Republicans Optimistic on Recapturing Calif. House Seats

Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 01:28 PM

By John Gizzi

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With some results of Tuesday's primary still to be determined, California Republicans see excellent opportunities to retake at least three of the U.S. House districts they narrowly lost in the Golden State in 2012.

"Republicans can definitely pick up the three seats currently held by freshman Democrats Ami Bera, Raul Ruiz, and Scott Peters — all seats they won barely in 2012 when Obama took California in a 21-percentage-point landslide," Jon Fleischman, editor of the highly influential Flash Report on California politics, told Newsmax on Wednesday.

Fleischman also predicted that new GOP candidates have a shot against freshman Democrat Rep. Julia Brownley and veteran Democrat Rep. John Garamendi as well.

Under the state's French-style electoral system, all candidates, regardless of party, appeared on the same ballot in Tuesday's primary. The top two vote-getters will now advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

In the Southern California district relinquished by Republican Rep. Howard McKeon, for example, the November runoff will be between two Republicans.

In the Sacramento-based 7th District, Bera led three Republicans with 49 percent of the vote. In November, Bera will face moderate Republican and former three-term Rep. Doug Ose, who placed second with 26 percent of the vote.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has already targeted Bera, and weighed in with $300,000 in TV spots on Ose's behalf before the primary.

Similar results came out of the 36th District in Palm Desert, where the narrow 2012 winner Ruiz was the top vote-getter. Ruiz, who unseated former GOP Rep. Mary Bono, faces state Assemblyman Brian Nestande, protégé and onetime top district aide of Bono's late husband and predecessor, Sonny Bono, who died in 1998.

A sure-to-be-watched contest will be in the 52nd District in San Diego, where Democratic Rep. Scott Peters will now square off against a moderate Republican, San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who lost a tight race for mayor of San Diego last year.

If DeMaio wins, he will be the first openly gay Republican to make it to Congress as a nonincumbent. Results showed Peters leading DeMaio by a margin of 42 percent to 36 percent, with the remainder going to two conservative Republicans.

There was new GOP hope in the 31st District encompassing the Inland Empire, the vast suburban area east of Los Angeles, which Fleischman and others have long conceded was likely to fall from Republican to Democrat.

With GOP Rep. Gary Miller stepping down, moderate Republican and physician Paul Chabot surprised many by placing first. Former Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, the leading Democrat, was in second place by a tight 390 votes over another Republican, Leslie Gooch.

Republicans had an even bigger surprise in the Los Angeles-based 33rd District of retiring Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman. In a district considered "no-man's land" for the GOP, another moderate Republican, former assistant District Attorney Elan Carr, came in first and will face Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu in the fall.

California Republicans freely acknowledged to Newsmax that their hopes of winning any statewide offices were between slim and none.

Democrat Jerry Brown, already his state's longest-serving governor, led the primary with 55 percent of the vote against the second- and third-place Republicans. The second spot went to former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, who edged controversial Assemblyman Tim Donnelly by 18 percent to 15 percent.

"Their battle was acrimonious, but also a low-stakes endeavor, as conventional wisdom is that neither has a realistic shot of beating Jerry Brown this November," Fleischman told Newsmax.

"It was a bit of a Hobson's choice for conservatives — Kashkari, who administered the Wall Street bailout program, and Donnelly, who, while good on the issues, feels like he's always one interview away from a Todd Akin moment," said Fleischman, referring to the Missouri congressman whose controversial remark on rape may have cost Republicans their chance at a Senate seat in 2012.

Donnelly's controversial statements dealt primarily with immigration.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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