Capitol Alert

Democratic candidates flock to California’s ‘very hostile’ House districts

Three times more Democrats are running in the 10 targeted Republican-held California House districts this year compared to 2014 and 2016.

The latest tally of Democratic candidates, according to Federal Election Commission filings, is now at 63. In 2016, 22 Democrats competed in those districts. In 2014, there were 20.

The tripling of left-leaning candidates running to replace Republicans in historically conservative congressional districts concentrated in the Central Valley and Orange County represents a groundswell of both optimism and fear among Democrats, as the national party makes its case that a blue wave will overtake Congress this November and return control to the Democrats.

“I’ve been in California politics for 30 years ... without Donald Trump, you wouldn’t see (63) candidates,” said Darry Sragow, publisher of the nonpartisan California Target Book.

Sragow believes that the number of Democrats running for Congress this year could be unprecedented.

“I think what you’re seeing is a very motivated group of people who are scared for the country,” Sragow said. “A lot of this is motivated by I think not just anger but fear that Trump is attempting to undo everything that, not just the Democrats but the federal government, has done in the last several decades in the way of programs that protect vulnerable people ... and the environment. So I think they’re scared in terms of his agenda so they’re stepping up.”

It also reflects enthusiasm among Democrats.

“There’s energy and there’s passion and there’s a lot of hope,” he said. “They also smell blood in the water.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has singled out 10 House Republicans it believes are vulnerable this year – seven represent districts that Hillary Clinton carried over Trump in 2016. They are also narrowing in on GOP members who voted to repeal Obamacare, overhaul the federal tax code and back the president’s stance on immigration.

Michael Eggman, a Democrat from Turlock who has twice tried to unseat Central Valley GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, on Monday became the latest candidate to jump into the state’s congressional battlefield.

“Third time’s a charm,” said Eggman, a beekeeper by trade who last year started the political action committee “Red to Blue California” to flip Republican seats Democratic.

Eggman got into the race somewhat late. There are nine other Democrats running against Denham, including fellow Turlock resident Josh Harder, who raised nearly $930,000 in 2017. (Denham raised $468,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and has $1.9 million on hand.) So why is Eggman jumping in the race if he already lost to Denham twice?

“What’s different is Trump,” Eggman said. “Jeff Denham should be standing up for the interests of his constituents and he’s not. He’s standing side-by-side with Trump on every issue, whether it be health care or immigration or tax reform.”

FiveThirtyEight’s “Tracking Congress in the age of Trump” site has Denham siding with Trump on 98.5 percent of his votes, including repealing Obamacare and overhauling the tax code.

Denham has touted his votes and stances in alignment with the president, saying in a statement about the federal tax bill that “Congress has delivered on our promise to lower taxes for the middle class by reducing rates while preserving the credits and deductions that matter most to the people I represent.” In an op-ed Jan. 24 Denham pushed for a bipartisan immigration deal to protect so-called “Dreamers” and strengthen border security, which Trump called for Tuesday night in his State of the Union address.

“We must get serious about this if we want to keep Americans safe and crack down on drug and human trafficking across our borders,” Denham said in the opinion piece. “Finding a bipartisan solution is both the right and responsible thing to do.”

Sragow cautioned California Democrats from thinking that a blue wave will take out incumbents like Denham.

“These districts with Republican Congress members that are being targeted by the DCCC, historically, are very hostile to Democrats,” he said. “It’s entirely possible that Democrats will blow Republicans out of the water in November this year, but it’s also entirely possible – and statistically more likely – that, notwithstanding the energy and notwithstanding the passion on the Democratic side, that Republicans will come out of the election in better shape than most Democrats anticipate.”

About 60 gathered outside Congressman Jeff Denham’s office in Salida, California to protest against his support of the Republican tax reform plan passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Video by: Rosalio Ahumada / rahumada@modbee.com

WORTH REPEATING: “I think Jerry was dead wrong on this.” – Delaine Eastin, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, blasting Gov. Jerry Brown for vetoing a bill to prohibit employers from firing workers over their reproductive decisions.

Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning rundown on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up here.

GOVERNOR’S RACE: State Treasurer John Chiang, a Democrat, will discuss key issues in the governor’s race at a Public Policy Institute of California event beginning at 12:30 p.m. in San Francisco. On the agenda is improving K-12 and higher education, inequality in the Golden State and navigating tensions between California and the Trump administration – from health care to immigration. Register here to watch online.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, another Democrat running to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown, participates in a conversation about the campaign with Politico’s Carla Marinucci and David Siders at the University of San Francisco beginning at 5 p.m. It’s the first in a series of conversations leading up to the June primary. Other candidates follow: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is Feb. 5, followed by former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin on Feb. 15, Republican John Cox on March 1 and Chiang on March 22.

TRUMP TAX OVERHAUL: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, discusses changes to the federal tax law at the College of San Mateo from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight at 1700 W. Hillsdale Blvd., San Mateo. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, will discuss changes from the state’s perspective.

On Friday. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, will hold a similar public forum she’s calling a “tax teach-in” to address impacts on California and Sacramento residents of the Republican tax overhaul. The event is Feb. 2 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the E. Claire Raley Studios for Performing Arts at 1425 24th St., Sacramento.

Trump’s tax plan could also come up at a town hall tonight hosted by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Martinez Junior High School at 1600 Court St., Martinez. DeSaulnier is also holding town halls on Feb. 3 and 8 in San Pablo and Feb. 12 in Pleasant Hill.

MUST READ: California is collecting so much of your money it can’t save it all, by The Sacramento Bee’s Adam Ashton.

CELEBRATE: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, who turns 41 on Sunday.

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