Democrats seek to link CA House candidates to Donald Trump

fullsizerender-6Two months ago, Republican operatives feared that presidential nominee Donald Trump would destroy their chances to retain control of Congress.

Now things look much brighter for the party after a rough stretch for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Senate appears less at risk because the fact that Trump is the GOP nominee doesn’t seem to be held against GOP incumbents. Gerrymandering appears to have left the House Republican majority safe, perhaps until 2022, after the next census.

But in California, at least, the assumption remains the Trump will drag down GOP candidates in congressional races. That’s why the state Democratic Party is seeking in seven swing districts to target Republicans who are “running on the Trump ticket,” according to a party statement last week as it launched the website and related social media efforts.

Four of the Republicans are incumbents: Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, Darrell Issa, R-Vista, Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, and David Valadao, R-Hanford.

The other three are businessman Justin Fareed, seeking the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Lois Capps in the Santa Barbara area; businesswoman Denise Gitsham, who’s going against Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who is targeting Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove

Michael Soller, communications director for the California Democratic Party, likened Trump’s candidacy to a “sick joke.”

The best hope of sinking a GOP incumbent may be in Issa’s district, which straddles north San Diego County and south Orange County and appears to be moving leftward from its traditional Republicanism. Issa only got 51 percent of the vote in the June primary and has a higher-profile opponent than in past elections, former Marine Lt. Col. Doug Applegate. Running against a poorly funded, little-known Democrat in November 2014, Issa took 60 percent of the vote. The former chairman of the House oversight committee has endorsed Trump, while also making clear his lack of enthusiasm for the New York billionaire.

In November 2014, Denham won with 56 percent of the vote. Knight won with 53 percent and Valadao with 58 percent.

GOP could take first CA Democratic House seat since 1998

Of the other three races, the most surprising is the battle for the seat of the retiring Capps. The Cook Political Report moved the race between Fareed and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal from “solid Democrat” to “leaning Democrat” last week after Carbajal’s campaign released a seemingly credible Tarrance Group poll showing Fareed up 46 percent to 43 percent.

But as the Cook analysis noted, California Republicans have not won a congressional district represented by a Democrat since 1998. That was when then-Assemblyman Steven T. Kuykendall, R-Rancho Palos Verdes, defeated Janice Hahn of the dynastic Los Angeles political family for a seat that had previously been held by Jane Harman, who ran for governor in 1998. Harman defeated Kuykendall in 2000, making him the only House incumbent to lose that year.

Hanh succeeded Harman in 2011.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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