California Not Feeling GOP Wave in House Races – Just Three of 53 Districts in Play and One Is GOP

Democrats (from left) Bera, Sanchez and McNerney
Democrats (from left) Bera, Sanchez and McNerney

If Republicans take the House next month, the “wave” of seats flipping from blue to red in the Rust and Bible belts will stop at Nevada’s western border, according to analysis by Mackenzie Weinger writing for CalBuzz.

“We’re a Dem-leaning state and President Obama’s approval ratings are a bit higher here than they are elsewhere, and in some ways that insulates us from that backlash,” said UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser, according to Weinger. “And secondly, the post-2000 redistricting means there are a lot less competitive seats.”

Within the state’s 53-seat House delegation, Weinger found just three seats up for grabs and one of them is held by Dan Lungren, a Republican. Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, one of the most prominent members of the California delegation, is in a competitive race for the first time since she was elected in 1996, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, the other Democrat, is opposed by the tea bagger who made news last week calling for closing all public schools in America.


As the state’s former acting treasurer and former attorney general, the GOP’s Lungren is the only one-time statewide office-holder in the delegation. He was not popular as attorney general — he defended the anti-immigrant initiative Prop 187 and helped Republicans push through the state’s “three strikes law” that has led to severe over-crowding in the prison system. While serving as attorney general, he an for governor, losing to Democrat Gray Davis by 20 points.

Pres. Obama won the 3rd District in 2008 by a slim margin. Lungren’s opponent, Ami Bera (@BeraForCongress), a physician, appears to have a good chance to win in the district:

Bera — who has consistently outraised Lungren, raked in $550,000 in the third quarter, giving him $2.1 million this cycle, while Lungren brought in $480,000, for a total of $1.7 million…

Even as it goes against this year’s pro-Republican tide, this campaign shares the same overall narrative of many GOP-leaning races around the country: a political newbie taking on an entrenched career politician.

“Lungren has been around politics his whole life,” Bera said. “He’s certainly not from this district. It’s a clear contrast. Lungren is representing corporate America” And our narrative has always been on rebuilding the middle class.”

Bera traced his campaign’s ability to buck the anti-Democratic trend to his ground-up organization and his background as a physician.

“There’s a couple reasons why this race is moving against the current,” Bera said. “We built this campaign from the very beginning from the grassroots, holding house parties where neighbors opened up their living rooms. We’ve literally done hundreds of these conversations. We’ve had a lot of individual donors and built on word of mouth. That insulated us a little bit. It’s certainly a perfect year to be a doctor running for Congress.”

Bera, who noted his campaign has over 3,000 volunteers, insisted Democrats could still use the final weeks before the election to make a successful push to hold the House: “The House of Representatives isn’t lost,” Bera said.

Nonetheless, Real Clear Politics rates the race as “leans Republican.”


Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the more prominent of the two Democrats in competitive races, represents the 47th District, in Orange County. She made national headlines in 1997 when she switched from Republican to Democrat and defeated former Rep. “B-1 Bob” Dornan, a gaffe-prone right-wing extremist firebrand. Until then, Orange County, which was the birthplace of the John Birch Society, had been one of the few upscale reliably Republican districts in the state.

Sanchez is opposed by Assemblyman Van Tran, one of the GOP’s “Young Guns.” After the Vietnam War, thousands of refugees from Vietnam settled in Orange County, and Tran is of Vietnamese descent. Sanchez stumbled recently during a radio interview in the district in which she she accused “the Vietnamese” of trying to take her seat. Sanchez and Tran will debate this Wednesday, Oct. 20, on the PBS outlet, KOCE-TV.

Real Clear Politics rates the race as leaning Dem. However, RCP shows no public polling on the race since August, when Sanchez was ahead by two points.


The second Democrat facing competition this year is Rep. Jerry McNerney (@jerrymcnerney) of the 11th District, which includes parts of the GOP-leaning Central Valley as well as Democratic-leaning Bay Area exurbs. His tea bagger opponent, David Harmer, made news last week by calling for abolishing public schools:

It’s fairly common for conservative political candidates to support eliminating the federal Department of Education. But in California, tea party darling and congressional candidate David Harmer has gone further. He’s advocated eliminating public schools entirely and returning education to “the way things worked through the first century of American nationhood,” when educational opportunities for poor people, African-Americans, women, the disabled, and others were, to say the least, extremely limited.

Harmer, the son of former California Lt. Gov. John Harmer, could soon be taking his anti-public school views to Washington. Nate Silver, the New York Times’ polling guru, gives Harmer a 54.7 percent chance of ousting two-term Democrat Jerry McNerney in California’s 11th Congressional District. So far, Harmer’s views on education haven’t become a major issue in the race. (Dem attacks have focused on his work for a credit card company accused of predatory lending, as well as his later work for JPMorgan Chase.) But Harmer’s views on education — he’s referred to public schools as “socialism in education” — are far from mainstream. They don’t align with those of his own party’s gubernatorial candidate: In her final debate against former Gov. Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman advocated strengthening California’s public schools.

Harmer, a Mormon, is also running as a Republican “Young Gun.” But based on his photograph, it appears he must be one of the most senior “young” guns. Oddly, his birth date is not listed on his Wikipedia page, his campaign site or in any sources found during a quick search online. A vintage photo on his campaign site’s bio page shows him at about age eight with Gov. Reagan, probably taken in the late 1960s, so this young gun is in his fifties, at least.

Finance reports released on Friday show that Rep. McNerney has raised more money so far, but that the U.S. Chamber, the GOP lobbying group that promotes shipping American jobs to foreign countries, is planning to spend $250,000 on attacks ads on behalf of Harmer’s campaign. The U.S. Chamber is at the center of a scandal involving its purported use of anonymous, possibly foreign (and so illegal) donations to help get Republicans elected who are sympathetic to offshoring American jobs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.