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Blue State/Red District

The GOP’s Uneasy California Strongholds, Part 1

In February we rolled out our “Blue State/Red District” series, which found significant voter discontent expressed against Congresspeople representing previously “safe” Republican districts. This week we present updated summaries of our reports.

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Residents gather for a candidate forum in Newhall. (Photo: Steve Appleford)

Earlier this year, Capital & Main sent reporters to six congressional districts that were considered safely Republican but had favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Did Clinton win there because California Republicans were turned off by Donald Trump, or was something else afoot — were demographic shifts changing the political complexions of conservative bastions, or, perhaps, did constituents feel their congressional representatives were voting against their own local interests?

We also covered two red districts handily won by Trump (represented by Tom McClintock and Devin Nunes) for signs of discontent. Capital & Main rolled out the first stories February 1, before any polling had been conducted, and our reporters found significant dissatisfaction with incumbent Republicans in all these districts. Since publication, signs and polling have indicated further erosion of the GOP’s grip, which may result in an unprecedented political turnover on November 6.

During the next week we’ll present updated summaries of our original stories written by Kelly Candaele, Judith Lewis Mernit, Larry Buhl, Steve Appleford and Donnell Alexander.


 

Congressional District 25

Steve Knight

Kate Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Steve Appleford’s Is Steve Knight Too Out of Touch to Be Reelected to the House?

District Terrain: Northern Los Angeles County’s high desert, parts of east Ventura County.

Facts: The district has long been home to aerospace giants and defense contractors, but is additionally seeing an expansion of investment in solar energy. It has also experienced an accelerating increase of its Latino population.

Incumbent: Steve Knight.

Challenger:  Katie Hill.

Large Financial Backers: Alliance Coal, National Automobile Dealers Association, United Services Automobile Association (Knight). Labor PACs, American Association for Justice, Planned Parenthood (Hill).

Issues: Affordable health care, taxes (including the state’s new gas tax), immigration.

Takeaways: Knight, a second-generation district congressman, may not be able to overcome the 25th’s anti-Trump sentiments.

Polling: Late polling shows political rookie Hill pulling ahead.

Key Endorsements: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Right to Life Committee (Knight). NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List, Sierra Club (Hill).

Challenger’s Chances: Very good.

From Appleford’s story: “Economic progress has been accompanied by growing homelessness, which once barely existed here.”

Congressional District 48

Dana Rohrabacher

Harley Rouda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Judith Lewis Mernit’s The Great Awakening of CA-48

District Terrain: Coastal Orange County.

Facts: Clinton won this affluent district in 2016. Incumbent Dana Rohrabacher cultivates the image of a pot-smoking surfer, but Trump is very unpopular in CA 48.

Incumbent: Dana Rohrabacher.

Challenger: Harley Rouda.

Large Financial Backers: GOP and conservative PACs, General Atomics, Scotts Miracle-Gro (Rohrabacher). Labor PACs, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Home Builders (Rouda).

Issues: Health care, the economy, immigration.

Takeaways: Rohrabacher, a former Reagan speechwriter, is fighting for his political life against a novice opponent.

Polling: U.C. Berkeley, Siena College and Monmouth University all call this a virtual tie – but with a slight edge going to Rouda.

Key Endorsements: National Rifle Association, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste PAC (Rohrabacher). Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club, California Labor Federation (Rouda).

Challenger’s Chances: Rouda has pulled slightly ahead in recent polling.

From Lewis Mernit’s story: “People in coastal Orange County mostly want to be left alone, to not have government taking away their money or policing their behavior.”

Congressional District 49

Diane Harkey

Mike Levin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Kelly Candaele’s The Dream Coast Under Pressure    

District Terrain: Northern coastal areas of San Diego County, a portion of southern Orange County.

Facts: The district has changed hands between parties several times over the last 25 years.

Incumbent: None. Its GOP representative, Darrell Issa, barely won in 2016 and decided not to run this year. The Republican candidate is Diane Harkey; Mike Levin is her Democratic opponent.

Large Financial Backers: Edison International, Occidental Petroleum and Watson Pharmaceuticals (Harkey). Labor unions, American Association for Justice, Progressive Action PAC (Levin).

Issues: Gun laws, health care, immigration.

Takeaways: The district’s traditional loyalty to the GOP, because of its support for military spending, may be eroding from fears of shrinking housing affordability and a revulsion over Trump’s immigration policies.

Polling: Latest surveys show Levin beginning to walk away with the seat.

Key Endorsements: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Susan B. Anthony List, San Diego Patriots (Harkey). San Diego Union-Tribune, League of Conservation Voters, Everytown for Gun Safety (Levin).

Challenger’s Chances: Good and getting better.

From Candaele’s story: “The 49th District is where changing demographics and Trumpism’s existential jolt have exposed political fissures that have yet to be re-aligned.”

See More Congressional Summaries


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