Trump figures large in California congressional races
Oct. 08, 2016
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Republican Donald Trump's presidential campaign plays large in a number of California's most competitive congressional campaigns.
Democrats already hold a 39-14 advantage in the nation's largest congressional delegation and they are looking to add to it in November by hammering any GOP candidate who doesn't reject Trump.
With polls showing Hillary Clinton comfortably ahead of Trump in California and the state's U.S. Senate race featuring two Democrats, there is less reason for Republicans to turn out and that could hurt down-ticket candidates.
Here are the contests to watch:
GOP STAR IN TROUBLE?
In the 49th District north of San Diego, Republican Darrell Issa cruised to re-election seven times against little-known opponents, including a 21-point victory in 2014. Democrat Doug Applegate, a former Marine colonel seeking elected office for the first time, surprised almost everyone in the June "top-two" primary when he came within 5 percentage points of Issa to advance to November's runoff.
Issa has come under fire for his role as President Barack Obama's chief inquisitor as chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He also has embraced Trump, comparing the GOP nominee to Ronald Reagan and serving as a delegate for him at the Republican National Convention.
The district is increasingly blue, with Republicans holding only an 8-point registration advantage and the Cook Political Report tightening the race from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican."
Issa, who has been spending more time in the district, is the wealthiest member of Congress and has a big fundraising advantage.
In the Central Valley's overwhelmingly Democratic 21st District, Republican David Valadao would seem vulnerable to a Trump backlash. The district is more than 70 percent Latino.
But the two-term congressman, who trounced a Democratic challenger in 2014, said in June that he doesn't support Trump and he advocates a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Emilio Huerta, a Bakersfield attorney and son of labor icon Dolores Huerta, finished a distant second to Valadao in June, squeaking by fellow Democrat and Fowler Councilman Daniel Parra, who has refused to support him.
In the increasingly Democratic 25th District north of Los Angeles, freshman Republican Steve Knight said he doesn't support Trump after the GOP presidential nominee was caught on tape bragging about predatory advances on women. Knight was one of seven California incumbents to fall short of a majority in June, and the Cook report rates it the state's only toss-up.
Democrat Bryan Caforio, a trial attorney who criticized Knight's response to the huge gas leak in the community of Porter Ranch, is poised to benefit from anti-Trump sentiment among the large number of Latino families in the district. But Caforio moved there only last year, leading critics to label him a carpetbagger.
SO WE MEET AGAIN
Trump may also be a weight on two-term Republican Jeff Denham in the 10th District, which includes Modesto. Democrat Michael Eggman, an almond grower, lost to Denham by 12 percentage points in 2014 and finished 20 points behind in June.
Despite the previous loss, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lists Eggman on its "Red to Blue" roster of top takeover prospects. The district voted for Obama twice.
"I think the Democrats think, 'We have a chance not because of the candidate but because of the year,'" said Wesley Hussey, associate professor of government at California State University, Sacramento.
In the Silicon Valley's 17th District, Mike Honda faces a rematch against fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former U.S. Commerce Department official under Obama who narrowly lost to Honda 2014 and beat him by 2 points in the June primary.
Honda, the only California incumbent who didn't finish first in the primary, has long been under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for allegations he had congressional aides perform campaign work when they were supposed to be working on government business.
Meantime, Khanna's campaign manager resigned last month after Honda sued, alleging the challenger's aide stole fundraising information from the eight-term incumbent.
The best chance for a Republican pickup may be Sacramento's 7th District, which Ami Bera narrowly won in 2012 and 2014. Bera's father was sentenced to a year in federal prison in August for illegally funneling nearly $270,000 to his son's campaigns. Ami Bera was not charged and denied knowing about his father's activities.
The Teamsters endorsed Republican Scott Jones, the Sacramento County sheriff, after Bera supported fast-track trade negotiating authority for Obama and then withdrew support after Jones backed Trump. Jones pulled his Trump endorsement after release of the tape of the presidential candidate bragging about his advances on women.
PASSING THE TORCH
The retirement of nine-term Democrat Lois Capps creates an opening in the 24th District on the Central Coast. Only eight other districts in the country have received more money from super PACs and other outside groups, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Democrat Salud Carbajal, a Santa Barbara County supervisor, is favored but 28-year-old Republican businessman Justin Fareed has made it competitive. After release of the Trump tape on women, Fareed said he wouldn't support the GOP presidential nominee.
"If Fareed can win that race, it's going to be a really bad night for Democrats," Hussey said.
In Orange County's 44th District, former state Sen. Lou Correa and Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, both Democrats, are competing for an open seat created by Democrat Loretta Sanchez's U.S. Senate run.
In Los Angeles' 44th District, Democrats Nanette Barragan, a former Hermosa Beach councilwoman, and state Sen. Isadore Hall III, want to replace Janice Hahn, who is running for county supervisor.
And in Monterey's 20th District, Democrat Jimmy Panetta, son of former U.S. Rep. and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is expected to succeed the retiring Sam Farr.