Early Projections: CA House Races
There are no Senate seats up in California in 2008, and no statewide offices up for election, so the biggest seats outside of the Presidency will be in the House of Representatives. While we're 18 months out, I thought I'd give a snapshot of what races are most inviting for a Democratic pickup.
I'm going to concern myself solely with pickup opportunities, because the only realistic possibility of a GOP pickup is in CA-11, and I'm confident that Jerry McNerney and his grassroots army can handle whatever's thrown at him, plus he'll have the power of incumbency and the focus of the CDP. There may be some retirements that would make things interesting (Lantos, Stark, Woolsey), but those are very blue areas. So let's look at the best opportunities to add to the Democratic majority:
1) CA-04 (Doolittle): The Doolittle watch continues, and what is most clear is that the best thing for California Republicans would be for Doolittle to just go away. Charlie Brown has a $200,000 CoH advantage and the taint of the intensifying Abramoff scandal won't be as easy to wash off the second time around. If it's a fresh challenger and an open seat, Brown will still have a higher name ID, but it would be more difficult.
2) CA-26 (Dreier): Hekebolos has mentioned David Dreier's fundraising troubles. Plus, as a member of the GOP Leadership, he can be very much tied to their failures over the years. And the Partisan Voting Index (PVI) in the district is only +4 Republican, comparable to McNerney's district, and has been shrinking over the years. It's the third-closest PVI district in the entire state, and yet Dreier is anything but a moderate. Russ Warner ran in the 2006 primary (losing to 2004 candidate Cynthia Matthews, who then raised almost no money for the general) and will be running again, and appears to have the right makeup to pull off this upset.
3) CA-50 (Bilbray): The replacement for the Duke-Stir has not distinguished himself (does Bilbray live in that district yet?), and Howie Klein, at least, is intrigued by the potential candidacy of Michael Wray, a former Busby campaign worker and rocket scientist. I think he'd have a somewhat better chance than Francine Busby. This would be tough, but not a hopeless district.
4) CA-24 (Gallegly): Elton Gallegly maintains that he's running. He tried to retire in 2006, and then abruptly returned to the race because California election law mandated that his name would appear on the ballot regardless. He eventually defeated Jill Martinez with 62% of the vote. The word is that Martinez is running again. Ventura County Democrats have done an amazing job turning around voter registration numbers in the region of late, adding to hope that this could be winnable even against the incumbent. The PVI is R+5.
5) CA-42 (Miller): See above. Not hopeless but tough. The fact that it's more Republican than CA-50 is balanced out by the fact that Gary Miller is a thieving scumbag who is under investigation by the feds. Unlike last year, there will be a candidate, and the race is definitely on the CDP's radar screen. If we win this one, it'll be a very good year.
6) CA-25 (McKeon): Buck McKeon is always a threat to retire, and this is a R+7 PVI, so it's not impossible. And this is one of those seats, in northeastern LA and San Bernardino Counties, that we have to start competing in, because the job growth in the inland areas of Southern California are outstripping the coasts. Robert Rodriguez did a decent job here in 2006 (McKeon won 60%-36%). I hope he runs again.
7) CA-52 (open seat): The only Republican open seat to date, but it's almost not open at all, because Duncan Hunter is trying to give the seat to his son, also named Duncan Hunter, and he's likely to be fighting in Iraq during the election. Kind of hard to compete against someone with that circumstance.
8) CA-45 (Bono): David Roth raised a decent enough amount of money in 2006 to at least make Mary Bono sweat. The PVI is only R+3. But it was one of the lowest-turnout races in the entire state. If we can excite people out in the desert, ya never know.
9) CA-41 (Lewis): The Jerry Lewis investigation has gone cold, but the fact that Debra Yang appears to have been bought off the probe by the law firm representing Lewis means that the scandal might have a different set of legs. And again, this is a part of Southern California where we need to have a presence; eventually there will be more and more people in this region, and probably more seats. And the fact that they are likely to be coming from liberal Los Angeles means it's an opportunity to get some infrastructure going.
10) CA-44 (Calvert): This district has actually less of a PVI (R+6) than CA-25. And Calvert has some earmark and lobbying problems. And the guy was caught with a prostitute in his car back in 1993. So the atmospherics are there. But Democrats have done little in this district. His challenger last year raised 8 grand. Total. And he STILL got 38% of the vote! It's time to give this guy a real challenge.
Realistically, 2 pickups would be a really good tally; 3 would be amazing. But the goal should be getting some of these incumbents to around 55%.