Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome to the Six State California Part I

California with its 55 electoral votes used to be a competitive state in national elections that leaned Republican. In 1992 though, California voted for Clinton by 14 points and never looked back. California now is Democratic and voted 60% Obama in 2012. California is next to impossible for Republicans to win because of the Hispanic vote, Republicans would need to win 60%+ of the white vote to even get close which is hard to do because of the Bay Area and Los Angeles liberals. 2010 was the last hurrah for Republicans with Meg Whitman who was a Silicon Valley billionaire who was pro choice, not extremely anti gay but extremely rich and still lost by 13 points. Fiorina, another rich Silicon Valley former CEO lost by 10 points, despite running against one of the most liberal members of the Senate in the best year possible for Republicans. All statewide offices are held by Democrats and there seem to be no registered Republicans running who are serious contenders for any of those offices.

A recent initiative though may go on the ballot which will split California into six states. A Silicon Valley billionaire is funding the signature process. If there are enough signatures, the measure will go on the ballot this November. If California passes it, then Congress will need to approve the measure. It is unlikely that both the House and Senate would approve this measure because the Republicans would not want extra Democratic Senators that West CA, North CA and Silicon Valley would likely send and Democrats would not want to risk losing some of California's electoral votes. This post though will examine hypothetically who would run for the newly created statewide offices in each state if California's voters and Congress managed to approve this measure. Also, while predicting which candidates will run for statewide office, the article will not always specify which statewide office a candidate will run for if she does not seem to have a clear preference for Governor or Senator. The author however does oppose this measure and will vote against it if it reaches the ballot.

Disclaimer: None of these politicians I list in my post have announced any plans to run for any of the positions. These are just my predictions.

Map of six proposed states:
Blue = Jefferson
Green = North California
Purple = Silicon Valley
Yellow = Central Valley
Red = West California
Teal = South California

Presidential vote 2012: Obama 48.5%, Romney 51.5%
Gubernatorial vote 2010: Brown 47.7%, Whitman 52.3%

Jefferson is the smallest state with about 900,000 people. It represents rural Northern California covering the California coast with the Mendocino and Humboldt County areas and the Inland Central Valley with the Redding area. There have actually been several secession attempts from counties in Northern California to form their own state called Jefferson (as recently as September of2013, Siskyou County's Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to secede) so this has been an ongoing issue in this part of the state. Overall, the state would lean Republican thanks to the heavily Republican Central Valley and high desert (Lassen and Modoc Counties in the northeast corner of the state are usually the two most Republican counties in statewide elections,) but Mendocino and Humboldt Counties in the western part of the state help keep the Republican margin narrow and could allow Democrats to win statewide with the right candidate.

Statewide offices:
 It is possible that State Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D) from Eureka would run for statewide office. He is well liked in the North Coast but would have to work to appeal to voters in the Central Valley. State Sen. Ted Gaines (R) from the Central Valley may run too. Another candidate for statewide office to watch would be Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R), the newly elected Representative from California's 1st district. He has a strong base in the eastern part of the state representing more than half of the state's constituents and he is well known there too due to his tenure as a State Senator. A potential Democratic candidate is Rep. Jared Huffman (D) who represents the North Coast and is well liked in the district. His views on the environment will work well with voters in Mendocino and Humboldt but the district's voters in the Central Valley are less pro environment and will likely side with LaMalfa. Also, Huffman may be accused of carpetbagging because he lives in Marin County which is not part of Jefferson. It is possible however that Huffman will run in the state of North California which contains Marin County (more on that in the North California description.) Rep. Mike Thompson (D) may consider returning to the district because he represented the North Coast until 2010 so the voters will probably remember him and his tenure there will make attacks on him as a carpetbagger less harmful. Also, Thompson has a reputation as a moderate and won tough races when his district was competitive in the 1990s so he could run a strong campaign to win statewide.

Overall, generic Democratic vs. generic Republican would be Tilt Republican. If Democrats nominate a moderate such as Thompson or a well funded candidate such as Huffman, then the statewide races should be Tossup. 

North California: 
2012 Presidential vote: Obama 59.9%, Romney 40.1%
2010 Gubernatorial vote: Brown 57.8%, Whitman 42.2%

Unlike Jefferson which clearly represents the rural northern part of California, North California does not have a major center or geographical area. North California represents Marin and Sonoma Counties which are both heavily Democratic. North California then goes to the east and covers Napa County as well as industrial Solano County. North California then takes in the Sacramento area as well as some conservative suburban areas in it which makes the state less Democratic but still strongly Democratic. The state is torn between higher income portions of the Bay Area, industrial areas and the Sacramento area so there could be some competitive primaries for offices here.

Statewide offices:
 Marin and Sonoma Counties should keep the state Democratic (they are some of the few Democratic areas that have low dropoff in midterms,) so the primaries will be the most important. State Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D) could consider running for Governor here and he should win the primary based on his connections in the California Legislature. On the Republican side, Tom McClintock (R) may run whichever seat has the weakest challengers. He would face a predicament though because he is too conservative for a 59% Obama district that votes Democratic even in the 2010 off year elections and McClintock would have trouble in the other Central Valley state which contains part of the 4th district because he does not have connections with the district's agricultural base. Supervisor Kim Dolbow Vann (R) is a potential candidate for statewide office thanks to her close race against John Garamendi (D) in the 3rd congressional district in 2012. State Assemblymember from Placer County Beth Gaines (R) also is a potential candidate too. The problem for Republicans though is that in this state, the only bases of support are in the lightly populated Colusa and Glenn Counties and in Placer and El Dorado Counties in the far east which are very conservative and have politicians who would not play well in the Marin/Sonoma/Napa areas. The only hope for a candidate such as Dolbow Vann or Gaines is that a far left Marin County liberal such as Norman Solomon (D) runs who's views on the environment and foreign policy would be too far left for the more blue collar Democrats in Solano County and the more moderate Democrats in Sacramento County. As was shown in the 2012 primary for California's 2nd district though, Solomon could only get 14% of the vote in a much more liberal district than the North California state so he would probably lose a Democratic primary while facing a Sacramento based Democrat such as Steinberg, Bera or Garamendi who can win over the blue collar Solano County Democrats while holding his own with the liberal Democrats in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Overall, statewide offices should vary between Solid Democratic and Likely Democratic.

Silicon Valley:
Presidential Election 2012: Obama 75.8%, Romney 24.1%
Gubernatorial Election 2010: Brown 69.8%, Whitman 30.2%

This state contains San Francisco, the East Bay, the South Bay + Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties. All counties in this district voted heavily for President Obama in 2012 and this state is more Democratic than Vermont is so Republicans have no chance winning any statewide office (or any office for that matter except a few city council races in the San Ramon Valley and the Salinas Valley if they are lucky). The primaries will be where the real battles are.

Statewide Offices:
Governor: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D) ran for Governor of CA in 2010 before dropping out so he would probably want to become Governor of Silicon Valley. His success as an entrepreneur and his liberal views on social issues will play perfectly with voters in this district and he should win easily.

Senator: Kamala Harris also lives in this district as former DA of San Francisco. I doubt Newsom and Harris would like to primary each other when there are three major statewide offices available in a strongly Democratic state so Harris would probably run for Senate, as many pundits except her to do if either seat opened in the current California.

Senator II: Newsom and Harris are the most powerful politicians from the Silicon Valley state but they both leave this seat open and it is difficult to see this state electing a Governor and two Senators all from San Francisco so this creates an opening for an East Bay or Silicon Valley politician. This seat could see a large primary because Newsom and Harris would probably clear the field in their respective races. If Ro Khanna (D) who is currently running for CA-17 against Rep. Mike Honda (D) loses, Khanna may try for this Senate seat because he is wealthy and will probably receive backing from Silicon Valley companies such as Yahoo if he runs for this seat, allowing him to outraise his opponents. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) should not be counted out either and if he made it into the top two against another Democrat, he could win over enough moderate Democrats and Republicans to be competitive.

Overall, all offices would be Solid Democratic, regardless of the candidates.

Central Valley CA:
President 2012: Obama 48.6%, Romney 51.4%
Gubernatorial 2010: Brown 44.9%, Whitman 55.1%

Central Valley covers the Central Valley and the Sierras from Kern County to San Joaquin County. The economy here is mostly based around agriculture but there is some tourism in the Yosemite area. This part of California in the early to mid 20th Century voted Democratic, then in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s voted heavily Republican. In recent years though, the Democrats have been coming back due to Hispanic growth in the valley. Still, Democratic turnout is low in this state during midterm years but in Presidential years, Hispanic turnout is high so Democrats will be competitive statewide.

Statewide Offices:
Governor: Tom McClintock (R) may run since part of his 4th district is in the state because North California is probably too Democratic for him. He ran for Governor in 2003 and Lieutenant Governor in 2006 so if he ran for statewide office, he would probably aim for Governor. As stated in the North CA description though, he does not have connections in this part of the state so he may face a candidate such as

Rep. Jeff Denham (R) would probably seek higher office and would have a strong chance to winning, thanks to his moderate views, his ability to win in tough districts such as CA-10 and his former State Senate District which voted 59% for Obama in 2008. Rep. David Valadao (R) who represents CA-21, a leaning Democratic district also may run for a statewide office. He was able to successfully win with 58% of the vote in CA-21 in 2012 even though Obama won it in the same election. Rep. Devin Nunes (R) from the Tulare County area may be interested in Senate too. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) from Kern County would probably not run because he has a strong leadership position in the House.

The Democrats could have a stronger bench here, as evidenced when the Democrats were unable to recruit a strong candidate for CA-21. It is possible that former State Senator Michael Rubio (D) will decide that he had enough time as a lobbyist at Chevron and wanted statewide office. He left his State Senate seat in 2013 because he wanted a job at Chevron. Rep. Jim Costa (D) may run for statewide office as well as Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez (D) who ran a close race for SD-16 but lost due to low Democratic turnout. Another candidate to watch for either Governor or Senator would be former Astronaut Jose Hernandez (D) who ran a close race against Denham in 2012.

Overall, all offices would be Lean Republican based on the state's demographics for Generic D vs. Generic R.

West CA:
President 2012: Obama 68.6%, Romney 31.4%
Gubernatorial Election 2010: Brown 62.8%, Whitman 37.2%

State Description:
This state combines part of the Central Coast with Los Angeles County, combining the wine country and vacation areas in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties with the suburbs, film industry and manufacturing in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County should prevent this district from voting Republican anytime soon and as with the Silicon Valley state, the primaries will be the important contests here.

Governor: Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) has been mentioned as a potential Gubernatorial candidate by many pundits for the state of California so it is likely he would run for Governor of West California. His base as mayor of Los Angeles should prevent any major primary challenges and LA's population should prevent a Republican from the Central Coast from coming even close to him. One potential challenger would be Controller John Chiang (D) but it may be more difficult for Chiang because he is not as well known as Villaraigosa but would still be able to run a strong race unless Chiang decided he wanted to run for Treasurer of West CA (he is running for Treasurer of California in 2014), or for Senate.

Senator I: Wendy Greuel (D) ran a close race for Mayor of Los Angeles and is running for CA-33. Regardless of the result in that race, a new open Senate seat could be an appealing option for her. The other question though is if Garcetti will run because he is adjusting to his position as LA Mayor. Garcetti would probably not primary Villaraigosa and while he beat Greuel the last time he ran against her, he may not want to face another tough race against her.

Senator II: Eric Garcetti (D) may run for this seat but since he already is LA Mayor, he may want to wait until his term expires before he runs. If Garcetti does not run, expect a large crowded primary for this race from LA politicians. State Senator Ted Lieu (D) is a potential candidate. It is possible a Hollywood Celebrity would take a plunge too because it is an open seat and if the Los Angeles political establishment is fighting each other over a few candidates, then the celebrity could slip through them. Even if Garcetti does run, candidates such as Lieu and Padilla could switch and run against Greuel.

Overall, all offices would be Solid Democratic, regardless of the candidates.

South CA:
President 2012: Obama 51.2%, Romney 48.8%
Gubernatorial 2010: Brown 44.9%, Whitman 55.1%

Description: South California covers all of Southern California east and south of LA County. The counties include San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Imperial and San Diego. Bush won all of these counties twice except for Imperial but thanks to demographic changes (including Hispanic and Asian growth,) President Obama carried all these counties except Orange in 2012 and he came within six points there. The state as a whole voted for President Obama in 2012 and should continue to trend Democratic as the Hispanic population continues to increase and the social conservatives continue to alienate the fiscally conservative but socially moderate high income voters along the coast. Midterm dropoff for the Democrats like in the Central Valley state is a problem however so while Democrats may maintain a slight advantage during the Presidential elections, the midterms will be more difficult for them.

Governor: The Republicans admittedly have a wider bench here. While that helps them in the general, there is no clear frontrunner in the primary because there is no real center in South California. The three distinct areas, the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego County are all heavily populated. One potential candidate though is Rep. Darrel Issa (R) who has previously expressed interest in running for Governor and may be interested in running here because it is a swing state instead of a solidly blue state like California. Issa is worth $450 million and should be able to outspend all opponents but he is Chairman of the House Government and Oversight Committee so he may want to stay there unless the Republicans lose the House in 2014 which looks very unlikely according to current polling. If Issa does not run, another potential candidate is San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) who has an anchor in the San Diego area. As Faulconer proved in his San Diego Mayoral race, he can appeal to moderates so he will be a tough candidate to beat if he runs for Governor. The tea party however has a strong base in Southern California and Tim Donnelly (R) who is running for Governor of California this year may decide to run for Governor of South CA. If Donnelly advanced to the top two though, he could scare away Independents because of his far right views.

The Democratic bench is not as strong as the Republican bench here but Nathan Fletcher (D) is a potential candidate for statewide office. He could appeal to upscale Orange County voters but he may face trouble in the more industrial Inland Empire who probably would prefer a Democrat closer to the unions such as Alvarez. Loretta Sanchez (D) is in a safe Democratic seat in Orange County but may decide to run anyway because Democrats do not have the House Majority and she is one of the most prominent Democrats in Orange County. She considered running for Governor in 2003 on the recall replacement ballot. Also, she is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition so as a moderate, she can perform well with Independents.

Senate Seats: Mimi Walters (R) has consistently run for statewide office in California and as a state Senator from Orange County with strong conservative credentials, she can advance into the top two as the tea party candidate. There are no politicians though who could clear the field for Senate except possibly Issa because of his money so expect a Senate race to pit San Diego politicians (possibly former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) who may want to return to office after losing a close race in 2012,) against Orange County politicians and Inland Empire politicians.

The Democratic side also could be contentious. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D) could run and he would be a formidable candidate with a compelling backstory who was able to beat popular Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) in a swing district so he could win in this swing state with a high Hispanic population. Scott Peters (D) also may consider running for the seat but considering what Fletcher and Alvarez do, the San Diego area could be overrepresented in the primary, allowing Ruiz to slip through the primary. It is more likely though that if Alvarez and Peters decided to seek statewide office, they would probably run for different ones which could avert a primary completely.

Elections held in Midterm years should be Lean Republican (or Tilt Republican if Democrats nominate a strong candidate and/or Republicans nominate far right candidates such as Walters or Donnelly,)

Elections held in Presidential years should be Tossup (or Tilt Democratic if the Republicans choose far right candidates,) 

Part II is next and in Part II, I will discuss how I would draw a hypothetical six state California if California were forced to split into six states (personally, I adamantly oppose any plan to split California into six states).

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