The landscape for 2018 elections in California is shaping up. Today I’ll do a quick tour of what’s being said and offer a few comments along the way.
For Democrats looking at Congressional contests, there is only one topic that matters: Donald Trump. Looking at statewide contests, the race for U.S. Senate represents a fork in the road for the future of the Party.
Republicans in California are mostly in defensive mode. Generally speaking, their vulnerable incumbents have more cash on hand. GOP hopes for turning out their base are tied to a number of initiatives targeting actions taken by the legislature.
Nationwide, Dems have –unprecedented for either party– more than four times as many candidates challenging incumbents for House seats than Republicans, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. In California, there are 58 Democrats vs. 22 Republican challengers.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Candidates and incumbents in California’s 13 most closely watched congressional races have reported raising about $29 million this year. About half of that money has gone to four Republican-held districts in Orange County where Hillary Clinton won last year.
They belong to Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton, Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista.
Of the more than $14.9 million raised by all of California’s congressional challengers, more than $10 million has gone to candidates in those four races.
Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute says it’s too soon to tell if these numbers will hold through 2018:
Given the field of challengers, should we expect a Democratic wave in 2018 that could rival the 2010 wave for Republicans? These numbers tell us that Democrats are poised to take advantage of a wave if one develops. And based on past experience, a wave election would likely sweep out some incumbents who are not yet even challenged. But the challengers cannot make a wave election by themselves. That will depend upon the President’s performance, Congress’s performance, and the mood of the public. In other words, it is still the second inning. There are many more yet to be played.
Democrats in California are facing a generational/ideological shift in power. Plus there’s the matter of the unspoken geographic rivalry between Northern and Southern elected officials.
Attempts at categorizing these differences as reflective of the Hillary/Bernie factions in the Party simply don’t hold up under scrutiny.
For the time being, these differences are embodied in the challenge of Senator Diane Feinstein’s incumbency by California State Senate leader Kevin de León.
Here’s a good snip from Kevin Rosenberg at Salon:
A few weeks ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California shocked a friendly audience, as well as Democrats nationwide, by advising “patience” with Donald Trump, and saying that “he can be a good president” if “he can learn and change.” California State Senate leader Kevin de León was among the leading voice speaking out in response, saying, “It is the responsibility of Congress to hold him accountable — especially Democrats — not [to] be complicit in his reckless behavior.” De León went on to talk about people who cannot afford to be patient with Trump.
“I don’t think children who breathe dirty air can afford patience. The LGBT worker or woman losing their rights by the day or the black student who could be assaulted on the street — they can’t afford patience. DREAMers who are unsure of their fate in this country can’t afford patience. Even a Trump voter who is still out of work can’t afford to be patient,” de León said. “We don’t have much patience for Donald Trump here in California.”
Diane Feinstein’s non-confrontational style has worked well within the confines of the old boys club of the U.S. Senate. California voters have historically been supportive, despite her stances, as Harold Meyerson explained in the American Prospect, “well to the right of the Golden State’s other elected Democrats, not to mention its Democratic voters.”
In 2012 Senator Feinstein won re-election with 63% of the vote, setting a record for the most popular votes (7.86 million) in any U.S. Senate election in history. Early polling shows her with a substantial primary lead over any challenger. However, given California’s top two primary system, she may well face a Democratic challenger in November.
For better or worse, the days of doing things via “bipartisan comity and back-room dealmaking” seem to be going away. Feinstein may live to fight again after the 2018 election, given her advantages as an incumbent, but the changes in the makeup/stances of the electorate and the Democratic party will continue well into the future.
UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies commissioned a poll earlier this year indicating a slim majority of California voters would prefer her to retire due to her age.
From the Sacramento Bee:
Voters were narrowly split over whether Feinstein should run for re-election, with 52 percent saying no and 48 percent saying a 2018 run would be a “good thing” for California, according to the Berkeley IGS Poll. When reminded that Feinstein will be 84 next year, the split widens, with 62 percent of voters suggesting she shouldn’t run.
De León is seen as a rising Latino star with appeal on the progressive left, and one measure of his popularity lies within the endorsements coming his way.
From The Hill:
Most of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Golden State colleagues in the House are declining to endorse her reelection bid in its earliest stages, highlighting the frustrations of younger Democrats bristling at the perceived lack of upward mobility for future party leaders.
The Hill contacted the offices of all 39 Democrats in California’s House delegation over the past week to gauge the level of support for the veteran incumbent seeking a fifth full term. Twelve have endorsed Feinstein; one is backing state Sen. Kevin de León; a handful said they’re staying neutral; and most did not respond at all.
The silence comes amid an escalating clamor for generational change among a growing crop of aspiring Democrats who are frustrated with their minority status in both chambers and are eager to remake the party’s image.
It should be noted that Assemblywomen Toni Atkins and Lorena Gonzalez have both endorsed de León.
California’s Republican Party also faces some divisions, though if you are to believe Ben Christopher at CALmatters, the Trumpification of the GOP is a done deal.
From the minute you stepped into the carpeted ballroom foyer that separated the California GOP’s semi-annual convention from the rest of the Anaheim Marriott, you could see that something in the Republican party had changed.
Trump stickers, Trump cardboard cutouts, the Grizzly bear on the the state flag sporting that unmistakable golden pompadour. While earlier party confabs have been dominated by the image of Ronald Reagan, this year the Gipper was downgraded to an iconographic afterthought, replaced everywhere with Donald Trump.
You could see it in the celebrity attendees too. Steve Bannon and Tea Party favorite Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas were invited speakers. The guests included a cavalcade of Trump-era folk heroes: former Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona; Pizzagate conspiracy pusher Mike Cernovich; and Joy Villa, a musician most famous for wearing a MAGA (Make America Great Again) gown to the Grammys.
With sinking voter registration numbers that may give it third-party status in California in the not-so-distant future and a lack of marquee challengers, the GOP is looking to galvanize supporters and appeal to independents through initiatives on the 2018 ballot.
Foremost among those is a reaction to Senate Bill 1, which added taxes for fuel and vehicle registration to pay for repairs and upgrades to California’s transportation infrastructure.
SB1, according to proponents, “invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways, and bridges in communities across California and puts more dollars toward transit and safety. These funds will be split equally between state and local investments.”
According to opponents (led by Carl DeMaio), SB 1 is a creature invented by Gov. Brown to impose “the largest gas tax increase in California history without a vote of the people. The Democrats ability to garner a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to pass the bill (one Republican defected) has tax-averse Republicans spitting mad.
From the Press Enterprise:
Opponents, who are using the social media hashtag #GasTaxTrophe to express their disdain for the higher tax, also are gathering signatures for a ballot measure to repeal the gas tax increase. They’re holding 45 events statewide over the next 30 days to promote their effort.
“With the momentum we’ve gathered over the past six months, our grassroots effort to repeal the gas tax is kicking into high gear,” ballot measure organizer Carl DeMaio said in a statement.
“When the gas tax hits Californians starting this Wednesday morning, the issue goes from the theoretical to the real, and our grassroots coalition powering the real initiative will only continue to grow,” he added.
It should be noted that none of these initiatives have qualified with the California Secretary of State as of this writing, and all, if voted on, would appear on the November 2018 ballot.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
Get the Weekly Progressive Calendar delivered to your inbox every Friday. And it’s Free! Subscribe and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and id