Thursday, September 27, 2012

Competitive California Congressional Districts

My last analysis of the California Congressional Districts was in May before the top two primary elections which will determine the two candidates who will face each other in the congressional elections in November 6th, 2012. The Republican turnout in these primaries was higher, mostly because it seemed that there were more competitive primaries on the Republican side, especially in Southern California. Also, the Los Angeles area Democrats did not turn out strongly because there were few competitive primaries in the heavily Democratic districts there such as CA-37 but Republicans had more competitive primaries in conservative districts such as CA-08. Another reason for the low Democratic turnout in Southern California is that many of the voters there are sporadic voters and tend to vote in high turnout elections such as the 2008 Presidential election or the 2010 Gubernatorial election. Democratic turnout though was high in Northern California where Marin County for example voted 76% Democratic while statewide the congressional races voted 51% Democratic and in 2008, Obama won 78% of the vote in Marin while winning 61% statewide. Low turnout for the Democrats caused problems such as CA-31 which is a swing districts but the top two vote getters were Republicans, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) lost by 2 points there but in 2014, this seat will be a prime pickup opportunity. The primary elections though did shed some light on other competitive races, such as CA-52 which usually leans Republican locally but the primary results suggest it may lean more Democratic.

Anyway, this analysis will only examine races that are competitive or potentially competitive. This analysis will not examine races such as CA-13 where Rep. Barbara Lee (D) is easily winning reelection or CA-37 where Rep. Karen Bass (D) is winning easily too in her 84% Obama district. The post will examine races pundits expect to be close such as CA-10, CA-26 and CA-52 for example. 

Anyway, here is my past post on the California Congressional Districts:

Here is my map of the competitive districts

This map is courtesy of 270towin where I changed the district colors. 

CA-03 (district demographics and partisan data. Each link next to the district summary has the demographics and partisan info.) 
The competitive primary here was on the Republican side, yet Garamendi won a majority with 53% of the vote in this district without general election turnout from UC Davis. Also, the competitive primary was on the Republican side instead of the Democratic side. This 55% Obama district should be considered a Tossup but Garamendi is a good fit for this district because of his understanding of agricultural issues which are important in the northern part of the district. Also, his opponent Kim Dolbow Vann (R) is from the northern part of the district so it should be harder for her to make inroads in the southern part of the district which is heavily Democratic. He seems to be pulling away pretty strongly here.
Likely Democratic

This race should be one of the most competitive and close races in this election cycle. It contains the Sacramento suburbs which used to be strongly Republican but have been trending Democratic recently. Democrats have gained the two State Assembly seats in the Sacramento suburbs, gaining one in 2010 which was the only seat they gained in the State Assembly that year. Democratic challenger Ami Bera (D) has outraised Lungren but Lungren is raising money quickly too which shows he will not be caught napping. Lungren beat Bera by 10 points in the June 5th Primary but the June 5th Primary is not a good indicator of the general election because Bera was assured a spot in the top two primary so Democrats did not need to turn out extra heavily to support him. Also, a poll from the Hill in late August showed a tied race but Bera’s favorables were +4 higher than Lungren’s.

Gregg Imus (R) and Assemblyman Paul Cook (R) are facing each other in this extremely red district covering exurbs in San Bernardino County and the desert. There have been no polls in this heavily Republican district and Imus won 16% of the vote to Cook’s 15% in the primary so both candidates are close. Cook though seems to have the slight advantage because he has outraised Imus 4-1 but there have been no polls on this race so it is difficult to tell who is leading. Until a new poll is released, I will give Cook the advantage.
Lean Cook

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) did well in the top two primary against Ricky Gill (R) and since the primary had lower Democratic turnout than the general election usually does, especially in the valley, this is a good sign for McNerney. Although Gill has been a strong fundraiser, McNerney is no slouch either when it comes to fundraising. Also, Gill’s experience is an issue because Gill is in his mid 20s and is a UC Berkeley law student. Even though Gill has money and moderate views, McNerney has faced tough races before and won. McNerney even won in 2010 in a more Republican district so if McNerney can survive 2010, he should be able to survive 2012.
Lean Democratic

This district voted 50-47 for Obama which in California means a Republican leaning district because Republicans tend to over perform in down ballot races. Also, the Republican candidate is State Sen. Jeff Denham (R) who frequently won in a Democratic leaning district. The Democrats though found a strong candidate in former Astronaut Jose Hernandez (D). He has received strong financial backing from the DCCC and is a strong campaigner. He has a strong slogan saying how Washington is full of lawyers who know how to argue but he is an engineer who knows how to solve problems instead of just arguing about them. He also mentions his agricultural roots and his hard work to become an astronaut which is an inspiring life story. A poll was released showing Hernandez leading by 2. Although it is from the DCCC, it shows Obama leading Romney by 1 which is similar to Obama’s 3 point lead in 2008 so there may not be much oversampling of Democrats. Therefore, I am moving this race to Tossup from Lean Republican.

Rep. Pete Stark (D) has been a representative in Congress since the 1970s when he ran as the young candidate challenging an elderly incumbent. The tables are reversed this time though with
Eric Swalwell (D) running as the young candidate challenging the elderly incumbent. Recently, Stark came under fire for recent gaffes so Swalwell has a strong shot. Also, the redrawn district added areas Stark is unfamiliar with the voters such as Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon. These areas are less liberal than Hayward and Union City which Stark has always represented. Swalwell is hoping to capitalize on support in the inland areas to beat Stark. Stark won 42% of the vote to Swalwell’s 36% so Swalwell has room to grow.
Tossup between Swalwell and Stark.

This race is one where Hispanic Chamber of Commerce member David Hernandez (D) has underrated chances. State Assemblyman David Valadao (R) performed well in the primary, winning 57% of the vote. At a first glance, this suggests that Valadao should win easily but I expect a much closer race. The reason is that Hispanic turnout which should favor Hernandez was extremely low in this district during the primary. Low Hispanic turnout in the primary was felt in other areas too. Grace Napolitano's (D) district for example was heavily Hispanic and had much lower turnout than usual. In most elections though, Hispanic turnout is higher in the general which should help Hernandez. If it rises really strongly, then Hernandez should have a shot but for now, the race is Lean Republican.
Lean Republican

Rep. Lois Capps (D) the incumbent did not do well in the primary because she won less than 50% of the vote, suggesting former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado (R) has a shot. The problem in the primary was that UCSB had very low turnout like it did in 2010. Obama however seems to have regained excitement with young voters so he should be able to turnout voters there. I expect Capps to win. Also, Capps has won tough races before including in the 90s when her district had similar lines and was less Democratic.
Lean Democratic

This race is definitely one of the most if not the most competitive race in the state. Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) faces State Senator Tony Strickland (R) for the seat which covers all of Ventura County except heavily Republican Simi Valley. Brownley faced Strickland and Ventura Supervisor Linda Parks (I) in the primary but Parks received 3rd place so Brownley will be competing against Strickland. Brownley has attacked Strickland for his views on a woman’s right to choose and contraception in this district with many suburban women who are swing voters. The Thousand Oaks and Camarillo areas are more fiscally conservative but Democrats have an opening on social issues. Brownley has been sending out mailers too which worked for her in the primary. Emily's List has been involved in the race too and sent out many mailers as well.  A recent poll showed Brownley ahead. This is a very competitive race but I would give Brownley the slight edge because Strickland just seems too conservative for the district.
Tossup/Tilt Democratic

The battle of the titans it is! Democratic Reps. Howard Berman (D) and Brad Sherman (D) are running in the same district. At first, Berman seems to have the advantages because he has received endorsements from almost all of the high profile Democrats. Sherman though has outraised Berman $3.5 million to $2.7 million and his old district covered 58% of this one compared to 20% for Berman. Also, Sherman won 42% of the vote in the primary compared to Berman’s 32%. Berman though has tried to win the 1/3 of the district which votes Republican by receiving endorsements from Republicans such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R) from the San Diego area. Trying to win over Republicans though may hurt Berman so I am going to give the race to Lean Sherman for now.
Lean Sherman

Democrats had a chance to win this district with Redlands mayor Pete Aguilar (D) but other Democratic candidates stole votes from him so he could not make it to the top two. The Democrats mostly focused on helping Julia Brownley in CA-26 and while they got her into the top two, they did not focus on this race. The two Republican candidates are State Senator Bob Dutton (R) and Rep. Gary Miller (R) who is carpetbagging. In 2014, Democrats will have a good chance to win this 56% Obama district but Dutton is trying to win over Democrats. He has announced a few endorsements from Democrats but Miller has an advantage because he has support of the national Republicans as well as more money.
Lean Miller

Mary Bono Mack (R) is moderate and very popular in this district. She has won close elections in 2008 and 2010, even while the Democrats had a strong candidate in Steve Pougent (D) the mayor of Palm Springs. The Democrats found another strong candidate though with Dr. Raul Ruiz (D). He is a doctor and the first Hispanic to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard. Bono Mack though seemed to be leading because Obama only won 50-47 here and she had moderate views. A recent poll showed her ahead by only 3 so if there is a Democratic mini wave; this will be one of the seats that shifts enough for us to win. Also, Bono Mack recently referred to Coachella which is in her district as a “third world toilet,” which should cost her some votes. I am going to keep this race at lean Republican for now but I am very tempted to move this to tossup if I see another poll showing a close race.
Lean Republican

This district in Riverside County voted 59% for Obama and has a high Hispanic population but the Republican candidate Riverside County Supervisor John Taviglione (R) is running a competitive campaign here. The Democrats have a strong candidate too though in Mark Takano (D) who is openly gay and ran for a similar seat in 1992 and lost by less than 1 percent. Being openly gay may not play well with the large number of socially conservative voters in the district (the district voted strongly for Prop 8,) but Takano’s campaign skills and the district’s Democratic lean should be enough to help him.
Lean Democratic

Rep. Laura Richardson (D) and Rep. Janice Hahn (D) face off in this district. Although Hahn’s current congressional district only has a small portion of the new 44th, her former city council district covered a large part of the 44th so many voters here are familiar with her. Richardson though is in trouble due to ethics issues. Also, she has run racially divisive campaigns in her primaries which will make it hard for her to win over the 68% Hispanic population in the district. Hahn though is popular in the Hispanic community and she won in the primary with 60% of the vote. Richardson is in trouble.
Safe Hahn

State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D) faces Long Beach City Councilmember Gary DeLong (R). This race at first seemed competitive, despite the district’s Democratic lean because Lowenthal had trouble raising money. Lowenthal though seems to have stepped up his fundraising and polls show him leading DeLong. This district also should have high turnout in the Long Beach portion in the 2012 election, cancelling out the Republican leaning areas in Orange County.
Likely Democratic

This is another extremely competitive race in California. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) is a moderate Republican who represented a 51% Obama district but redistricting increased it to 55%. The Democrats also have a strong candidate in Scott Peters (D) who is the Port Commissioner for San Diego and the former City Council President. Peters has been running a strong campaign and has been attacking Bilbray over his career as a lobbyist and receiving two taxpayer funded pensions. No polls have been released on this race but due to the district’s Democratic lean and Peters’s strong campaign skills, Peters has a slight advantage but not enough to move it out of tossup. Also, Peters received the endorsement of the Independent San Diego Mayoral candidate who was a former Republican.


Ed said...

I see the Democrats gaining at least three seats: CA 26 (coastal Ventura), CA 41 (western Riverside), and CA 47 (Long Beach and Garden Grove), all as a consequence of the commission producing a Democratic leaning map. I don't see them losing any seats.

I'm not sure about CA 10 (Stanislaus County) and CA 52 (north San Diego). CA-10 should be Republican leaning but the Democrats came up with an excellent candidate, a pick-up there will cancel out their own goal with CA 31 (San Bernardino). CA-52 is Democratic leaning, but Bilbray has won tough races in the past. The Democrats will get it if Obama winds up running up a large margin against Romney.

If there is an Obama wave, the Democrats will wind up with half a dozen seats, the five listed above and one more race will break for them somewhere.

Ed said...

Also, excellent analysis as usual. I particularly liked the links to the district maps and demographic info, the maps are particularly useful as the commission scrambled the numbering and I haven't memorized which district is where.

Alibguy said...

Yep, I am a bit worried about CA-52 because Bilbray definitely has won tough races before. We have a strong candidate and the district is more Democratic so hopefully Peters can win but we will see.

Also, I'm glad you liked the map links. They really give all the political and demographic info for each district.

Anonymous said...

Its funny, I was writing a post for Ricochet from the Republican POV when I came across your excellent post. We actually agree on all but 1 or 2 of the races. I've got GOP keeping 7, 10, 26, 36, & 52 tho just barely in the case of 7, 36 and 52. We pick up 21 and 41, tho both districts should belong to you Dems along with 31 of course. Dems keep 3,9,16,24,33 and 47. In the R on Rs, Miller loses to Dutton who will be tough to beat in 14 while Cook wins in 8. In D on D action, Swalwell beats Stark, Sherman beats Berman, and its 50/50 with Baca/Bocanegra.

My one real upset is CA-41. Like 21, and 31, and so many of the other districts, this was gerrymandered to be won by a not too liberal hispanic Democrat. But naturally, we have in Takano an openly gay, Japanese American, "progressive". Tavaglione is a compromising type of Republican who has repped city of Riverside as County Supervisor, has the endorsement of the Press-Enterprise and lots of other local support. Plus, Takano's 42-38 poll if anything makes me thing this district goes Repub. Clearly 21,31,and 41 will be on the Dem hit list come 14 but they'll all be tough in an off year.
My prediction- R+2 in November.