In case you missed it, on November 6th, a blue wave washed over California. Democrats took all major statewide offices, elected a second Democratic Senator, and seized 46 of 53 congressional districts. Nonetheless, California Democrats won’t be satisfied until the Golden State’s congressional delegation is totally blue. What will it take to accomplish this?
64 percent of California’s eligible voters cast a ballot on November 6th — more than 12.3 million. Most statewide races weren’t close: Democrat Gavin Newsom won the governor’s race with 61.9 percent of the vote. California’s most controversial ballot initiative — GOP-sponsored proposition 6 that would have repealed a fuel tax — was defeated by a 13.6 percent margin.
In preparation for the midterm elections, California Democrats focussed on seven congressional districts where, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican incumbent was retained: CA 10, 21, 25, 39, 45, 48, and 49. When the dust settled, Democrats had taken all these seats.
It’s useful to consider what it will take for Democrats to win the remaining seven Republican congressional seats: CA 1 (La Malfa), CA 4 (McClintock), CA 8 (Cook), CA 22 (Nunes), CA 23 (McCarthy), CA 42 (Calvert), and CA 50 (Hunter). Most of these are historically Republican rural districts.
The largest of these congressional districts is CA 1 which covers the northeast portion of California: Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, and Tehama counties — plus portions of Glenn, Nevada, and Placer counties; its largest city is Redding. It’s notoriously conservative; if you travel through this area — on interstate 5 — you’ll encounter signs welcoming you to the independent state of “Jefferson.”
In 2016, Doug La Malfa won this district with 59.1 percent (Trump had 56.2 percent). In 2018, La Malfa got 54.9 percent of the vote.
Republican La Malfa is a conservative Republican who has faithfully followed the Party line; he voted against Obamacare and for tax cuts.
CA 4 covers much of eastern California, along the Sierra Nevada range; Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, and Tuolumne counties — plus portions of Fresno, Madera, Nevada, and Placer counties. Its largest cities are Auburn and Truckee.
In 2016, Tom McClintock won this district with 62.7 percent of the vote (Trump had 54 percent). In 2018, McClintock got 54.2 percent of the vote. (By the way: McClintock does not live in CA 4.)
McClintock is a conservative Republican and faithful Trump supporter. He voted for Trump’s tax cuts and supports his immigration policies. Nonetheless, McClintock has been an uninspired congressman and, overtime, has lost favor in his district.
CA 8 encompasses most of California’s eastern desert regions; it consists of Inyo and Mono counties plus most of San Bernardino County. It largest city is Victorville.
In 2016, Republican Paul Cook garnered 62.3 percent (Trump got 54.7 percent). In 2018 Cook did not have a Democratic opponent.
Cook is a conservative Republican who has had a predictable but undistinguished congressional career (for example, he voted against Obamacare and for tax cuts). He’s done nothing for the bread-and-butter issues confronting his impoverished constituents.
CA 22 is an agricultural district in the lower San Joaquin valley: areas of Kings and Tulare counties. Its largest cities are Clovis, Tulare, and Visalia.
In 2016, Devin Nunes garnered 67.6 percent (Trump had 52.1 percent). In 2018, Nunes garnered 52.7 percent.
Republican Nunes is a long-term conservative and one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters in the House of Representatives. Nunes was on Trump’s transition team and strongly defended him while chair of the House Intelligence Committee. CA 22 residents have criticized Nunes for spending too much time defending Trump and not enough time on local issues, such as water distribution concerns.
CA 23 is the most Republican district in California. Located at the bottom of the San Joaquin valley, it spans parts of Kern and Tulare counties. Its largest city is Bakersfield.
CA 23 is represented by Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader and, at the moment, the most powerful California Republican. In 2016, McCarthy garnered 69.1 percent of the vote (Trump had 58.1 percent). In 2018, McCarthy had 63.7 percent.
McCarthy was an early Trump supporter and backs him across-the-board
CA 42 is in Riverside County, in southern California. Its largest city is Corona.
CA 42 is represented by Ken Calvert. In 2016, Calvert garnered 58.8 percent (Trump had 53.4 percent). In 2018, Calvert got 56.7 percent of the vote.
Calvert has been in office since 1992 and has little to show for it.
CA 50 lies primarily in central and eastern San Diego County. Its largest city is Escondido.
CA 50 is represented by Duncan Duane Hunter. (In 2008, he succeeded his father, Duncan Lee Hunter.) In 2016, Hunter garnered 63.5 percent of the vote (Trump got 54.6 percent). In 2018, Hunter was narrowly reelected with 51.8 percent after he accused Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar — a Christian — of being “an Islamist” and “security threat.”
In August, Duncan Duane Hunter, and his wife, were indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. Their trial is scheduled for September of 2019.
Summary: These seven Republicans are vulnerable on three issues: the first is climate change — they’re all climate-change deniers even though there’s ample evidence in California: drought and horrendous fires. (La Malfa continues to deny climate change even though the Paradise fire happened in his district.)
All seven voted against Obamacare — which is very popular in California.
Finally, all seven voted for the Trump tax cuts and, in general, have represented the special interests in their district and neglected their less affluent constituents. This is particularly a problem for La Malfa, McClintock, Cook, and Calvert, who represent very poor districts and have shown no interest in job-creation initiatives.
In 2020, it’s easy to imagine Democrats picking off Calvert (CA 42) and Hunter (CA 50) because they have personal issues and undistinguished records. (White non-Hispanic voters will soon be in a minority in CA 42).
With good organizing, and a 24-month campaign, it’s reasonable to imagine Democrats winning CA 1, CA 4, and CA 8.
The most difficult targets are Nunes (CA 22) and McCarthy (CA 23). They both have strong connections to wealthy GOP donors and, as a result, millions to spend on reelection. Their vulnerability is their tight connection to Trump. If Donald goes down the drain, it’s possible to imagine Nunes and McCarthy going down with him.