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NOT ANY Blue Will Do— Episode 3,725... California + Buffalo, NY

You thought Sinema was bad? Meet Adam Gray and Rudy Salas

I’m not really that familiar with Melanie Mason’s reporting. I’ve seen her stuff at Politico and I have no impression that she is especially a good reporter or a bad reporter— just another Politico reporter. So I don’t mean to insult her skills by noting that she left out the single most important factor— never a mention or even a hint— in her latest: House control could hinge on California. Why Dems don’t have it locked down. Has no one ever mentioned “candidate quality” in her presence? Or, like almost all American political reporters, does she just shrugged it off as unmeasurable and too difficult to deal with?

California has 6 swing districts up for grabs in November— 5 held by Republicans and one that’ll be open because Katie Porter ran for Senate instead of for reelection. All 6 Democratic candidates have something in common: they’re all conservatives. Several— not all— are putrid candidates that no decent Democrat who looks at “down-ballot” races seriously could ever vote for. So there’s that. Completely unmentioned by Mason… or any other reporter.

No one, for example wants to seriously discuss why David Valadao, Mike Garcia and John Duarte are in office, despite having fairly solid blue districts that Biden won substantially. First the 3 districts:

  • Valadao (CA-22)- D+10 partisan lean (Biden won by 12.9 points)

  • Garcia (CA-27)- D+8 partisan lean (Biden won by 12.4 points)

  • Duarte (CA-13)- D+7 partisan lean (Biden won by 10.9 points)

There were only 3 other districts in the country where Biden beat Trump with double digits and the Democratic House candidate failed to win (NY-04, NY-17 and NY-22) which can all be described almost identically to the California cases— shitty conservative Democrats running in open blue seats and rejected by Biden voters). The problem with 2 of the 3 California seats is that the DCCC re-recruited the same awful candidates they spent millions and millions of dollars on— and then lost. And they’re doing the same thing again. IO noted a day or two ago, the House Majority PAC had reserved over $5 million for Rudy Salas, the loser from 2022 in CA-22. In fact, let me get into the DCCC spends from 2022. The amounts here are what the DCCC and the House Majority PAC spent on these losing campaigns”

  • Salas (CA-22)- $10,098,851

  • Smith (CA-27)- $23,480 (even the DCCC realized it was a waste of money, having spent $10.6 million on her in 2020)

  • Gray (CA-13)- $6,628,853

Smith, an ex-Republican who had a terrible record in the state legislature and was hated by progressives lost her third race to Garcia, this time by 6.4 points— even while Biden was burying Trump in the district. Did anyone think maybe they should take a look at why Christy Smith was such a horrible candidate? Well, at least the DCCC didn’t encourage her to run again. They found another conservative Democrat this time, George Whitesides, but at least he doesn’t have a record to make Democrats vomit (although he is a rich self-funder who has already put $1,330,795 of his own into the campaign). Salas and Gray, though, are running again, the DCCC foolishly doubling down on their losses again, counting on Biden’s coattails that didn’t materialize in 2022.

I can’t count the number of times we’ve written about what crappy candidates Rudy Salas and Adam Gray are. They were both leaders of the “Mod Squad” in Sacramento, our state’s version of the Blue Dogs, and the two of them define political corruption. Needless to say, both were among the first shitbags endorsed by the Blue Dogs this cycle.  But let’s discount Howie’s opinion of these two this time. There are plenty of organizations that rate state legislators in California— usually narrowly in their own field of expertise. The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation voters, for example, rate legislators on their environmental records. Planned Parenthood and NARAL rate legislators on women’s reproductive rights. Unions rate them based on labor issues. And so on. There’s an organization in California whose expertise is the state legislature and which takes all these other organizations’ findings into account— Courage California. Their scorecard is GOLDEN. Here’s Salas’ report:

And here’s Gray’s Courage score. The brain surgeons at the DCCC think he and Salas are what California Democrats want representing them in Congress. Read these two report cards. They help explain what’s wrong with the Democratic Party establishment and particularly what’s wrong with the DCCC. And they certainly explain why Republicans win in solid blue districts.

“Bought and paid for by corrupt special interests” may sound like exactly what the DCCC is looking for, but it isn’t what voters in the Central Valley are looking for. They know Salas and they know Gray… and they already rejected them by staying away from the polls— these are two of teh lowest turnout districts in America— and by voting for Biden and then not voting for Salas and Gray. So, sure, let’s nominate them again.

But, like I said, nothing about that from Politico. Nothing about the candidate quality of any of these 6 gentlemen (gee, all six are not just conservatives, but conservative males; smart move— not). Orange County candidates Dave Min and Derek Tran are just as bad. I’ve never spoken with Whitesides or Rollins so I don’t know for sure, but what I’ve read is not promising in terms of what kinds of members they would make if elected. Rollins was endorsed by the Blue Dogs and Whiteside was endorsed by the New Dems— as were Rollins, Salas, Gray and Tran, everyone but Min, this guy:

So how does Politico analyze this California nightmare?  Identity politics, of course. “The six fiercely competitive California districts key to flipping the chamber are a microcosm of the most pressing questions facing the party across the country— including whether their increasingly-wobbly coalition of Latino, Asian American, Black and young voters show up for them in November… On paper, the fundamentals of the most competitive districts favor Democrats. The party has a registration advantage in all six seats. Their populations are diverse, with white voters making up a majority in just one district. In 2020, Biden triumphed over Trump in five of the districts. But Biden’s success in the state four years ago belied deeper warning signs for his party. Democrats lost three House seats that cycle, all in districts where voters also backed Biden. Turnout that year hit a 48-year high— but the benefit to the party did not trickle down-ballot. Even after Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, upending the electoral landscape, Democrats in California— where abortion rights remain sacrosanct— did not reap the same benefits as their counterparts across the country.

For years, California Democrats have assumed that Latino voters would side with them— so long as they got them to the polls. The group makes up 36 percent of the state’s adult population but just a quarter of its likely voters, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
“Conventional Democratic orthodoxy is: Presidential year, higher turnout, more Latinos,” said [GOP strategist Mike] Madrid, author of the forthcoming book The Latino Century: How America’s Largest Minority is Transforming Democracy.
Statistics show why Democrats are so bullish to flip the seats in California’s rural Central Valley, where they are trying to pick off Republican Reps. John Duarte and David Valadao.
Valadao’s district has the highest proportion of Latino voters of any district in the state— roughly 60 percent— and Democrats hold a 15-point registration advantage there.
The party has a 13-point registration edge in Duarte’s district, where Latinos make up half of eligible voters. Biden beat Trump there in 2020 by 11 points.
“Objectively, the numbers make the case for me,” Adam Gray, a former Democratic state lawmaker heading to a rematch with Duarte, said in an interview, pointing to the party registration gap and more favorable turnout expected in November than his 2022 midterm, when he lost by just 564 votes.
But while strategists from both parties agree the electorate in November will skew younger and more Latino, a boost in that turnout may not end up benefiting Democrats as much as they hope.
Latino voters are increasingly behaving like other groups, Madrid said, aligning more along class and gender lines than voting as an ethnic bloc. Working-class Latinos, especially men, have been shifting to the right.
…In California and nationally, the party has seen a clear drop-off among younger, nonwhite and more politically independent voters. The reasons for the souring are myriad— a lack of enthusiasm for Biden, disapproval of his handling of the war in Gaza, dissatisfaction with the economy or a disillusionment with politics (and both parties) overall.

And not a peep about candidate quality. Nor is California the only state where the Democrats have burdened themselves with absolutely shitty candidates who should only be backed if the goal is to make sure Congress is stocked with more like Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin and Joe Lieberman. Is that what the DCCC is looking for? Many people think so. Look at NY-26, Brian Higgins’ former Buffalo-based seat— nice and blue. Biden won it 61.7 to 36.3%— a 25.1 point margin. It’s a district with a D+18 partisan lean and a D+9 PVI. Republicaans are not competitive here. 

So when Higgins retired, the Democratic establishment gave the progressive contender, Nate McMurray, the cold shoulder and selected a corrupt— currently under investigation for illegal campaign finance practices— conservative hack, state Sen Tim Kennedy, someone whose electoral career began as an anti-Choice jerk with endorsements from both the Democrats and the Conservative Party.

Yesterday, local Buffalo media reported that Kennedy is suing McMurray to get him off the general election primary ballot, just what you would expect from a Republican… or a Republican-equivalent. WIVB reported that “Kennedy is seeking that McMurray be removed from the June 25 primary ballot, which would make Kennedy the only Democrat on the ballot for the primary election, which is on Nov. 5.”

The Buffalo News contacted McMurray who told them Kennedy’s suit “is just a hit job. This is the establishment going after progressive candidates and progressive companies and trying to basically smear us, just so they could run unopposed. Tim Kennedy wants to run unopposed.”


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