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6 Cali Seats Will Decide Who Controls Congress— & The Dems Have Opted For Lesser Of 2 Evils Gambles

L.A. Times Coverage Doesn’t Include Candidate Quality

Even if Dems win in California, their lousy candidates won't make Congress any better

Yesterday, L.A. Times political staff writer Julia Wick noted that “While Republicans currently have a razor-thin majority in the House, partisan makeup of next year’s Congress will almost certainly be decided this November— at least in part— by a handful of hyper-competitive California races.” She’s right. There are 5 Republican held seats— and one open one— in blue districts or pure swing districts. She neglected to mention the key factor— in several instances, the seats are in GOP hands because the Democrats ran exceptionally shitty candidates who discerning Democratic voters were reluctant to vote for. And in 2 of the cases, they’re running the same shitty candidates who were rejected by the voters last time. These are the 6 seats everyone agrees are most flippable— along with their partisan leans and the 2020 presidential margin.

  • CA-13 (Duarte vs Gray again— D+7), Biden by 10.9 points

  • CA-22 (Valadao vs Salas again— D+10), Biden by 12.9 points

  • CA-27 (Garcia vs Whitesides— D+8), Biden by 12.4 points

  • CA-41 (Calvert vs Rollins again— R+7), Trump by 1.1 point

  • CA-45 (Steel vs Tran— D+5), Biden by 6.2 points

  • CA-47 (open: Min vs Baugh— D+6), Biden by 11.1 points

Wick bought into Dave Wasserman's theory that in 2022 Democrats underperformed in California (and New York) not because they fielded lousy candidates but because “their in-state political dominance helped Republicans channel voter frustration into anger toward Democrats,” although that excuse doesn’t hold up in as blue or bluer states than either New York or California. Neither Wasserman nor Wick will ever criticize a Democratic candidate for being sub-par, even if they have a record— like Gray and Salas certainly do— they proves it beyond any reasonable doubt.

Wick noted that “many of these districts are likely to perform better for Democrats in a presidential cycle, given former President Trump’s spot at the top of the Republican ticket.” That is certainly the only reasonable explanation for why the DCCC encouraged unpopular corrupt conservatives Adam Gray and Rudy Salas to run again and risk losing again in 2 of the bluest seats anywhere in America held by Republicans.

Without mentioning a word about candidate quality, Wick struggled to make any sense of the 6 races. She started with CA-27 in the northermost reaches of suburban L.A. County, where the DCCC candidate, awful, conservative state legislator Christy Smith, was as atrocious in 2020 and 2022,  as Gray and Salas are this cycle.


This time the DCCC dug up another conservative Democrat, George Whitesides, but, unlike Smith— who lost to Garcia 3 times— he has no record for Democratic voters to flee from. He’s s wealthy self-funder who has been endorsed by the right-of-center, corporate-controlled New Dems. The Democrats have a 12 point registration advantage in the district, largely because of working- and middle-class Latinos in Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster, not because of multimillionaires political dilettantes. He will absolutely outspend Garcia but short of a blue wave he’s unlikely to flip the seat.

They then skipped down to the Orange County district Katie Porter is giving up (CA-47- Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Newport Beach), a text book example of a lesser of two evils race that pits two especially shitty Sacramento creatures, conservative Democrat state Senator Dave Min and far more conservative former Republican Assembly minority leader Scott Baugh. I feel sorry for the voters who have to hold their noses and choose between them. If the DCCC was competently run— it isn’t— it would have driven Min out of the race after he mouthed off the a policeman arresting him on a DUI last year, enough to flip this district red without a blue wave to drown Baugh in. (There’s much worse about Min than his drunken bullying, like his “F” score from the Courage campaign.) He’s the only one of the half dozen California candidates not endorsed by the New Dems, even too shitty for them!

Next door is CA-45, another slightly blue swing district where mediocre backbencher incumbent Michelle Steel is up against nothing-burger Derek Tran who literally thinks he’s entitled to win because he’s Vietnamese (17% of voters are Vietnamese Americans). “Biden,” wrote Wick, “won the plurality-Asian district in 2020, but despite the registration advantage, Republicans turned out in higher numbers than Democrats in the 2022 midterms… As a first-time candidate emerging from a crowded primary, Tran faces the challenge of building name recognition against a candidate who is already well known in the district. That will be compounded by two things, said UC Irvine political science professor Louis DeSipio. Steel has a massive fundraising advantage, with more than $3 million on hand compared to Tran’s nearly $200,000. She also has the benefits of incumbency.”

The worst of the 6 incumbents is Ken Calvert, an especially foul right-wing Republican crook. Running in Riverside County he's in a tight rematch with Blue Dog Will Rollins. Rollins has no record to prove he’ll be a bad member of Congress, which Calvert certainly is. Watch what Fox News had to say about him:

“Calvert— who has represented parts of the Inland Empire for more than three decades— narrowly staved off Rollins last cycle in a race that was far more competitive than expected. This time, Rollins will be aided by the full backing of the Democratic Party and far more fundraising support. The Riverside County seat also became slightly more favorable to Democrats in the last round of redistricting, with the addition of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage on its eastern edge.” After a career as a virulent homophobe, Calvert is pretending to be gay-friendly now, to court Palm Springs voters. Wick reported that “Calvert has a history of voting against LGBTQ+ rights, as The Times has previously reported, but said during the 2022 campaign that his views had since evolved. That record will almost certainly come under fire in the Coachella Valley as he faces off against Rollins, a gay man who lives with his partner in Palm Springs… Democrats and Republicans are virtually tied in registration numbers, with Republicans recently taking on a several thousand-voter advantage, as of early April… Rollins had about $3.2 million on hand as of the last filing period, while Calvert had about $2.6 million.”

And that takes us to the two blue Central Valley districts, Duarte’s CA-13 and Valadao’s CA-22. Duarte’s district encompasses all of Merced County and parts of Fresno, Madera, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Wick: “Two years ago, this was the second-closest House race in the nation, with Duarte winning by just 564 votes. It will be one of the most avidly watched races in the country again this year… The district has a slight Latino majority, with white voters also accounting for nearly 40% of the electorate… As of late February, Democrats held a 13-percentage-point registration advantage, while no party preference voters made up more than a fifth of the electorate. Gray significantly outraised Duarte in the most recent filing period ending on March 31, but Duarte still has more cash on hand, with $1.8 million, to Gray’s $1.2 million reserve.”

Valadao’s CA-22 is a more interesting race, since Valadao is one of just 2 House Republicans left who voted to impeach Trump and because Salas is probably the worst of the 6 Democrats running. Democrats have a registration advantage in this Latino-majority district, which includes part of Bakersfield and Valadao has tno worry about many MAGAts who come out to vote for Trump, will sit on their hands rather than vote for him. Slas is hardly home free on that score thoiugh. “Democratic infighting in the 2024 primary, when Salas faced competition from fellow Democrat Melissa Hurtado, cost the party establishment millions to consolidate support behind Salas.” I hope they're happy with themselves since it's now going to cost them as much as $10 million to drag this dreck over the finish line. If he makes it to Congress, expect something atleast as bad as Sinema was when she was in the House. Salas and Gray were enthusiastically endorsed by the Blue Dogs of course.

California should have the best candidates in the country— not the worst. The state Democratic Party. Rusty Hicks is a terrible joke. The party would be better off bringing Eric Bauman back and putting a padlock on his zipper.


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