Burbank, Calif.–Earlier this year, Republicans were aghast when a congressional redistricting plan crafted by a supposedly non-partisan citizens commission portended a net loss of as many as six GOP-held U.S. House seats in California.
Three senior Republican lawmakers from the Golden State announced their retirement from Congress, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi confidently predicted that the road to a Democratic recapture of the House ‚??goes through California.‚?Ě
‚??Wishful thinking on their part‚?Ě is how California‚??s Republican state chairman, Tom Beccaro, now refers to Democrats‚?? high hopes for the state‚??s 53 congressional districts.¬† As delegates were arriving for their state convention here August 10-11, Del Beccaro predicted, ‚??Democrats are now going to have to spend a lot to defend their own seats, and that means their formerly ‚??safe‚?? members here are not going to be able to export big dollars to help Democrats win House races elsewhere.‚?Ě
In an exclusive interview with Human Events, Del Beccaro spelled out precisely how, as he said, California Democrats are being forced to play defense and can‚??t play offense.
He noted that Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, a past state insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, faces an unusually strong Republican challenge in the 3rd District from Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann.
In the 9th District, Democratic Rep. Jerry McInerney, who won narrowly in 2010,¬† is being pressed by 25-year-old Republican Ricky Gale, a law student of Indian-American heritage who has been likened to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.¬† So far, Gale has raised more than $1 million‚??more than most other non-incumbent House candidates‚??and the Young Guns Political Action Committee led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.) recently sunk $692,000 in TV time buys for Vann.
Another California Democratic lawmaker who has historically coasted to re-election is Rep. Lois Capps¬† (D-Santa Barbara).¬†With redistricting actually handing Republicans a large gain in registered voters in the 24th District, Capps is locked a tight race with former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, a liberal GOP-er who is pro-abortion and wanted to water down the state‚??s celebrated tax ceiling bill, Proposition 13.
In two other districts, Republicans aren‚??t players in the fall election, but Democratic incumbents find themselves forced to work hard to stay in Congress.¬† In the 45th District in Los Angeles,¬† House Energy Committee Chairman Henry Waxman faces a well-funded challenge from Independent Bill Bloomfield, a wealthy businessman.
In the nearby 30th District, veteran Democratic Reps.¬† Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are locked in a costly run-off for a single seat, since under the state‚??s new primary law, all candidates regardless of party appear on the same ballot, with the top two vote-getters facing off in November.
Waxman, Berman, and Sherman have all been shoo-ins for re-election in past years, and could dole out generously from their campaign kitties.¬† Now they are in the fights of their political lives.
Del Beccaro also noted the 31st District, where Democrats had high hopes of Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar picking up a Republican-held House seat.¬† But Aguilar didn‚??t make the ballot, and the GOP can breathe easier over a run-off between Republicans¬† Rep. Gary Miller and State Sen. Bob Dutton.
‚??And we have fourteen ‚??victory offices‚?? supporting congressional candidates here with help from the National Republican Congressional Committee,‚?Ě Del Beccaro said, ‚??I‚??d say we‚??ve come a long way from Nancy Pelosi’s prediction‚??a very long way.”