgiani, who represents a swing senate district in the San Joaquin Valley. She won a very close election in 2012. This district figures to be the best Republican pick-up opportunity. Reportedly business interests are trying to get Republicans not to compete in this district. I understand them supporting their Democratic allies. If they abandon one now, they may lose the allegiance of others. But trying to get the Republicans to concede? That's going too far.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The House of Representatives Won't Flip in 2016

Minnesota Republican representative Jon Kline announced he wouldn't run for re-election today. Every time there is a Republican retirement or some other event that helps the Democrats, people wonder if this'll cause the House to flip from Republican control to Democratic control.

The answer is no.

Kline's MN-2 is a huge opportunity for Democrats. It's a district Democrats would've been a long shot to win if Kline ran but one that will be competitive with him retiring. There are three other similar districts with retiring Republicans. The problem for Democrats is that Republicans have a 59 seat edge, 247-188. Democrats need to take 30 seats from Republicans. At this point the pundits see between 21 and 26 Republican seats in play. They also see 5-9 Democratic seats in play. Even if Democrats won all their competitive seats and won all the competitive Republican seats they'd still fall short.

What if there's a wave, you ask? Maybe you're not asking, but if you're still reading you should. Or maybe you already know there won't be one. Waves happen in Presidential years as reaction to the party in the White House. The Democratic wave in 2008 was largely a reaction to an unpopular Republican President. This year there's a Democrat in the White House with middling approval numbers. In the last 30 years the party in the White House did take the majority of the popular vote twice, 1988 and 2000. Neither year resulted in gains. If there is a wave, it'll be a Republican wave as a reaction to Barack Obama. Right now that doesn't appear to be the case, although the President's approval numbers are only a little better than they were then.

Democrats netted 8 seats in 2012. I expect their gains to be in the same area in 2016. Even a few more Republican retirements won't get them from 8 to 30.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Months of Quiet

I haven't updated in several months because there hasn't been much of anything to write about. Sure, there's the Presidential race but I'm not sure I could provide any more insight on Donald Trump and the Republican field than you've read elsewhere. Trump's support is mostly personality driven, with only the hardcore anti-immigration crowd latching on to him for ideology. People who like Donald Trump aren't going to decide on their candidate based on his stance on abortion or healthcare. The Hillary Clinton email scandal won't go away, mostly because the FBI is investigating. When the FBI does that, they're slow and methodical but they're looking for criminal behavior. Whether Clinton is eventually guilty of anything might be irrelevant, because there might not be a resolution until sometime next year. It could really damage her candidacy.

There isn't much to report where I usually report, California. There are a few candidates running but nothing is happening in the campaigns now. There's not much to preview and I'm going to wait until we know who is running to take a big look at the campaigns.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

California progressives dealt another loss

Last night Democratic Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer scored a relatively easy win in the 7th state senate district race against Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Glazer is considered a pro-business moderate and he faced stiff progressive/union opposition. His win is just the latest for California progressives. The most Democratic districts are frequently majority minority and elect minorities. Those candidates are sometimes progressive but don't tend to put as much a priority on issues like environment. Progressives have a tough time winning in swingy/light blue districts because there's too many moderate voters.

The bread and butter for progressives used to be districts Obama won with 60-70% of the vote. When there were party primaries a progressive would beat the moderate and then win that and then win the general election against a Republican. The current system is Top Two. In this system all candidates run in all party primary. Districts this blue don't attract strong Republican candidates and often result in two Democrats finishing top two. Then Republicans choose between two Democrats in the general election. And Republicans will choose a moderate like Glazer.

This is less a problem for Republicans because Republican districts tend to be less red than Democratic districts are blue. Thus, you get a Democrat finishing second in the primary and a conservative can win the general election. In the instances where two Republicans do make top two, however, Democrats do have a big role in selecting who wins and that can sink the more conservative candidate too.

Monday, May 4, 2015

CA-25: Democratic Councilman/Policeman Announces run against Steve Knight

The Democrats have finally found an opponent to challenge Republican freshman Steve Knight in CA-25. And Lou Vince is an elected official too! Vince is a town councilman in a town of 4,000 people. Four cities in the district, Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, and Simi Valley all have at least 125,000 people. Those would be better places to draw from. Vince ran for town council in 2013 and finished 4th with 38 votes. Fortunately, there were 4 seats up for election and only 4 candidates. It's hard to see Vince posing a serious threat to Knight.

Monday, April 20, 2015

CA-Sen: Loretta Sanchez close to a decision

Loretta Sanchez is going to announce her decision on a U.S. Senate bid this week and all indications are that she’ll jump in the race. Thus far, the race has been a sleepy affair, not usually what you’d expect for a U.S. Senate race, especially one from a state with more than 8 times the population of Maryland. Speculation has been that Democrats haven’t gotten in either out of respect for Attorney General Kamala Harris or because they can’t beat her.

And Harris is certainly a formidable candidate. She’s reported raising $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2015, a large amount for a quarter so far from the election. She’s a favorite of African-Americans and White progressives, has won statewide, and accumulated endorsements. Polling has been confusing. Harris has polled strongly in the horse race question. A USC Dornsife poll found that 60% of voters had no impression of Harris. Frankly, I don’t know what to make of this Field poll. They asked an unusual question about inclinations of voters to support a candidate. That’d appear to mean nothing, as Democrats will support a Democrat in a general.

While a lot of people think Harris has it in the bag, I'm not so sure. California is a big diverse state. While Harris has her constituencies, she is unknown to some and her electoral track record isn't as good as Jerry Brown. Harris' big weaknesses are considered to be moderate Democrats, Hispanics, and Southern California. A Democrat who could run strong with those three groups could beat Harris. Is there such a Democrat? Sanchez is Latina and from Southern California. I'm not sure she is the type of moderate Democrat favored in the Central Valley, however. She'd start behind in fundraising. At the end of the first quarter she had only $540k in her Federal account. That isn't as big a deal for her as it might be to other candidates. Spanish language media is highly targeted to voters she wants to reach and is much less expensive than general market media. She wouldn't need nearly as much money. Sanchez is a tough campaigner. So she certainly could provide a challenge to Harris.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

CA-24: Lois Capps retiring

Democratic congresswoman Lois Capps of Santa Barbara will retire at the end of this term. The district should be competitive and it did result in a 51.9%-48.1% result in 2014 even though the Republican, Chris Mitchum, was a 71 year old Tea Party candidate who was massively outspent. An open seat should be much easier. On the other hand, Republicans had a great year in 2014. You need no more evidence than that a 71 year old Tea Partier who was dramatically outspent only lost by 3.8%. Abel Maldonado's spending was much closer to Lois Capps and he lost by 10.2% in 2012.

The 2016 electorate will look a lot like 2012 and the NRCC has shown no interest in helping in most California districts. So it's hard to see them changing that direction. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian is the best GOP candidate. Achadjian is termed out of the assembly. He won an R+3 district by 22.6% in 2012. So he ran 11% ahead of Mitt Romney. Former state senator Sam Blakeslee could run, as well as three 2014 candidates, Mitchum, Justin Fareed, and Santa Barbara City Councilman Dale Francisco

Lois Capps' daughter Laura is regarded as a possible candidate. She wasn't living in Santa Barbara until recently. While Capps does have extensive ties to the district, she'd be the latest of a long line of Democratic candidates who move to a district to run. Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams could also run. If he does I'd favor him over Capps. A legacy candidacy can only take you so far.

Monday, April 6, 2015

CA SD-7 Democratic cat fight

Democrats finished first and second in the SD-7 special election last month. A run-off will happen next month. There are Democrats who are in big labor's back pocket and take their voting orders from them. There are others who aren't and they are vilified for being in the pocket of special interests. Strangely, Democrats don't consider groups like unions and the Sierra Club special interests. Big labor is condemning Democrat Steve Glazer for working for the Chamber of Commerce, an organization with members who support Republican candidates. If working for someone who supports Republicans disqualifies someone from being a real Democrat than anyone in a union who works for a corporation isn't a real Democrat. Look who is paying their paycheck. It'll be interesting to see how someone who doesn't adhere to party orthodoxy does in this election. In a Top Two with two Democrats, positioning yourself close to the center usually wins a candidate Republican and moderate Democratic votes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CA-Sen: Will Raul Ruiz run or wait?

The Palm Springs Desert Sun poses whether the Palm Springs area congressman Raul Ruiz will run for the state's open senate seat. I don't know what's in his decision making process, but the reasons they give for Ruiz not to run are weak. Yes, he's young, but it's not like he can just run in 10 years. He'd wait for the seat to open and Kamala Harris could serve in office for 30 years. Would he really want to wait for 2046 when he's 72?

They also offer that he can just run in two years if Dianne Feinstein retires. This argument completely negates the "he's young" argument. He'll still be young in 2018. It also negates the idea that he shouldn't give up the seat for the good of the Democratic party. It'd be better for Democrats for him to do it in a Presidential year, not a mid-term. The electorate should be more favorable for Democrats next year. If he wants to run in 2018, why not run in 2016 to build fundraising contacts and develop name recognition for that run? That'd position him well for a 2018 run. If the feeling is that the path is tough this year due to Harris being in the race, there's no guarantee 2018 will be easier. Tom Steyer, John Chiang, Loretta Sanchez, et al. could run then then. Maybe Condi Rice is targeting 2018, figuring that a Republican could win a mid-term instead of a Presidential year. People who wait for the perfect right moment to do something often find that right moment has passed.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gov. Brown appoints Democrat to Riverside Supervisors

Riverside Supervisor Jeff Stone was elected to the California state senate. When there is a supervisor vacancy in any county, the California governor gets to appoint the replacement. Governor Jerry Brown has appointed Charles Washington, the mayor pro tem of Temecula. What makes this appointment unique is that I can't find any Democrat who has been elected to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. If one has been elected, it's been a long time. Stone's district is the most Republican in the county, one where Brown managed a paltry 37% of the vote last November. Washington's chances of retaining the seat are near zero.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

2016 Demographics

Amy Walter has a piece on 2016 demographics and what Republicans need to win in order to win the Presidency. She cites Whit Ayers saying that the electorate will be 69% white and 31% non-white. Since Ayers is a Republican pollster, she believes that makes a claim of such a non-white electorate credible. Ayers, last seen steering John Huntsman into an iceberg, and the other Republican pollsters do have an agenda. They want to win and doing better with minorities is definitely a way to do that. So they proclaim Republicans are doomed if they don't panic and win more minorities. If you say doomed people will listen.

The reality is somewhat different. The electorate in 2012 was 73.7% white and the electorate has been getting roughly 2% less white with each Presidential election. If that continues the electorate would 71.5% white. That's certainly possible, although it's also possible that minority turnout drops without the first minority President on the ballot. I could see the electorate being more white than 71.5%, but it's unlikely it'll be less white than that. An electorate with that high a minority population certainly is daunting for the GOP.

We should keep in mind, however, that Republican congressional candidates did about 1.5% better than Romney did nationwide. If Romney won Whites 59%-39%, they likely won them by 60.5%-37.5%. Additionally, Democratic support has been eroding with whites in every election, even those that didn't have Barack Obama. The idea that Hillary Clinton will do better with white, college-educated women than Obama isn't supported with any data. She might, but she could certainly do worse.

The states with the largest shares of Hispanics are mostly not in play in 2016. Improving on Romney's shares by 10% among Hispanics still won't win New York, California, Illinois, or New Jersey and it's not necessary to win Texas and Arizona. Yes, doing better among Hispanics could put Florida, Nevada, and Colorado in the GOP column, but Florida has had an R+2 PVi the last two elections. If a Republican candidate is running even with Hillary Clinton nationwide, it's hard to not see Florida already won.

On the other hand, some of the swing states (e.g. Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania) have small to nonexistent Hispanic populations and three of them have small to nonexistent Black populations. If a Republican could get the White voters in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to vote the way White voters did in Missouri or Indiana in 2012, all three could go into the GOP column.

The idea put out there is that Republicans can't win without doing better with minorities. It's not nearly that simple and that might not even be the path to victory.

Friday, February 20, 2015

California Senate Race Demographic Turnout

California election analysts are lucky. The information of who votes is readily available and the people at Political Data crunch all the numbers. Pollsters and election pundits from outside California say, "you can't predict who's going to vote." Well, you can in California. Political Data does that themselves, as do others with their data.

This data contradicts a story out there in the media. Because Blacks vote at higher rates than Hispanics, Attorney General Kamala Harris has an advantage. It's true that Blacks do vote at higher rates. After you set aside all the Latinos who aren't citizens and aren't registered to vote, Latino turnout was 28% in 2014, compared to 32% for African-Americans.

What people fail to mention is that there are over 4 million Latinos registered to vote in California, compared to just over 1 million African-Americans. Even with lower turnout, Latinos were 15.3% of the California electorate and African-Americans were 4.6%. Latinos still outnumbered African-Americans by over 3 to 1. If a Latino candidate could consolidate the Hispanic vote than he or she would garner a lot more Hispanic votes than Harris would African-Americans. Harris, however, also has a strong appeal to White Democrats and polls show that a Hispanic candidate won't dominate Hispanics.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gavin Newsom running for governor!

That's what the LA Times leads you to believe but it's not exactly true.

Gavin Newsom opened a fundraising account to run for governor in 2018. Every candidate who thinks they may run statewide some day opens up a statewide campaign account. Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, had a campaign filing or Lieutenant Governor last cycle. I don't think he ever considered running, but candidates need to file an intention to run for statewide office in order to raise money. They can maintain that account pretty much forever and can switch the race to any statewide office. Newsom wants to raise money he can use in the future and he is termed out of his current job. So he had to pick something. He picked governor. Which he'll probably run for in 2018.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

California Senate poll produces weird results

PPP is out with a new California Senate poll, this time for Los Angeles County Young Democrats. The primary results are about what you'd expect, but the general results are weird. In the primary, Kamala Harris leads with 34%, having a healthy lead over Antonio Villaraigosa, who has 16%. They used two well known Republicans in the race, former congressmen Mary Bono and David Dreier. Neither will run, but it's smart to use well known Republicans. If you use unknown Republicans you're liable to end up with a high percentage of "not sure" among Republican voters. Yet even if the Republicans running next June are unknown, those "not sure" will be votes.

The first thing I look at in a California poll is the party breakdown, since we have a lot of data on how that's been in the past. The poll is 50%D/33%R/17%I. That's way too Democratic for a primary, it'll be about 44%D/37%R. There's also 17% Republican "not sure," so I'd expect these two candidates to get closer to 24% and 19%.A same party Top Two is a long shot, even with Adam Schiff in the mix.

The party ID breakdown is just slightly too Democratic for a general election. It'll be around 43%D/29%R. That's close enough not to quibble for the general. What's weird is that Harris only has a 5% lead over Dreier and Villaraigosa leads him by 2%. The races are close because Dreier takes about twice the percentage of Democrats as his Democratic opponents take Republicans and he kills with independents. I can't see it. Dreier isn't beating Harris by 18% with independents. I could see him winning them narrowly, as Fiorina did in 2010, but not by that margin. This poll looks like a Republican would have a shot at winning the California Senate race. None would. It'll be interesting to see if this poll encourages more high profile Republicans to run.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

CA-Sen: California Latino Caucus poll

The California Latino Caucus aren't happy with the anoint Kamala Harris crowd, but have yet to get a candidate to commit. So they hired Garin-Hart-Yang to do a poll. The poll is commissioned by them, so there's the immediate bias question, although Garin-Hart-Yang is a fairly respected Democratic pollster. PPP earlier did an automated poll for Harris. I'm not sure if that one was in English and Spanish, but automated polls are often entirely in English. That'll hurt Latino numbers.

The poll shows Antonio Villaraigosa has higher name recognition than Harris. Field polls showed that over 30% of the public had no opinion on Harris. So that's believable, although I'd guess Harris would be higher. Loretta Sanchez's number looks surprisingly strong, but it shouldn't be that surprising. This poll likely includes a good number of Latino voters and Sanchez has been on Spanish language TV in every one of the state's markets for over a decade. Xavier Becerra would have a bit more work to do.

The poll has a weird quirk. They say that those polls would prefer a Democrat to a Republican 48%-40%. That's a fairly believable spread for a California primary electorate. But when they do the horse race poll, the Democrats beat Ashley Swearengin 50%-31%. That tells me that some undecided people in the first question are choosing a Democrat in the second, while some Republican voters are undecided in the second. Swearengin doesn't have high name recognition, according to this poll, and that likely hurts the Republican vote. It's possible that if only one Republican runs, that 2-5% of the vote that'd go to a Republican could go to Villaraigosa.

The poll may be intended to boost Villaraigosa's viability. He's only down 10% here, less than the 25% she led him in the PPP poll. That has to be encouraging for him. On the other hand, he has higher name recognition than she does in this poll and is still losing by 10%. He only ties her in the LA media market and he really needs to beat her badly here to make top two. A Latino candidate will be an underdog, but we knew that already.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Orange County supervisor race update

Republican Andrew Do's 2 vote lead over Democrat Lou Correa in the OCSupervisors 1st District race grew to 239 on Wednesday after 4,700 absentee ballots were counted Wednesday. There are 1,264 provisional ballots left to be counted. There is a new law that ballots postmarked by Tuesday can arrive by Friday. Correa pushed this in the legislature. So they're calling it the Save Lou Correa Law. No one knows how many ballots will come in. I'd guess it won't be enough to give Correa a win.

I'm a little surprised that the Republican picked up votes in the election day VBM counting since Democrats do better post election day. 1) It's a non-partisan race. No parties are listed on the ballot. 2) Republicans actually got 61% of the vote. So Correa could've gotten 42% in these ballots but lost ground if Do got more Republican votes. 3) It's a low turnout special. Democrats didn't do better in a few specials last year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Orange County Supervisors District 1 special election

Republican Andrew Do leads Democrat Lou Correa by 2 votes in last night's Orange County on the Board of Supervisors special that was triggered when Janet Nguyen was elected to the state senate. I'm concluding from what I'm reading that this is a first past the post election. State elections have a run off if a candidate doesn't get 50%+1, but Orange County makes the rules here. There are 4,700 mail-in and 1,264 provisional ballots. They'll start counting those Thursday. There's a new law that allows mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, and arriving before Friday, to count. If Correa wins he'll be the only Democrat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. He won a seat in 2004 and is the only Democrat to serve since 1987.

Monday, January 26, 2015

California state senate specials candidates set

The filing deadline for the three CA state senate special elections has passed. The Secretary of State will be putting out a certified list of candidates in the next few days. Why wait? We can know now.

There are five candidates for SD-7, Democrat Mark DeSaulnier's district include assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, former assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, and 2014 assembly candidate Steve Glazer. All are Democrats and all should raise a decent amount of money. Michaela Hertle is the lone Republican. The Republican got 43% of the primary vote in 2012. So Hertle is likely to finish first and lose to which ever Democrat finishes second.

SD-21 was vacated when Republican Steve Knight resigned to take the CA-25 congressional seat. Republican Sharon Runner was the lone candidate to file. She occupied a similar state senate seat from 2009 to 2011, but resigned due to health reasons. I believe she can serve the remainder of this term and one additional term before being termed out. This is only a state senate special election but Democrats' inability to find a candidate doesn't bode well for their chances of having one that can beat Knight in 2016. I remain convinced they'll try to get Fran Pavley to run. She's a state senator from a neighboring district but could move here to run for congress. Democrats did something similar in 2012 for the Ventura county based CA-26. Julia Brownley was from Santa Monica and is now in congress. A carpetbagging candidate is likely their only hope.

SD-37 was vacated when Republican Mimi Walters resigned to take the CA-45 congressional seat. No Democrat filed here but assemblyman Don Wagner, former Supervisor John Moorlach, and Dana Rohrabacher campaign staffer Naz Namazi, all Republicans, filed. I'm sure your first thought is why does Dana Rohrabacher have a campaign staffer? I can't answer that but his presence should deny Moorlach and Wagner, the stronger candidates, a first round victory. This one will go to a run-off.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CA-Senate: Steyer won't run, but others inch closer

The biggest piece of California Senate news today is billionaire Tom Steyer's decision not to run. That comes after we get word that Latinos are angry about the seeming Kamala Harris coronation and congressmen Adam Schiff and Xavier Becerra have indicated they're looking hard at the race.

Steyer's decision not to run is a mild surprise but he seemed to have the potential to be no more than a spoiler. He's a progressive from Northern California, the same as Kamala Harris. He'd be going for the same voters and likely coming up short. Latinos are right to be angry. There's a great opportunity for a Latino Democrat to win the seat and Latinos are a big part of the Democratic coalition. They certainly don't expect their own party to stack the deck against them.

I think we can confirm the adage that every congressman wants to be a senator. Becerra and Schiff are the fifth and sixth Democrat we've heard about who've considered a run. And a couple who were thought to be interested, e.g. Raul Ruiz, Ami Bera, haven't weighed in. If they want to be a senator as badly as they appear to the question isn't whether they'll run, but when. If you're 34 years old like Eric Swalwell, it's easy to see that there'll be another day with a better opportunity. Schiff will be 56 in 2016. He's older than Harris. If he passes here and when DiFi's retires there might not be another opening before he retires. Jackie Speier will be 66 in 2016. It's now or never.

I think people you can't discount the double opportunity in California. If you win, you're in. If you don't, you've just run a statewide campaign where you raised a lot of money and gotten a lot of votes. You're setting yourself up for 2018 when Dianne Feinstein retires. If you finish third, or even fourth, you could be the favorite for that seat.

The PPP poll showed that any Northern California Democrat would be a big underdog to Harris. I can't see any beating her. Her concern is that a Speier or Garamendi would grab 5-10% of the vote and eat into her total enough she doesn't finish Top Two. Every Northern California Democrat who passes is good news for Harris, but she's not out of the woods yet.

Steyer dropping out might encourage other Democrats to get in. You don't have to worry about him spending $100 million and drowning you out. Harris certainly will raise a lot of money, somewhere in the $10-$20 million range. That's easier to deal with than Harris and Steyer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

CA-Sen: Poll shows McClintock and Harris in the lead.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, polled the California Senate race for an unknown client. The first thing I look at is the party breakdown. In California we know who votes based on party and adjust our polls to match that party breakdown. The poll is 45%D/32%R. While that sounds like a reasonable 2016 general election breakdown, the primary breakdown is more likely to be far more Republican. It’ll be something like 44%D/37%R based on previous primaries. As regular readers of this blog know, the 2014 primary was a little more Democratic than 2012, although the general election was definitely more Republican. So I wouldn’t anticipate the 2016 primary to be any more Democratic than 2014.

That said, it's a remarkably good poll for Republicans. Tom McClintock is in the lead and the two Republicans take 40-41%. McClintock leads with NPP voters and the GOP actually takes 50% of NPP voters in the second pool. This is a Democratic polling firm doing a poll with less Republicans than will be in the election and there are undecideds. Yet it’s at the 40% that was the Republican floor in all but one statewide primary in 2014.

McClintock has been around for awhile and has run statewide before. So he’s well known to Republican and right leaning votes. He is, however, unlikely to run. The other Republican in the field, Neel Kashkari, raised his profile with his 2014 gubernatorial run. What his poll doesn’t tell us is how the Republicans will do if 1) there are anywhere around the 14 candidates who ran in 2012 2) Republicans with a low name recognition run. In 2012 there were no Republicans with name recognition and none got more than 12.6%. If no Republican gets more than that, it’s possible Democrats will get both candidates in the top two.

The Democratic field here is three elected politicians and Tom Steyer. While it’s likely that there’ll be more Democratic candidates than that there might not be more than four serious ones. Kamala Harris beats the field significantly in each race. In the first race she’s up against Steyer, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, and rep. Loretta Sanchez from Anaheim. Garcetti won’t run but Steyer and Sanchez are possibilities. In the second horse race the pollster substituted rep. Jackie Speier for Garcetti. In this scenario Harris drops from 27% to 22%. The other Democrats don’t get a higher share, however, as the not sure goes up instead. This likely happens because the second field replaces an LA county politician for one from the Bay area. This probably increases the Southern California voters who aren’t sure, while Speier takes away votes from Harris.

This says that while a Bay area politician isn’t going to beat Harris, such a challenge could eat into Harris’ Bay area base enough that she loses to a Southern California politician. The top Southern California politicians who are considering entering the race, Treasurer John Chiang and former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, weren’t included in either poll. If either enters the race they could be a serious challenger to Harris.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CA-Senate: Tom Steyer's polling memo

Here's the polling memo that wealthy Democrat Tom Steyer received from his pollster in December. That Steyer did this polling in December, before Barbara Boxer announced her retirement, is telling that he's been enthusiastic about getting into the race for a while. That it's been leaked tells us he'll likely get in. The polling memo doesn't include the horse race question of who the voters currently prefer. That's a question that we're all curious about but it's probably not important to Steyer at this point. He likely knows that he'd be way down in any poll. Not only would that not tell him much, he doesn't want that to get out.

His big question isn't where he is now, but whether the voters are interested in the things he supports and if they'll vote for him if he sells them on it. The survey says yes. Of course the survey appears to not mention anyone else, so we can take the "41% saying they would be “very” likely to favor Steyer" with a grain of salt.
There is a clear opportunity for there to be two Democrats emerging for the November General election run-off. In such a scenario, Tom Steyer’s profile can make him the best positioned candidate to have cross-over appeal, especially with non-partisan voters.
I find this interesting. It's likely that November will be between a Republican and a Democrat and the Democrat will win. So that's not much of an issue. Steyer's people see a possibility of two Democrats running. They say Steyer has cross-over appeal and frankly that sounds somewhat ridiculous. His chief issue is the environment and few Republicans will support him on that. He's been openly antagonistic against Republicans and spent millions trying to defeat our preferred candidates. Of course his opponent might be Kamala Harris, someone else who has little cross-over appeal. It's ironic that two people who dislike Republicans and everything they believe in would need to suck up to Republicans to win the Senate seat.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CA Senate race is wide open

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for the state's U.S. Senate seat that'll be open when Barbara Boxer retires. Loretta Sanchez is leaning toward a run. I'm dumbfounded by those acting as if Harris has Top Two sewn up. Harris is a strong candidate but she's no Dianne Feinstein. I think they're fooled by her base of progressive support and national Democrats liking her. She doesn't have approval ratings as high as Treasurer John Chiang and didn't equal his vote total.

California is a big state and hard to campaign in. The more crowded the field gets the tougher it gets for Harris. In a one-on-one battle against a Democrat in a Democratic primary, she probably wins against most anyone. But Top Two includes NPP voters and even some Republican ones that might cross over. A large field with candidates who have various strengths hurt her. If Tom Steyer gets in, he'll siphon away some liberal, especially among environmentalists, and Silicon Valley votes from Harris. That's a candidate who eats into her strength. How much is unknown, but in a big field you can't afford to lose any core voters.

Then there are Harris' weaknesses. She's a powerhouse in the Bay area, but there are more voters in Southern California. And voters around here want to see someone from here in office. There hasn't been a Southern Californian for over 20 years. A moderate Democrat, perhaps from the Central Valley, could siphon off votes. Republican Ashley Swearingen won Central Valley conservadem voters who voted for Jerry Brown in her Controller's race.

Harris is Black, but that doesn't help her with Hispanics. Hispanics are becoming a bigger share of the electorate, especially among Democrats. They'll want a prominent one in the field and the three considering a run, Antonio Villaraigosa, Xavier Becerra, and Sanchez, are all from Southern California.

Some candidates might not be able to top 15-20%, but that might be enough to get the candidate in top two. Look at CA-33. It was an open seat with a lot of progressives north of the airport and working class Democrats south of it. Democrats got 66.7% of the vote in the primary. Democrats haven't gotten more than 56.6% in a statewide race in 2012 or 2014. And that was in races with one well known Democratic incumbent against nobody Republicans. The open seats had Democrats getting 48.4% and 51.6%. So put the Democrats in a 48%-56% range.

Here's the Democratic breakdown:
Ted Lieu 18.8%
Wendy Greuel 16.6%
Maianne Williamson 13.2%
Matt Miller 12.0%
Other Democrats 6.1%

Here's CA-31, a district Democrats got 53.1%:
Pete Aguilar 17.4%
Eloise Reyes 15.9%
Joe Baca 11.2%
Danny Tillman 8.7%

People want to say with certainty who'll win but it's wide open right now.

Monday, January 12, 2015

CA-Senate: Steyer might be first to enter

With Barbara Boxer’s retirement the speculation of who will succeed her is in high gear. California is more than ten times the size of Iowa. So there are a lot more people here who want to run. To no one's surprise, Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer has been preparing a run for months and it sounds like he's going to jump in soon. Steyer's money should intimidate his competitors. The article mentions several rich candidates who lost. What the article doesn't mention is that 4 of the 5 candidates won their primary and only one didn't. In the general election, their opponents had a lot of money. The Democrats who face Steyer in this primary are likely to be at a severe financial disadvantage.

I'm not certain Steyer's entry will scare off many opponents. The statewide officeholders are well known and he is unknown. He could overcome that but they won't know unless they try. It's possible that any of them could decide they prefer the governor's mansion or wait until Feinstein retires in 2018. Of course there's no guarantee another rich Democrat won't get into either race and losing in 2016 doesn't preclude a 2018 run.

His entry might discourage congressmen and mayors, but I'm not sure it will. There are a lot of people who want the senate and there's no point in not trying. In 2010 I asked New Mexico congressman Steve Pearce why he was giving up a safe House seat to run in a bloody primary against Heather Wilson and then run as a Republican in what was going to be a big Democratic year. He replied, "Because it's the Senate." I believe there's a saying that "every congressman wants to be senator." And a congressman can always enter now and then run for his congressional seat if he or she doesn't gain traction.

And congressmen are considering. There's John Garamendi, Loretta Sanchez, and even former rep Ellen Tauscher. I'd be surprised if at least one or two don't get in, especially Sanchez. Some people have said that a congressman represents too narrow a constituency or that they won't be able to raise the money some of the other candidates. First, it'll be a fractured field. Any congressman wouldn't be running one-on-one against another Democrat. She'd only need 15-20% of the vote to make top two. There's also likely to be at least one Hispanic in the field. They have a built in advantage with Hispanics, who are a key Democratic constituency. And Spanish language media is far less expensive than English language.

The word for a while is that Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom is that they both want to be governor. There's never been anything saying either wanted to be senator. Newsom decided against a Senate run. Harris is non-committal. The problem with each wanting to be governor is that the time for both of them is 2018. Who wants to wait until 2026? How do you stay in the public eye if you do? I'd think they'd both run for governor in 2018. Of course that'd pit them against each other.

I still maintain that Treasurer John Chiang would be the man to beat. No one is focused on him, however.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Senator Barbara Boxer retires. Who's next?

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has announced her retirement. So now the question is who will replace her and that’s a juicy question. There hasn’t been an open California senate seat in 24 years. California is a big state. There are a lot of people waiting for this opportunity and now is the time for it. So I’ll answer the questions.

Won’t some people wait for 2018 when Dianne Feinstein likely retires?
Some might. This isn’t a state with a clear frontrunner that you don’t have to run against in 2018 just because they ran in 2016. There is a caveat, however. First, the best competitor will be out of the way. Secondarily, there will be statewide elections in 2018. John Chiang, Gavin Newsom, and Kamala Harris, three heavyweights, don’t have to give up any 2018 opportunity or their current office by running in 2016. They all might pass on a 2018 senate run as a result.

That said, there are still a lot of formidable Democrats out there who’ll run in 2018. If a candidate wants a senate seat, you’re twice as likely to get one by running in two races and you can make a lot of fundraising connections as well as raise your profile by running and losing in a primary. And California is definitely a state you need name recognition to win in. The experience of running in a statewide senate race can help you not make the same mistakes then. There will be people who run twice.

Democrats like to clear the field. Why won’t they this time?
There are a lot of them that want this seat and it’ll be too tempting to pass up. In the past they haven’t been able to clear the field in California. Look at the open seat primary for CA-33 this year. There was a possibility that two Republicans could finish top two and still four serious Democratic candidates ran and the liberal Marianne Williamson ran as an independent. This race will draw at least four serious Democratic candidates and probably as many as eight. Some may drop their candidacy if they think they can’t win, but if they do so after the filing deadline they’ll still be on the ballot the way Leland Yee was this year.

Can a Republican win the seat?

Really, that’s all you got?
I figure you want a simple answer and the chances of a Republican winning the seat are zero except in two instances. First, if Republicans were to nominate a well-known/well-liked candidate who isn’t identified as a Republican politician that candidate would have a shot at centrist votes. You’re talking Arnold Schwarzenegger circa mid-2000’s.

Does such a candidate exist?
Maybe. Such a candidate is rare and we’d only know if he or she is possible after we see polling. Condoleezza Rice comes to mind. I don’t know if she’s popular enough, good enough at running a campaign, or if her connection with George W. Bush would hurt her that much. She’s never run for public office before and that’s both a positive and a negative. It’s a positive because she wouldn’t be seen as a typical politician. It’s a negative because running a campaign is harder if you’ve never done it. There’s no one else I can think of who currently matches this profile.

Would she run?
I’ve heard whispers that she wants to run for office at some point. I don’t know what or when but I think her sights would be set on a high office.

What is two Republicans finish top two?
That’s the other scenario and yes if that happens a Republican will win.

Could that happen?
We’ve only two top two primaries but it has happened. Let’s look at that CA-33 primary again. Republicans only took 31.1% of the vote and the top Democrat got 18.8%. Republicans are going to take a higher percentage in 2016 and if exactly two Republican run they could both top 19%. It’s possible but not likely.

Could two Democrats advance?
That’s probably less likely. There’s no chance that only two Democrats get into the race. This is going to draw a lot of them. In CA-33, where Republicans only got 31.1% of the vote, a Republican finished first. You’d have to have three or more equally known or unknown Republicans to get that result. In 2012 there were 14 unknown Republicans and the leader got 12.6%. So it’s possible but the scenario would require Republicans to really have a fractured field.

What’s the best case vote share scenario for Democrats in the primary?
In 2012 we had the most popular Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, along with five other Democrats running against a group of no name Republicans who spent no money. The Democrats got 56.6% of the vote compared to 39.1% for the GOP. John Chiang, also a popular Democrat, won his primary 55.0% to 38.0% against another someone people didn’t know. So I think that’s your biggest possible margin. Some people might speculate it could be bigger because Democrats will spend a lot of money and maybe the Presidential primary could change it. Don’t buy it. There just aren’t better situations for Democrats than a popular incumbent candidate running for re-election against a nobody. The primary electorate mix is pretty much set.

What’s the best case for Republicans?
I’m not sure. In 2010, there were races that drew big spending Republicans and big spending Democrats and Democrats got 51% of the vote. But that was before top two and voting behavior in top two is different. Last year in an open seat controller’s race Democrats beat Republicans 48.4%-45.8%. That race did feature competition in each party, particularly on the Democratic side. But there wasn’t a lot of spending. It’s possible all the spending could cancel each other out and make it similar to this.

I think there will be significant more Republican effort in 2016 than we saw in statewide elections in 2014 or in the 2012 senate race. No serious Republicans entered those races but California state controller isn’t exactly a job everyone has been dreaming about since they were a child. They do dream of being a senator. Sure, it’s a long shot, but if you want to be a senator you have to give it a shot. I’m fairly certain you’ll see at least one serious Republican in the race. I’m not going to give a vote share estimate now until we see who enters.

Who will run for the GOP?
That’s murky among Republicans. No one has really speculated names because people figure a Republican will lose. Secretary Rice is possible. People have speculated that Neel Kashkari ran in 2014 to give himself name recognition for this race. While Kashkari has some name recognition, pre-election polls showed people didn’t know him. And he didn’t raise the money he needed to in order to get that name recognition. He’d be a step up from Elizabeth Emken, but his 40% gubernatorial vote says not much of one.

It’s possible, but unlikely, that a GOP congressman. It’d have to be someone who was ready to move on from the House because they’d be giving up their House seat for a sure loss. Maybe someone who recently retired might have always wanted to be a senator.

Who’ll run on the Democratic side?
Speculation has continually been that Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris are the two leading candidates. As the Washington Post points out, both are from San Francisco have the same bases and the same political consultant. I think one will run while the other will run for governor or senator in 2018. To me the favorite is Treasurer John Chiang. Chiang polls with higher approval ratings than either of them and got a higher percentage of the vote in both 2010 and 2014. None had serious competitors in 2014.

Ridiculously wealthy Tom Steyer may take a look. Former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is "seriously considering" a bid. As I predicted, current LA Mayor Eric Garcetti won’t run. Facebook COO won't run either.

Some people have speculated that any House member wouldn’t run. They’d be giving up their House seat and they surely would be at a financial and name recognition disadvantage to the higher profile Democrats. While that’s true, there may be congressional Democrats who want to be a senator badly enough. Unlike Republicans they are almost certain to win if they survive the primary. They are also in the minority in the House and it looks unlikely they’ll take the majority again until after the next redistricting. So a Democratic congressman wouldn’t be risking that much. Lastly, congressmen in swing districts face tough re-elections every two years. If you’re a Raul Ruiz even a long shot at a senate seat you’ll keep for life might be more attractive than difficult campaigns knowing you may get knocked off one day. The last Democratic rep to run statewide was Jane Harman in 1998. She lost the primary but ran for her seat again two years later. If a Republican were to win their seat they can just try again to win it back.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Final 2014 House of Representatives vote

While there are still a few states that haven't listed their results as certified I think we have all the data we're going to get for some time. Eventually, the House of Representatives will publish a final results list. I've seen a few other places with this data but none of it as updated as what I'm providing here. So ignore Wikipedia for now. I have a table on turnout. Some states have reported total turnout. For those that haven't, I've given the highest vote totals listed for statewide office. There are likely blank ballots, so the numbers will be low.

The final House of Representatives vote shows a Republican two party vote win 52.95% to 47.05%. I'm unsure if Connecticut or New Hampshire are final but they haven't updated their websites for a month. The 5.9% Republican win is smaller than the 6.9% win in 2010, but more Republican than the Democrats 1.2% win in 2012.

The best way to compare 2012 to 2014 isn't to look at overall votes because there are a number of situations where one party or the other doesn't have a candidate. So that gives can skew the numbers. That's why comparing the 328 districts where a Republican and a Democrat ran in both 2012 and 2014 is the better way to go. And the numbers are very similar. The Democrats' 2012 victory is 1.4% and the Republican victory is 5.6%

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 California Gubernatorial Breakdown by District

The state of California won’t publish the Brown-Kashkarigubernatorial breakdowns by congressional and legislative district for a couple of months, but that doesn’t mean you should have to wait. I’ve painstakingly gone through the statement of vote for every county that has more than one district and calculated the numbers. Unfortunately, there are four counties which haven’t published breakdowns of the contest by district. But why should you be deprived of the data just because of that? In those cases I allocated the county’s votes by district based on proportions from the 2012 Presidential election. That certainly will produce inaccurate results but they’ll give you a firm idea. CA-3 has eight counties. Those numbers are in red.

Some of these numbers looked a bit odd. So I double checked them and they are accurate. If you look at the county breakdown , you’ll see that Brown did extremely well in the Bay area. He improved in almost every country up there by at least 5.6%. So his numbers will jump in the Bay area. If this signifies a leftward shift up there it’s no big deal to the GOP. Losing a district 75%-25% is no different than losing it 68%-32%. I can only speculate that Meg Whitman did do well here and some of her voters flipped to Brown while others stayed home.

On he flip side there were counties where Brown did worse than 2010. Many of these were smaller counties that are part of a district, but a big one was San Bernardino county, where Brown dropped from 49.4% to 46.9%. We’ll see very strong Republican performance there. What’s interesting is that this is Tim Donnelly’s home county. The hardcore Donnelly supporters were unenthusiastic about Neel Kashkari, saying he was the same as Jerry Brown. People thought they’d stay home, but the opposite happened.

Los Angeles county went up less than 1%. So Brown’s numbers against 2010 aren’t that strong there.

CA-3 – Brown made a big leap here. It wasn’t reflected in John Garamendi’s total, as he declined from 2012. It doesn’t appear Brown had coattails here.

CA-7 – Brown jumped from 52.7% in 2010 to 56.2% in 2014. This was a shocker because Barack Obama only did 52.0% and the congressional race was very close. Brown’s percentage wasn’t consistent with other statewide races. Gavin Newsom only got 50.7% in CA-7. Kamala Harris got 51.1%. Alex Padilla and Betty Yee lost the district with 47.2% and 47.9% respectively. So Doug Ose got some Jerry Brown voters but his inability to retain all the Pete Peterson voters cost him the race.

CA-9 – Brown went up marginally as this race got closer.

CA-10 – Brown went up 4.6%, but Jeff Denham didn’t notice. If Denham can win when Barack Obama gets 51.8% and Jerry Brown gets 51.7%, I don’t think we need to worry too much about a Presidential electorate.

CA-16 and 21 – While Brown went up 2% in each, he didn’t match Barack Obama in either district. This shows that the Central Valley gets more Republican the further down ballot you go. I don’t see anything telling me that David Valadao will be definitely lose this decade or that CA-16 is a safe Democratic district in each election.

CA-24 – This was a squeaker in 2010 but just like up the coast Jerry Brown killed in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. In fact, he did better than Barack Obama in 2012. Lois Capps’ inability to capitalize on that made it much closer than it should’ve been. Capps clearly isn’t easy to beat, but when she retires a good Republican candidate, if we have one, could take this district. Even in a Presidential year.

CA-25 – Since there was no Democrat in the congressional race, it’s worth looking at how Brown did. He actually declined by 0.1% from 42.9% to 42.8%. I don’t think Knight’s in real trouble in 2016.

CA-26 – This is as far south as Brown’s domination went. He lost the district in 2010 but won 55%-45% in 2014. Julia Brownley couldn’t seize on his domination. Brown matched Obama 2012. If this district is winnable I wouldn’t be too concerned about a Presidential year.

CA-31 – As I mentioned earlier, Brown lost ground in San Bernardino county. He went from 54% here in 2010 to 52% in 2014. Frankly I wouldn’t use this as proof that the district is trending red any more than some of the other districts above are going blue.

CA-36 and 41 – This is a bit weird. Brown gained 6% in CA-36 but lost 2% in the neighboring CA-41. Obama got 62.9% in CA-41 and 51.6% in CA-36. Brown got 54.5% and 52.6% respectively. If you’d have told me that Brown would beat Obama in CA-36 there’s no way I would’ve thought he’d fall 8% short of Obama in CA-41.

CA-39 – Normally a district that’s safe Republican isn’t worth looking at and Obama’s increase 41.4% to 44.5% is about what you’d expect. So why note it? This district overlaps with SD-34, a heavily contested district where millions were spent. Brown went from 47.2% to 52.5% in SD-34. The Democratic congressional and senate candidates underperformed Brown by 13.0% in the congressional race and 10.5% in the senate race. Brown really didn’t help the down ballot Democrats here.

CA-52 – Brown had one of his best gains here, going from losing 54%-46% to winning 52%-48%. I don’t know if that helped Rep. Peters, but it sure didn’t hurt him.

There wasn’t a lot of correlation between Brown’s improvement and the performance of down ballot Democrats. I think it’s a situation where you have swing voters who leaned Republican this time, but weren’t going to vote for an unknown Neel Kashkari over Jerry Brown, a governor they know and like. Kashkari did nothing to help himself and it showed in his performance against Brown in districts like CA-7. The down ballot races had a lot of spending and GOTV efforts and there the Republican advantage showed. Even districts where Brown did better in 2010, but Republicans didn’t make a big effort, e.g. CA-16 and 24, were close.

I don’t think it matters how well the Democratic Presidential nominee does in California districts in 2016. Yes, the electorate will be more Democratic and yes, the swing voters are likely to like Democrats more than 2014. What it really comes down to is whether the district is winnable for the GOP.