Monday, February 27, 2017

Why Democrats Won't Beat Devin Nunes

California Republican congressman Devin Nunes has stepped into a hornet's next with his comments about Russia and the Trump campaign. These comments have drawn the ire of Democrats and Nunes is today's public enemy number one.

I say today's public enemy number one because many Republicans have drawn the ire of Democrats over the last two months and the list of Republicans in congress that Democrats want to bounce is a long one. Here's the thing though. The individual that runs against Devin Nunes in 2018 is going to have a huge problem problem raising money and recruiting volunteers. Some people think of California as being a dark blue state, and it is, but a lot of that blue is in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles metro. There are Democratic voters in other areas and Democrats have won a number of seats.

It'll be harder to win more. Before the 2000 election Democrats had a 27-25 edge over Republicans in California congressional districts. They had a good year that year and, after they drew the lines in 2001, Democrats soon had a 33-20 edge over Republicans. They managed to grow that to 34-19 before redistricting in 2012. There were a lot of opportunities for Democrats that year but they had a problem. Some of these opportunities were on Republican turf, in places Democrats hadn't competed. Democrats didn't have the bench of elected officials. And it can be difficult to win an election with a newbie who has never run before. Because the Democratic party wasn't very organized in these areas, they didn't have the organization to support candidates.

So in 2012 Democrats ran doctors against Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack, a community college trustees in a new seat in Riverside, and an assemblywoman from outside the district in an open Ventura County seat. And they won these four seats. Of course they also lost competitive races where they ran an astronaut and the head of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. What that showed were that in areas where Democrats were moving in they could win without a strong infrastructure.

Now Democrats are at a 39-14 advantage. And yet there are still opportunities. Steve Knight's Antelope Valley district looked like a good one to go after. Yet Democrats couldn't find a good candidate who lived in the district, so they brought Bryan Caforio over from Beverly Hills. They challenged Jeff Denham with a beekeeper Denham had beaten easily in 2014. They challenged David Valadao with Emilio Huerta, son of United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta. Huerta actually lived in an adjacent district. And he lost in the primary to someone the Democrats didn't recruit. Democrats had never bothered to recruit against Republican Darrell Issa. So retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate was seen as a name on the ballot. He didn't raise any money until his surprisingly strong showing in the primary.Democrats didn't win any of those seats, even though Hillary Clinton won all of them. At least some of that is attributable to having weak candidates and weak campaign infrastructure.

And we haven't even gotten to Devin Nunes' district yet. His district wasn't one of the four Democrats challenged in during 2016 or one of the other three Hillary Clinton won. No, his district was one of seven Donald Trump won. Nunes' district is so Republican that Democrats have never bothered to try to run a campaign. Not just for congress but also for the assembly. In 2010 Democrats didn't have a candidate. So people needed to write in candidates in the Democratic primary. Nunes got more votes than Democrat Ruben Macareno. In the subsequent two elections the Democratic candidate was someone from the far away Silicon Valley. Winning in districts is usually helped by having a candidate with strong local ties and Democrats have never found one for the 22nd. The Democrats in the district have never been interested in supporting the carpetbaggers who've run there. That'll likely be the case in 2018.

This isn't a knock on the Democrats. They've gone from 27 to 39 seats over the last 16 years. If you keep making gains you'll eventually run into areas where you're not capable of competing. And yet they've won a few seats in areas where they didn't use to be capable. And they challenge the four Republicans listed above with better candidates in 2018. They'll need that to win there, but Nunes' district is one where they have no candidate and no support structure. They don't have a chance.


  1. Ya that's too bad, because if Democrats really put the resources into the district and found a half way credible candidate, it seems like they'd have a good shot at it in 18. The district is majority hispanic about 45% and another 7% Asian. With enough registration effort and gotv combined with Trumps dismal ratings it should be worth the effort.

    1. Democrats have two problems here. They can't get a halfway credible candidate because they don't have local office holders. They don't have local office holders because few people vote Democratic here.

      Rural Hispanics don't vote the way urban Hispanics do. A Democrat can get 90-95% of the Hispanic vote in an urban area but a strong Republican would hold a Democrat to 60-70% in a rural area.

      Some Hispanic voters in the Central Valley have different views than those in Los Angeles. Issue positions that play well with both White and Hispanic voters in LA, e.g. climate change, fall flat here.

      Thus, Democrats can't beat David Valadao in a neighboring district. If Democrats can't beat Valadao in a district with 46%D/29%R they sure aren't beating Nunes in a district with 32%/43%R.