Narrow house

Valley race key to California Democrats’ drive to keep majority at home – Reuters

Political handicappers almost universally expect the Democrats to lose their slim majority in the House of Representatives this year.

However, if it’s closer than expected, what’s happening in a handful of California’s congressional districts could make a difference.

On paper, Democrats are expected to make gains in California this year, possibly up to five seats, largely thanks to how an independent redistricting commission changed the state’s 52 congressional districts after the 2020 census.

Dan Walters

Cal Matters

Opinion

Demographic shifts, particularly the state’s growing Latino population, and the continued erosion of Republican voter registration meant that most of the 11 Republican-controlled districts ended up with shares of weaker voters in the GOP.

It was bad news for Republicans who had barely won election or re-election in 2020, a year in which the GOP won back four of the seven seats it lost in 2018.

Democrats’ most serious targets for the GOP are Michelle Steel and Young Kim in Orange County, Ken Calvert in Riverside County, Mike Garcia in suburban northern Los Angeles County, and David Valadao in Fresno Counties. and Tulare.

The district represented by Garcia, who won his seat in a 2020 election and then a full term later that year, has the most obvious effect of the redistricting. To win and keep her seat, Garcia beat Democrat Christy Smith twice, but only by 333 votes the second time around.

The redistricting commission has cut some of the more Republican territories from the Garcia district and as he takes on Smith for the third time, she enjoys an 11 percentage point advantage in Democratic voter registration.

The polarizing effect of former President Donald Trump is a factor in two of the targeted districts.

Calvert, a congressman for two decades, has been one of the former president’s most vocal supporters in Congress and Democratic challenger Will Robbins is using that connection as a potentially decisive weapon in a district where voter registration is practically linked.

Valadao, on the other hand, is one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and one of only two on the ballot this fall. However, Valadao must defeat Democratic challenger Rudy Salas, State Assemblyman, in a district that now has a Democratic registration margin of 17 percentage points.

Kim and Steel also face tough battles for re-election, but their Asian ethnicities are seen as advantages and handicaps give them both more than 50-50 chances to survive.

In the final two months of the campaigns, two factors could overcome the Democrats’ paper advantages in California — Biden’s popularity and voter turnout.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, which produces highly regarded Crystal Ball reports on political campaigns, cites Biden’s position as the most important factor in the likelihood that Democrats will lose the House.

“Given the president’s continued downward trend in numbers, Democrats probably shouldn’t count on a quick positive move, at least not in time for November,” he said in his latest report. “With that, in order to salvage their mid-term prospects, Democrats will have to move significantly ahead of Biden’s approval rating.”

California is a majority Democratic state, but Biden is not doing well among his voters. A new poll from the Institute for Government Studies at UC-Berkeley, released last week, found that 61% of California voters do not want Biden to run for a second term and that includes 46% of Democrats.

Meanwhile, the dynamics of this year’s elections are not encouraging when it comes to voter turnout. There are no real statewide races to get voters excited or any ballot measures with visceral appeal. What happens in California this year could, at least in theory, save the Democratic House majority, but it’s unlikely.

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending most of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. For more Walters chronicles, go to calmmatters.org/comment.

Make your voice heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate between people and organizations on local, state and national issues. Submit your editorial to [email protected] for review.