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October 1, 2014

Posts in "California"

August 26, 2014

Top 5 Races to Watch in the West

begich 160 091114 Top 5 Races to Watch in the West

Begich will face Sullivan in a high-stakes election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The West has been difficult territory for Republicans over the last decade or so, but small GOP gains in the region could be a sign of larger gains elsewhere around the country.

If Republicans can win the Alaska Senate race, they would be in strong position to win that chamber’s majority. And picking up a House seat or two in California would likely be the icing on a very good night for Republicans.

Three races dropped from our Top 5 list since last summer. Nevada’s 3rd District is barely regarded as competitive at this point. The Hawaii Senate race isn’t worth watching anymore after Sen. Brian Schatz survived the Democratic primary. And GOP Rep. David Valadao is looking stronger and stronger in California’s 21st District, at least in this midterm election.

Here are the top five races to watch in the West this year: Full story

August 18, 2014

Republicans Gain Steam in House Races

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Valadao is gaining steam. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While political reporters and party strategists argue over whether there is an electoral wave ahead, district-level data demonstrates a difficult landscape for Democratic candidates in House races.

Democrats believe, as competitive races become more engaged and the party exercises some of its financial advantage to get its message out, that some contests will turn in their favor. That scenario is possible, but in many cases Democratic challenges aren’t developing as quickly as expected and some Democratic incumbents are struggling to gain their footing.

We’re changing The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates: Full story

July 28, 2014

So You Want to Be a Political Handicapper? 2014 Edition

The thought of three candidate interviews over a four-hour period invariably fills me with dread.

The chance of all three congressional hopefuls being thoughtful, reasonable and personable — and having a good chance of winning in the fall — is relatively small.

But sometimes the unexpected happens. And on July 16, I had the pleasure of interviewing three quality candidates. Full story

Chuck Schumer’s Dream: A Democratic Nightmare

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer laid out his dream for a less partisan Washington recently. But the Democrat’s New York Times op-ed is giving some strategists in his own party nightmares.

“Polarization and partisanship are a plague on American politics,” Schumer wrote in the piece — titled, “End Partisan Primaries, Save America” — in which he identified the party primary system as one of the main causes of dysfunction on Capitol Hill.

The senator uses House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss as a curious first example. “The partisan primary system, which favors more ideologically pure candidates, has contributed to the election of more extreme officeholders and increased political polarization,” according to Schumer, who also blamed “ideologically driven voters” in the Virginia race.

But Virginia has an open primary, in which voters of all stripes could pick up a ballot. And some of Cantor’s supporters blame his loss on Democrats voting for college professor Dave Brat, not just “ideologically driven” Republicans.

Schumer goes on to prescribe a “national movement to adopt the ‘top-two’ primary,” similar to California’s current system. But even though the senator declared “the move has had a moderating influence on both parties and a salutary effect on the political system and its ability to govern,” his prescription may not be a solution at all.

Full story

July 1, 2014

How Parties Communicate Without Coordinating

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Israel is the DCCC’s chairman. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Party campaign committees and outside groups aren’t allowed to coordinate, but as they outline their fall television ad strategies, interested groups are doing a very public dance to ensure they don’t step on each others’ toes and waste money duplicating efforts.

Now we have some specific examples of districts where this collaboration is taking place. Full story

June 4, 2014

Race Ratings Change: California’s 25th District

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Rogers failed to win a spot in the state’s top two primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Projecting which party is going to win a competitive seat in November can be challenging — except when one party doesn’t even have a candidate.

Two Republicans finished first and second in the primary in California’s 25th District, guaranteeing that the seat will remain in GOP hands for another two years. The seat is open because of Republican Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon’s decision not to run for re-election. Full story

April 18, 2014

8 House Race Ratings Changes Boost GOP, Democrats

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Dold is waging a comeback bid in Illinois. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This week Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call made ratings changes in eight congressional districts and confirmed our rating in a ninth — Wisconsin’s 6th District — after GOP Rep. Tom Petri announced his retirement.

Here is a link to the Ratings map and a quick rundown of the moves we made, with links to the corresponding analysis. Full story

Ratings Change: California’s 26th District

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Brownley is a Democrat from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the Republican wave hit in 2010, it lost virtually all of its strength before it got to the West Coast. Most Democrats in competitive races west of the Rocky Mountains held on.

So Democrats are in a precarious electoral position this cycle, and it’s unclear whether some districts that look Democratic on paper could be a struggle to hold in November. Full story

Ratings Change: California’s 36th District

ruiz 123 101312 445x330 Ratings Change: California’s 36th District

Ruiz is a freshman from California. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After Democrat Raul Ruiz defeated GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack in California’s 36th District in 2012, Republican insiders immediately put this district toward the top of their target list.

After all, though Ruiz won the race by 6 points, 53 percent to 47 percent, he was buoyed by a presidential year and took advantage of the perception that Mack was distracted by her then-husband’s Florida Senate bid.

But things haven’t developed as Republicans expected. Ruiz reported a strong $1.5 million on hand on March 31, and he continues to be regarded as a hard-working Member of Congress who won’t be caught off-guard in his first re-election bid. (On a side note, on April 7 I wrote about what California candidates chose as their ballot designations.) Full story

April 8, 2014

Meet 3 Divergent House Candidates Worth Watching

While some observers of politics apparently are only interested in statistical models that predict electoral outcomes, I have always thought that candidates matter — both during campaigns and, particularly, when the victorious arrive in Washington, D.C.

In fact I have found interviewing congressional candidates one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Last week, I interviewed three credible hopefuls in three interesting races: California Republicans Steve Knight and Jeff Gorell, and Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh.

Full story

April 7, 2014

GOP Congressman Skips Incumbent Label on California Ballot

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David Valadao is a House Republican from California. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

California Republican David Valadao is running for re-election to the 21st District — but you wouldn’t know he’s the incumbent from his ballot designation.

In the Golden State, candidates can choose a short description to accompany their name on the primary and general election ballots. The ballot designation is generally three words, unless it is an official title, and it’s considered an important opportunity to leave a lasting impression on voters before they make their final selection. [Here is a brief explainer from the Riverside Press Enterprise from last year.] Full story

March 5, 2014

Democrats Have Primaries, Too

Every six minutes, some reporter in the world is writing about a Republican primary. That’s not to say that GOP primaries don’t matter — because sometimes they do — but there are a handful of Democratic House primaries that could have general election ramifications as well.

Here is a look at five Democratic primaries to watch, in order of primary date:

Illinois’ 13th District
Primary: March 18

Democrats are looking to complete their sweep in Illinois by winning the 13th District this fall. Party strategists are ecstatic that former Madison County Judge Ann Callis is running, but she must win the upcoming March 18 primary before focusing on GOP Rep. Rodney Davis.

Callis had $517,000 on hand at the end of December. But University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana physics professor George Gollin had $265,000 on hand thanks in part to a $165,000 candidate loan, and he had a small TV ad buy during the Winter Olympics.

Democrats can’t afford to take the primary for granted. Callis is up with her second TV ad, but still is being outspent on the air, according to Emily Cahn’s Roll Call story. If Gollin wins the nomination, Democrats might punt until the next presidential election.

Illinois’s 13th District is rated Toss-Up/Tilt Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Pennsylvania’s 6th District
Primary: May 20

Democrats have spent the last decade trying to defeat GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach in the 6th District outside Philadelphia. But now that he is retiring, Democrats have to sort out their own May 20 primary before focusing on the general election.

Some Democratic strategists believe businessman Mike Parrish, a former Republican, has the most crossover appeal in a district that Mitt Romney won with 51 percent in 2012. But physician Manan Trivedi announced he is running again after losing to Gerlach in the last two elections.

Parrish raised a quick $100,000 before the end of the year. But Trivedi raised and spent $1.3 million in each of the last two races and built an initial name identification advantage. The Democratic nominee will likely face Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello in the general election.

Pennsylvania’s 6th District is rated Lean Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Pennsylvania’s 8th District
Primary: May 20

Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Kevin Strouse was one of Democrats’ earliest recruits of the cycle. He entered the 8th District race in the Philadelphia suburbs nearly a year ago, and the DCCC added him to its Jump Start program for prized recruits. But that doesn’t guarantee Strouse the Democratic nomination, particularly since he didn’t make the initial Red-to-Blue list this week.

Strouse faces publishing company owner and chemist Shaughnessy Naughton in the May 20 primary. Shaughnessy had $177,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31 (compared to $472,000 for Strouse), but she also has the support of EMILY’s List.

The Democratic candidates can’t afford to spend too much on the primary, considering GOP Rep. Mike G. Fitzpatrick had $1.3 million on hand at the end of the year and has maintained consistently favorable polling numbers — even though he represents a potentially competitive district.

Pennsylvania’s 8th District is rated Republican Favored by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

California’s 21st District
Primary: June 3

The Central Valley-based 21st District was the site of one of Democrats’ worst disasters of the 2012 cycle when they failed to get a quality candidate through the top-two primary. Last cycle’s Democratic candidate, John Hernandez, is running again, and one Republican poll had him leading establishment favorite Amanda Renteria for the second slot against GOP Rep. David Valadao.

Democratic strategists believe Renteria is in better shape than that, but she can’t take the June 3 primary for granted. She had $257,000 on hand at the end of the year while Hernandez has yet to file a report with the Federal Election Commission. But Renteria will likely to spend some of that money, at least on direct mail and not necessarily television, to secure her place in the general election.

California’s 21st District is rated Toss-Up/Tilt Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

New Mexico’s 2nd District
Primary: June 3

At the beginning of the cycle, Democratic strategists identified New Mexico’s 2nd District as trending in their direction, as the Hispanic population continues to grow. The thinking was that GOP Rep. Steve Pearce would be vulnerable in four or six years, that is, until former Eddy County Commissioner Roxanne “Rocky” Lara entered the race.

Democrats believe she is the right candidate to win the seat this year and added her to the committee’s Jump Start program last year and its Red-to-Blue program this week. But the scenario is likely dependent on Lara winning the June 3 primary over attorney Leslie Endean-Singh. While Lara entered the race in September, Endean-Singh had a five-month head start and $93,000 (including more than $50,000 in personal loans) in the bank at the end of December.

New Mexico’s 2nd District is rated Currently Safe Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

February 19, 2014

Please Don’t Call It an Exodus From Congress

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Holt announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of this Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two more members of Congress decided this would be their final term, but their exits don’t change the battle for the majority in the House. And contrary to an all-too-common media narrative, their departures do not signal an exodus from the House of Representatives.

“Two Democrats Join Exodus From U.S. Congress,” according to a recent Reuters headline and accompanying story, which described “44 Members of the House and Senate” leaving Congress after this year. But that is very misleading because it conveys the sense that we are witnessing an atypical, wholesale exit from Washington. But that’s simply not borne out by the data.

This cycle, congressional retirements have come in bunches, with House members announcing their decisions within days (or sometimes hours) of each other.

Reps. Gloria Negrete McLeod and Rush D. Holt are two good examples of the importance of making distinctions when counting retirements. I don’t consider Negrete McLeod, a California Democrat, a retirement since she is running for another office — granted, one that is outside the Beltway. I am counting the New Jersey Democrat as a true retirement since he is not seeking another office this year.

But the only way the Reuters reporter (and others) can come up with a higher number of “retirements” is to include House members who are running for another office, including the dozen representatives who are running for the Senate. It’s not an exodus from Congress if members are trying to stay in Washington and merely move their offices from one side of the Hill to the other. Full story

February 4, 2014

Ratings Change: California’s 52nd District

Republican and Democratic operatives might be dreaming of spending the fall in San Diego as California’s 52nd District becomes entrenched as one of the most competitive races in the country this cycle. Democratic Rep. Scott Peters defeated GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray in 2012 but is facing a very serious challenge from former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio.

This race just doesn’t fit the regular mold. Peters finished the year with $1.1 million in campaign funds compared to $986,000 for DeMaio. Usually, challengers need considerable resources to overcome a name identification gap. But after a high-profile (though unsuccessful) bid for mayor of San Diego, DeMaio may actually start the race with higher name ID than the incumbent.

Barack Obama carried the district in both 2008 and 2012, but heading into a midterm election when turnout will likely dip, it’s just hard to see Peters having a distinct advantage in the race right now. California’s 52nd District is now rated by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call as Pure Tossup, switching from Tossup/Tilt Democrat.

January 16, 2014

Ratings Change: California’s 25th District

After a flurry of surprise retirements, GOP Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon’s announcement was one of the worst-kept secrets of the last year. So even though the district is competitive, Republicans weren’t caught off guard and have two credible candidates already in the race.

The California congressman’s exit has been rumored for a long time. Jon Fleischman of the California-based Flash Report reported last April that McKeon was telling people that he may retire. Full story

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