Monday, October 24, 2016

California Legislature Elections Preview

A Presidential year is going to favor Democrats and a strong Hillary Clinton performance should help Democrats down ballot. Nationally Clinton is running several points ahead of Barack Obama in 2012. Unfortunately, the two most respected California polls, Field and PPIC, haven’t polled the state since September. There have been several online polls since then that have shown Clinton running anywhere from a few points ahead of Obama 2012 to a few points behind.

The primary had a heavily Democratic electorate. The Democratic candidates got 70% of the two party vote. In 2012 Barack Obama only got 62%. If Clinton were to get 70% of the vote, it’d be a huge jump for Democrats, one that isn’t seen in elections. Current state and local polling both suggest that even if the state is trending more Democratic Clinton shouldn’t get more than 64-65%.

Using uniform swing, Hillary Clinton getting 65% of the two party vote in California would man a 10 point national win. If she got 70% in California she’d likely win nationally by 20 points. Because California is such a large portion of the electorate, a huge swing here would really show up nationally.

So I’d expect the electorate to be close to 2012, perhaps a bit more Democratic. Certainly not as Democratic as the primary. It’s very early, but early VBM returns suggest an electorate even more Democratic than the primary. I don’t know how to process this, since that’d mean all the polls are wrong.

State Senate
Republicans had a good year in 2014, sweeping the competitive races and bumping their caucus from 12 members to 14. That’s the magic number they need to deny Democrats a super majority.

This year should be easy since Democrats have 15 seats up and Republicans only have 5. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

SD-5 – This Stockton based Democratic seat should be one where Republicans present a strong challenge. Cathleen Galgiani won the seat by 1% in 2012. Galgiani did well in the primary but a more Republican electorate could propel challenger Alan Nakanishi to victory. VBM so far do show a more Republican electorate here, but probably not enough for Nakanishi.

SD-21 – Republican Assemblyman Scott Wilk is running to replace the late Sharon Runner in the Santa Clarita/Antelope Valley seat. He should win by the high single digits/low double digits, but so far VBM suggest Wilk’s margin will be closer than that.

SD-23 – Republican Mike Morrell is running for a full term in a seat he won in a special election. This seat is just east of SD-21 and so far not many ballots have been reported. As with Wilk, Morrell should win by a reasonable margin.

SD-29 Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang is running to replace former minority leader Bob Huff. Huff won by 10 points in 2012 but Chang had a poor showing in the primary. She looks like an underdog to Democrat Josh Newman. This is an Orange County district and it’d be a nice pick-up for Democrats to make inroads there. They currently hold no Orange County seats.

Republicans made gains in the assembly in 2014, going from 25 seats to 28. They need 27 seats to deny Democrats a 2/3 majority. The primary went extremely well for the Democrats and they could be poised to make big gains. We’re talking blood bath. Almost every seat listed below is held by the GOP.

AD-16 – In the primary incumbent Republican Catherine Baker won by 6 points even though Democratic VBM returns were 15 points higher than Republican, 49%-34%. Baker had no business winning with such a Democratic electorate then, so it’s hard to say how Democratic an electorate would have to be to sink her. She should lose, but then she never should’ve won the district in 2014.

AD-35 – Republican incumbent Katcho Achadjian left office to run for congress. He’s done very well in this San Luis Obispo centered district. Republican Jordan Cunningham had a disappointing primary performance and that makes this district up for grabs.

AD-36 – Democrat Steve Fox surprised everyone by winning this Antelope Valley district in 2012. He didn’t go ahead until the last day provisional ballots were counted. So it surprised no one when he lost re-election by 20 points in 2014. Tom Lackey, the Republican who beat him, is running for re-election. He should win, but he didn’t win the primary, finishing with only 48.2% of the vote. If things break the Democrats way Fox will take the seat again.

AD-40 – Republican Marc Steinorth won this San Bernardino district by 11 points when it was an open seat in 2014 and was expected to defend his seat. He too lost the primary.

AD-42 – Republican incumbent Chad Mayes should win by low double digits but he only won the primary by 9.

AD-44 – This Ventura county seat was the Republicans’ lone loss in 2014. If the GOP were to challenge Democratic seats in this cycle this would one of them. Democrat Jacqui Irwin won the primary by 22 points and there’s no reason to think Republican Kerry Nelson will fare well enough to win.

AD-60 - In 2014, Democrats didn’t field a candidate against Eric Linder in this Corona based seat, but Linder managed only 45.6% of the vote in the primary. Democrat Sabrina Cervantes might be poised to take the seat.

AD-65 - Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva took this long time GOP Orange County seat in 2012, only to lose it in 2014. She’s back for another stab and beat the woman she lost to in 2014, Young Kim, but 8.6% in the primary. She looks to be favored here.

AD-66 - Like Quirk-Silva Al Muratsuchi won the South Bay seat in 2012, only to lose it in 2014. David Hadley was a surprise winner. He managed only 44.6% in the primary and Muratsuchi might be poised to take this one back.

AD-72 - Democrats have never challenged in this Orange County coastal district. Travis Allen won by 31 points in 2014. Yet he managed only 50.4% in the primary and is heavily in danger this time.

I’ve just listed 9 of the 28 Republican seats as being in play. There are a few others that would appear to have no chance of being in play, but if Republicans lose most of these I wouldn’t dismiss a surprise loss.

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