California Democrats had written off the GOP as nearly extinct after winning a super-majority in the state legislature last November, but their swagger may have been shattered last night as Republican Andy Vidak is reportedly ahead in a senate district that is composed heavily of Democrats and left-leaning Hispanics.
Vidak’s opponent in the 16th district senate race, Leticia Perez, a young Latina who worked as a public defender, campaigned heavily on raising the minimum wage and on promoting a new high-speed rail, which she called “the biggest jobs plan in California history.”
Vidak is a white, third generation farmer whose campaign drew on the stark divide between “the coastal liberal elites versus the Valley folks.” His focus was on job creation, the wastefulness of big government projects like the bullet train, and creating a pathway to citizenship. “We’re getting left behind here,” Vidak said. “We don’t have clean drinking water in some areas of our district, and they want to build an $80 billion bullet train!”
According the the Wall Street Journal, “Perez appeared out of touch with Valley voters’ values and concerns. She raised twice as much money as Mr. Vidak, but 90% of her contributions came from outside the district.”
Despite the fact that, as University of California political scientist Nathan W. Monroe told the New York Times, Hispanics are ???susceptible to Republican appeal on certain issues, but on balance fall more heavily in the Democratic camp,??? Vidak is looking victory in the eye in a district that is 60 percent Hispanic and wherein Democrats out-register Republicans by 22 points.
One Hispanic interviewed credits Vidak’s success with his “open position” on the pathway to citizenship. “The Republican Party has a lot to learn from him on taking a stance on the importance of immigration reform,” Mr. Rodriguez told the Times. “Hispanics are traditionally Catholic and conservative, and that goes hand in hand with the Republican Party. There is no reason why there shouldn???t be more Hispanic Republicans.???
With Vidak’s victory, and with two more senate seats, California Republicans will be able to reclaim their veto on tax hikes.
Vidak’s surprising victory clearly sends a message, both to the entrenched Democrats of California, and to the Republican Party as a whole. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House GOP whip, remarked: “This is the shot in the arm that shows that we are doing some things right.”
Absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted.