As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CA House Races Roundup - October 2007

There's some real data in the form of third-quarter fundraising numbers to pore over, and events in Washington and at home have served to focus on some of our Congressional candidates here in California. Plus, believe it or not, we're only about a year out from Election Day. Let's take a look at the top ten races.

As usual, I'm going to rank them in order of most possible pickup, including their number from the last roundup. I'm also, as usual, including the "Boxer number." Basically, seeing how Boxer fared in her 2004 re-election against Bill Jones in a particular district is a decent indicator of how partisan it is. If I put "57," that means Boxer received 57% of the vote. Anything over 50, obviously, is good. (over)

First, let's look at the one threatened seat currently held by a Democrat.

1) CA-11. Incumbent: Jerry McNerney. Main challenger: Dean Andal. Boxer number: 49. McNerney had a big fundraising quarter, with over a million dollars in receipts, so he obviously won't suffer from the same cash disadvantage he had in his race against Richard Pombo. Nearly half of that money, $421,000, came from PACs. This is not a low-dollar revolution. Dean Andal has raised plenty of money too, but he's down 2:1 in cash on hand. McNerney of late has hammered the SCHIP issue, perhaps as a way to get back in the good graces of some Democrats wary of his votes and rhetoric on other issues. Andal is trying to blur the lines on the issue.

A spokesman for former California Assemblyman Dean Andal (R), who is seeking Rep. Jerry McNerney’s (D) seat, made a similar remark. “He’s looking at it, like all of us reading a paper,” Richard Temple said. “Until he has all the information, I don’t think he can [definitively] say whether the president is doing the right thing,” Temple said.

The fact is that Andal is trying to reinvent himself as some kind of moderate, when it's obvious he would be a Republican rubber-stamp. The question is whether or not McNerney will be able to rally supporters that he represents a true contrast.

Now, to the top 10 challengers.

1) CA-04. Incumbent: John Doolittle. Main challenger: Charlie Brown. Last month: 1. Boxer number: 40. Doolittle's money troubles have been well documented, but just today we learned that he has more money in his legal defense fund than he does cash on hand for the campaign. That should give you an inkling as to his priorities. Practically everyone in America has been subpoenad to testify in his corruption investigation, and those who haven't are running against him in the Republican primary (at least 3 challengers, at last count). Meanwhile, he's defiant about staying in the race, perhaps because it is making his wife rich - she got another $45,000 from the campaign for "fundraising services" last quarter. We're all hoping Doolittle stays in this race and limps across the primary line, because Charlie Brown is poised to crush him. At this point, Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post has this as the most likely race to flip parties in America. (Interesting side note: Doolittle primary challenger Eric Egland is stealing Brown's statements for his own website. More blurring strategy.)

2) CA-26. Incumbent: David Dreier. Main challengers: Russ Warner, Hoyt Hilsman. Last month: 2. Boxer number: 48. David Dreier got a wake-up call and started raising money in earnest this quarter for what will be a competitive race. Russ Warner's Q3 numbers were good (close to $130K), and he's doing the smart thing by attacking Dreier on his SCHIP vote. I like that Hoyt Hilsman is foregrounding the housing crisis, which is particularly acute in this district, as a part of his candidacy. Whoever comes out of the primary will be able to deliver a strong message of change. Dreier, meanwhile, will continue to whine about the mean Democrats and really make himself look like a strong leader.

3) CA-50. Incumbent: Brian Bilbray. Main challenger: Nick Leibham. Last month: 3. Boxer number: 48. Nick Leibham is a serious candidate for Congress in an area that was ravaged by wildfires last week, which may change the dynamic somewhat. Leibham raised around $50K and has $132,000 CoH, trailing Bilbray by about half, which isn't a bad spread at this point, honestly. He actually gained ground this quarter because Bilbray had a lot of expenditures. Bilbray being on Air Force One when it grounded firefighting aircraft in the midst of the blazes for several hours seems like it could be made into a campaign issue. Bilbray has one arrow in the quiver, and that's hating on illegal immigrants. It defines him to the extent that he's actually wistful for the imminent departure from Congress of Tom Tancredo. I'm confident about keeping this in the number 3 position for now, although Leibham must demonstrate support above the Busby ceiling here.

4)) CA-41. Incumbent: Jerry Lewis. Main challengers: Tim Prince, Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean, others. Last month: 8. Boxer number: 43. I'm shooting this one back up, as events on the ground have shifted. First of all, the investigations have restarted, with one Lewis staffer trying to deny a grand jury subpoena. Second, the Brent Wilkes trial has taken a bizarre turn, leading some to wonder if attorneys are setting up Wilkes to flip on the other Congresscritters he bribed, including Lewis. So the legal cases are hampering him. What's more, new candidates have entered the race. Tim Prince is officially in, and he's trying to keep his profile up in the district. I'll have more on Dr. Ramirez-Dean later, but she's also a candidate. Suffice to say that we will not have the same situation where Lewis handpicked his opponent in 2006. There will be an actual election.

5) CA-42. Incumbent: Gary Miller. Main challenger: Ron Shepston. Last month: 5. Boxer number: 41. This is yet another area where the recent wildfires may affect the dynamic of the race. While Gary Miller was voting against health care for children and keeping a low profile from federal investigators, Ron Shepston walked out of a candidate training summit to find his home in Silverado Canyon being threatened by the Santiago fire. He got right to work helping local firefighting efforts. With all of the human interest stories I've seen around Southern California the past week, I can't believe I didn't see this one: a candidate for Congress pitching in and showing leadership through helping defend his home and the homes of his neighbors from fires. It's powerful. Shepston needs something to click with a larger base of support (his fundraising last quarter was around $25K) and this could be it.

6) CA-45. Incumbent: Mary Bono. Main challenger: Paul Clay. Last month: 10. Boxer number: 49. Now that there's an actual candidate in Paul Clay, I can raise this closer to the level where it should rightfully be. It remains to be seen whether or not Clay is viable, but certainly the Palm Springs progressive community has been active and vocal and will push to unseat Mary Bono this time around. Bono immunized herself a bit by voting with Democrats or SCHIP, but there's still a long record of not supporting the needs of the district. And marrying a fellow Congressman, to me, shows that she's really part of the DC establishment and not the area.

7) CA-44. Incumbent: Ken Calvert. Main challenger: Bill Hedrick. Last month: 6. Boxer number: 45. Ken Calvert still has an ethical cloud hanging over his head, has a terrible voting record, supported the Dirty Tricks initiative in its initial incarnation, and Bill Hedrick is on the attack. This is an email he sent out recently, in response to a made up controversy about flag-folding that Calvert decided to take the lead on:

Like many of you, I was amazed that Congressman Calvert's October 25, 2007 emailed newsletter consisted of a garbled interpretation of American history, Pilgrims, and a controversy regarding the "constituent service" of selling American flags, etc., rather than the real and immediate crisis facing residents of the 44th Congressional District-wildfires and the tragic loss suffered by Californians [...]

I join others in praying for an end to the fires and God's blessing on the victims and firefighters. We need engaged
representatives who will fight full-force to make our federal government responsive here and now.

Projecting an image of a do-nothing Congressman is right in line with what will work next November, IMO. Hedrick is doing a good job attacks, but needs to make sure he has the resources to fight in this district.

8) CA-24. Incumbent: Elton Gallegly. Main challengers: Mary Pallant, Chip Fraser, Brett Wagner, Jill Martinez? Last month: 4 Boxer number: 47. I just don't think Elton Gallegly's retiring this time around, and while I think that if he did there could be some competition here, he far outstrips the rest of the field in money and name ID. I'd really like to see a viable alternative here because it might help downticket races (SD-19!), but none is forthcoming as of yet. I like Mary Pallant a lot but an $1,100 3rd quarter isn't going to cut it.

9) CA-52. Incumbent: None. Republican challenger: Duncan L. Hunter. Democratic challengers: Jim Hester, Mike Lumpkin. Last month: 7. Boxer number: 44. Mike Lumpkin raised some serious money, around $50,000 in a short amount of time, to challenge this open seat. I still think that it's going to be hard to run against someone who will be serving in Iraq or Afghanistan during the election, potentially, and in addition, Duncan Hunter the pére has raised his profile enough that low-information Republicans will go to the polls thinking that he's the candidate, giving a fake level of incumbency to his namesake.

10) CA-03. Incumbent: Dan Lungren. Main challenger: Bill Durston. Last month: 9. Boxer number: 42. Nothing much to report here, although Bill Durston does have a MySpace page. Akogun's reports on the race have been very enlightening. Give it up for candidates doing the hard work in red counties.

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