Tags: California | House | primaries | candidates | Republican | Democrat

Calif. House Primaries Revive Reagan's 'Big Casino' of Politics

By    |   Friday, 30 May 2014 06:40 PM

With California voters poised to select nominees for governor and other statewide offices, as well as for the state's 53 U.S. House districts, there is considerable attention on Tuesday's primary in what Ronald Reagan dubbed "the big casino" of American politics.

But the nation's most populous state is not what it was when Reagan was governor from 1967 to 1975, or even when he was president in the 1980s. The last time a Republican won the governorship was in 1994, and since 2010 Democrats have held all statewide offices and near-supermajorities — two-thirds of the seats — in both the state Senate and Assembly.

Of the 53 representatives California sends to Washington, 38 are Democrats and only 14 are Republicans. But state and national GOP operatives are convinced that the races for these seats are where the action is — that if they are going to gain any ground in the Golden State, it will be in the ranks of its U.S. House members.

Some of the open House districts are so lopsided in favor of one party that the seats of the outgoing lawmakers are assured not to switch affiliation.

In Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's 33rd District, for example, his successor will certainly be a fellow liberal Democrat. Wendy Greuel, former Los Angeles city controller, a 2013 L.A. mayoral candidate, and a former DreamWorks executive, is considered the front-runner.

In retiring Rep. John Campbell's historically Republican 45th District in Orange County, the next congressman will almost surely be a fellow conservative Republican, state Sen. Mimi Walters, who also served as a member of the state Assembly.

But Republicans believe that at least the four seats Democrats took in 2012 as Barack Obama swept their state's electoral votes are now ripe to capture.

Under the state's French-style electoral system, all candidates, regardless of party, will appear on the same ballot in the June 3 primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 4 general election runoff. Both the runoff and the general election are on the same ballot.

The U.S. House races gathering the most interest include:

4th District: Newcomer Takes on McClintock

Rep. Tom McClintock was a swashbuckling conservative as state assemblyman and state senator before he came to Congress in 2008. He faces an unusual situation in his Sacramento-based district because there is no Democrat running.

In all likelihood, McClintock will face Art Moore, 35, a West Point graduate and businessman who last year moved back to the area where he was raised.

Moore styles himself a businessman fighting a "career politician." But conservatives point out that his campaign consultant is Rob Stutzman, onetime political associate of liberal GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and like most liberal Republicans in California, a sworn enemy of McClintock.

They see the Moore challenge as payback time for McClintock from those he has long battled within the party.

7th District: Three Against Bera

Liberal Democratic Rep. Amerish "Ami" Bera became a major Republican target days after he unseated veteran Republican Rep. Dan Lungren in 2012. Their contest was one of the last among House races to be called, with Bera edging the incumbent by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.

Three Republicans are now actively vying to face Bera in the Northern California district: conservative Igor Birman, son of Russian refuseniks and former top aide to Rep. Tom McClintock; liberal former GOP Rep. Doug Ose, who left the House in 2004 after three terms and tried unsuccessfully to win the neighboring 4th District in 2008; and Elizabeth Emken, a moderate businesswoman who carried the Republican banner against Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012. Emken relocated to the district to become a candidate.

25th District: Knight Fights Strickland Succession

When House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon announced his retirement last year, former state Sen. Tony Strickland abruptly ended his bid for a rematch with Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in the neighboring 26th District and relocated to the 25th to seek the open seat.

Strickland has been endorsed by McKeon, Mitt Romney, and other GOP powers, and has a strong fundraising base. His conservative record in office is strong, but many on the right growl that he has abandoned fellow conservatives in fights for nominations and other party squabbles in his effort to cultivate GOP leaders.

Strickland's leading opponent in the GOP primary is fellow conservative state Sen. Steve Knight, a former Los Angeles policeman and son of the late state Sen. Pete Knight, a revered figure on the right.

Strickland is the front-runner, but Knight has gained considerable endorsements from grass-roots conservative groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

"Strickland has had more money to spend," Jon Fleischman, editor of the influential FlashReport on California politics, told Newsmax. "But he's carpet-bagging into a district that Steve Knight or his father has represented. It will be close."

31st District: GOP Hopes to Keep Miller Seat

Even before Rep. Gary Miller announced his retirement, this Southern California district was universally regarded as one of the most likely to flip from Republican to Democrat. Two years ago, Obama swept the district as Miller was winning re-election.

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who failed to make the runoff with Miller in 2012, is running again. So is former Democratic Rep. Joe Baca, who lost re-election in the neighboring district two years ago and is now vying to succeed Miller.

Another Democrat in the race is lawyer Eloise Gomez Reyes, who has the backing of EMILY's List.

A moderate Republican who may make the runoff is Dr. Paul Chabot, a physician and U.S. Navy veteran, who worked in the Bush and Clinton White Houses.

36th District: Will Bono Beat Go On?

Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz may have defeated Republican incumbent Mary Bono in 2012, but he seems likely to face the legacy of the Bono family.

The leading Republican hopeful is state Assemblyman Brian Nestande, protégé and onetime top district aide of Mary's late husband and predecessor Sonny Bono, who died in 1998. Mary Bono went on to win the special election to fill Sonny's unexpired seat in the Palm Desert district.

The other Republican in the race is former state Sen. Ray Haynes of Riverside, who has had difficulty raising money.

52nd District: GOP Battle to Face Peters

A year after he lost a close race for mayor of San Diego, former Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio is back, seeking to face Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in the fall.

DeMaio, who is gay, has the blessings of most local party leaders and of the National Republican Congressional Committee. But many conservatives are unwilling to accept his liberal social issue positions and are rallying behind Kirk Jorgensen, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and stalwart conservative.

Under the open primary system, DeMaio will have the backing of many independents and Democrats.

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

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With California voters poised to select nominees for governor and other statewide offices, as well as for the state's 53 U.S. House districts, there is considerable attention on Tuesday's primary in what Ronald Reagan dubbed "the big casino" of American politics.
California, House, primaries, candidates, Republican, Democrat
Friday, 30 May 2014 06:40 PM
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