Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Framing the House - California

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at http://www.DemocraticConventionWatch.com

There are 435 House races this year, and the vast majority of them are “gimmes”. That is, we already know, with 99% certainty, who is going to win in 345 races. Bear in mind that the Congressional primary process has not ended, and you can never count on situations like the NY-13th. There are primaries scheduled through September, and potential run-offs later than that. So something odd could happen.

We’re going to cover those races we assume to be competitive. Before we do, please note the following states have no competitive races, and all seats in all districts are safely in Democratic hands: Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont. Other states with no presumed movement include Iowa (3D – 2R), Tennessee (5D – 4R), and finally on the Republican side, Delaware (R1) and Nebraska (3R).

I’m starting today with California, because when I first posted about the House races, I received more mail about those races than any others. (Hat tip to Ralph, Joe, Marc, Steve and Stanley.) The map is from 2004. The only party shift in 2006 was the 11th, which switched to Democratic. (Just east of the San Francisco Bay area).

There are 53 House Districts in California, the largest number in the country. Of these, 33 are safely Democratic, and 18 will be held by the Republicans. This leaves the 4th (currently R) and the 11th (D).

In the 4th, we have the incumbent, John Doolittle, who decided against running for a 10th term back in January. He had only garnered 49% of the vote against Charlie Brown in 2006, who received 46%, and who is again this year the Democratic candidate. Doolittle decided against running again because of his close relationship with Jack Abramoff. The initial challenge to Charlie Brown came from Republicans Doug Ose and Tom McClintock, the former being far more moderate than the latter. In match-up polls the night before the June 3rd primary, Brown was leading Ose 38/34 and McClintock 42/40. McClintock won the primary 53-39. Brown has a great money advantage, with almost $500,000 cash on hand (mid-May) and practically no debt. McClintock has under $100,000, and debt greater than his cash on hand.

This will be one of those interesting races where we will see how a far-right conservative does in California. While a lot of the land area of California is red, it’s a moderate red (think the Guvernator).

Over in the 11th, there is a better chance that the district will stay blue than that the 4th will remain red. Jerry McNerney captured this seat in 2006 with 53% of the vote, having lost the race in 2004 with only 39% of the vote. Competition on the Republican side is Dean Andal. McNerney leads the money race with over $1.1 million to Andal’s half a million. In addition, McNerney is an incumbent. Plus, he’s got a good voting record, hardly ever misses votes, and is a PhD engineer.

And finally, Andal may end up indicted for violations of California’s open government laws.