U.S. Senate 2016: Duf Sundheim hopes to emerge as alternative to all-Democrat general election

Duf SundheimIt’s been 27 years since a California Republican has won a campaign for U.S. Senate.

The deck may be stacked against Republicans in California, but Duf Sundheim isn’t discouraged. The former California Republican Party chairman and small business attorney says that his underdog campaign for U.S. Senate is motivated by a desire to give average people “a voice in their government.”

“The people of California are tired of the professional political class of both parties who make promises that they never keep,” Sundheim said. “For over a decade, we have taken on the establishment of both parties and won.”

If Sundheim’s independent message doesn’t sound like the 2016 GOP presidential contenders, that’s because of the unique electoral landscape in California.

Top 2: Only Democratic options

Next year’s U.S. Senate race will be the first such election under California’s Top 2 Primary, which advances the top two primary candidates to the general election regardless of political party. Although Republicans struck out in every statewide race last November, the party succeeded in getting a candidate through the June primary election and onto the November general election ballot for every partisan statewide race. But only barely.

The June 2014 primary for state controller ended in a virtual four-way tie between two Democrats and two Republicans. Most political analysts believe that the Republican candidates, including an unknown candidate that spent $100 on a four-word ballot statement, were aided by the historically low turnout.

It won’t take much for Democrats to improve on those numbers. Historically, voter turnout is higher in presidential election years than in gubernatorial election years. Moreover, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ insurgent challenge to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination could further boost turnout among CA Democrats, who outnumber Republicans by 2.68 million voters.

Early polling show the effects of that favorable electoral landscape for Democrats. A Field Poll of more than 1,000 registered voters taken from September 17 to October 4 found Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez safely in second place to frontrunner Attorney General Kamala Harris. Sundheim and his fellow Republican candidates, Asm. Rocky Chavez and former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, managed only single digits.

“Both Harris and Sanchez are better known and are much more favorably regarded among the state’s likely voters than any of the three Republicans,” wrote Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. “As the election nears, this may create as much interest to who finishes second as to who wins the primary, since it will likely determine whether the fall general election will be a traditional Democrat vs. Republican affair or one that pits two Democrats against one another.”

Builds on Kashkari’s rhetoric

In an effort to prevent an all-Democrat November U.S. Senate showdown, Sundheim has built on the rhetorical foundation laid by 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari to appeal to independent voters by focusing on jobs and poverty. Sundheim says the state has “suffered and economic earthquake,” which has left millions in poverty.

“We have seen one of the greatest accumulations of wealth in history, but 8.9 million Californians live in poverty,” he said, referring to an issue first raised by Kashkari’s gubernatorial campaign. “There are more people living in poverty in California than there are people in Nevada, Hawaii and Oregon combined.”

He added, “Now the fastest growing path to the middle class is a government job.”

Sundheim has shared this message and his experience as a federal court mediator and volunteer settlement judge beyond the partisan political chicken dinner circuit. The Stanford graduate has a track record of reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats that share his passion for improving the state. In 2012, Sundheim supported Democratic San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s pension reform proposals, which were overwhelmingly approved by voters.

Shultz, Chambers Campaign Co-Chairs

In his initial fundraising report, Sundheim announced that he’s raised more than $240,000 — an impressive figure without any loans and only three weeks after his announcement.

“We will have the money we will need not only to compete, but to win,” he said.

Sundheim’s confidence comes with a list of big name endorsements, including former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Cisco’s John Chambers.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Duf for two decades, and I’ve seen how much he cares about the future of California and is inclusive of every one of its citizens,” said Chambers. “We need strong, principled leaders in Washington, DC who can bring together people from all political perspectives to craft workable solutions to our country’s most pressing problems. Duf Sundheim is that kind of leader.”

U.S. Senate 2016: Duf Sundheim Campaign Announcement


Write a comment
  1. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 21 October, 2015, 08:56

    We want MALDO!

    Reply this comment
  2. jimmyrick
    jimmyrick 21 October, 2015, 09:46

    After Kashkari’s disastrous showing last November, Sundheim is going to “build” on his rhetoric? Kashkari was a Democrat and for all practical purposes, so’s Sundheim.

    I’m supporting a REAL Republican – Tom Del Beccarro!

    Reply this comment
  3. bellasenora
    bellasenora 21 October, 2015, 12:17

    With Sundheim running is will be a real disaster, another Kashkari. Why vote for a RINO or liberal Republican, when there is a real and solid conservative in the race. I’m voting and asking all family members, friends and neighbors to vote for Tom Del Baccaro. Sick of establishment candidates!

    Reply this comment
  4. maximillian
    maximillian 21 October, 2015, 12:33

    I’ve known and worked with Duf on recent efforts to reform pensions throughout California. I’m sure no other candidate could’ve accomplished as much as Duf. It’s good to have a strong bench to go up against Kamala…that is the overall goal and Duf Sundheim is at the forefront to beat her.

    Reply this comment
  5. bob
    bob 21 October, 2015, 13:21

    Doesn’t Duff know this is a DemoNRat state and the rest of us are all just visitors?

    Reply this comment
  6. Skep41
    Skep41 21 October, 2015, 13:38

    Yes, let’s all bicker and fight amongst ourselves so all the hard-liners can stomp off and support some lunatic who stands for legal machine guns, mass deportation, making abortion illegal and every other super-unpopular hard-line piece of idiocy which has reduced the California Republican Party into an embarrassing fringe party. If this election is about the economy the Republicans can win; if it’s about voting for a crackpot lunatic with views supported by 10% of the electorate to make some obscure point then we’ll have a great choice between Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez next November. We live in a blue state. A credible Republican candidate who doesnt exclude half the population the first time he opens his mouth could actually win.

    Reply this comment
    • jimmyrick
      jimmyrick 21 October, 2015, 16:59

      You obviously weren’t paying attention when Neil Kashkari garnered only 40% of the vote in the lowest turnout election in recent California history. Usually low turnout elections favor Republicans, but most Republicans recognized Kashkari for the joke he was.

      Since you are obviously not a Republican and view those of us who value life, the Second Amendment, the rule of law and “every other super-unpopular hard-line piece of idiocy” as “hardliners”, “lunatics” and “crackpots”, your opinion has no validity in this context. Stop pretending to be a Republican and go ahead and support the Communist of your choice. Who’s it going to be – Harris or Sanchez?

      Reply this comment
  7. Bob Larivee for US Senate
    Bob Larivee for US Senate 2 November, 2015, 10:57

    What does the CAGOP really want? A typical political candidate to run the same old Republican race in California? Or do they want to REALLY win by thinking outside the box?

    With Rocky Chavez you get a someone who really is a moderate to conservative Democrat with an “R” by his name. His voting record demonstrates that.

    With Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim you get two lawyers! Lawyers in Sacramento or in Washington do not have a very good track record lately. As well, they must take ownership, along with the other CAGOP leaders over the last 25 years for the party’s decline. There was NO upturn for the party during their tenures.

    The CAGOP, California and America does not need ineffective leadership!

    The people are speaking! They want NEW leadership, FRESH ideas, a NEW face.

    I believe I am that leader!


    Reply this comment
    • jimmyrick
      jimmyrick 2 November, 2015, 17:08

      I’m afraid Mr. Larivee’s contribution to this campaign will be to dilute the Republican vote enough so that Charlie Munger’s “Top Two” gimmick will result in two Democrats on the November ballot.

      So tell me, Mr. Larivee, which Democrat is funding your “campaign”?

      Reply this comment

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John Hrabe

John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about California politics for CalWatchdog.com and CalNewsroom.com.

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