CD49: Democrats Organizing Against OC GOP Incumbents

At least two Democratic candidates are vying for the opportunity to challenge GOP Representative Darrell Issa next year in the 49th Congressional District. In anticipation, the California Democratic Party has already deployed at least one community organizer to get CD49 progressives agitate and “resisting,” Maia Tagami:

According to her Linkedin profile, Tagami was a deputy canvass director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in Florida’s 7th CD from September through November 2016. In that race, Democrat challenger Stephanie Murphy narrowly upset long-time GOP Rep. John  Mica in a CD that had become younger, more Latino and more Democratic due to redistricting.

Progressive activists staged “resistance” demonstrations in February and March in front of Issa’s office for the benefit of the media, such as this March 21 “die-in” – a trusty theatric recycled from anti-nuclear weapons protests and re-purposed to protest GOP attempts to carry-out their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The DCCC is targeting the every GOP-held congressional seat in Orange County: Representatives Ed Royce, Mimi Walters, Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher. That’s more bluster than reality at this stage of the game, with the general election 19 months away. Democrats have talked about taking out Royce for years, but the 13-term congressman always works his district and always wins decisively, even against very-well funded challengers in presidential cycles. While registration and demographics are generally trending away from Republicans in these districts (re-doubling the importance for Republicans to counter aggressive and amply-funded Democrat registration drives), an incumbent who vigorously tills the constituent soil is tough to beat.

Furthermore, Ms. Tagami of CD49 is not alone: the LA Times reports the DCCC is already moving staff in these districts to help prepare the political groundwork for the 2018 campaign. According to the LAT, the DCCC’s political director for the western US will be headquartered in Irvine, although veteran Democrat consultant Darry Sragow downplayed the significance of the location:

“Where the operation is really doesn’t matter. It’s about looking at voting patterns and figuring out if some of these seats can become Democratic.”

These Republican congressmembers are drawing multiple Democrat challengers.

Two University of California law professors – David Min and Katie Porter – have announced they’ll run against Rep. Mimi Walters, who was re-elected with nearly 59% of the vote even though Hillary Clinton carried it by 5 points. Min is a progressive Democrat who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and worked as a staffer to arch-liberal New York Senator Chuck Schumer, now the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate.  Katie Porter is a self-styled consumer advocate and acolyte of left-wing Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and has the endorsement of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.

Given the flood of news stories about the suppression of free speech in academia, it will be interesting to see how well two left-wing academic fare outside of CD45 precincts where UCI faculty live.

A non-academic jumped into the race last week:  31-year old Kia Hamandanchy, who until a month ago was a staffer for liberal Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and to former liberal Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. Hamadanchy apparently was from Irvine, and has returned. The son of Iranian immigrants hopes to tap into the wealth of Southern California’s Iranian-American community.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in CD48 also faces two Democratic challengers: a former Republican named Harley Rouda and an architect from Newport Beach named Laura Oatman. Rouda claims to have raised more than $200,000 and is already running online ads against the incumbent. Rohrabacher – first elected to Congress in 1988 – has had near-death experiences in the past (such the 2008 challenge from Huntington Beach Councilmember and peak-oil apostle Debbie Cook) but has always locked-in and come in for the win.

Two seems to be the magic number, as Rep. Darrell Issa in CD49 also faces two Democratic challengers. One is progressive Doug Applegate, a retired Marine and advocate of complete federal government control of health care. Applegate came within a whisker of defeating Issa last November. The other is Mike Levin, an attorney, environmentalist and former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County. Levin claims to have raised more than $275,000 in three weeks.

Clearly, at least some of these candidates appear to be raising serious cash, but the incumbents they’re trying to oust will be able to more than match those amounts while enjoying the advantages of incumbency. During a president’s first-term, the other party usually gains seats in the off-year elections. At the same time, the off-year also means lower voter turnout, which generally hurts Democratic candidates (especially in GOP-leaning districts). Ultimately, the biggest factor will be the state of the economy. For Republicans, that puts a premiums on passing pro-growth tax reform and repealing-and-replacing Obamacare as soon as possible, so these measures have maximum time to take effect before the mid-term elections.


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