Capitol Alert

SoCal ground zero for midterms + Bernie back to California

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), center, leaves court Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in San Diego. Hunter and his wife Margaret pleaded not guilty on Aug. 23 to charges they illegally used his campaign account for personal expenses.
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), center, leaves court Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in San Diego. Hunter and his wife Margaret pleaded not guilty on Aug. 23 to charges they illegally used his campaign account for personal expenses. AP

ELECTION DRAMA RUNS THROUGH SOCAL

For California Democrats, it’s been almost like waiting for Santa.

For months, they have swarmed the primaries in key GOP-held districts won by Hillary Clinton, raised tons of campaign cash and waited for the chance to lead the national effort to neuter Republican control of Washington.

Did they make the right moves? Will their supporters turn out?

Less than two weeks from the the midterms, their road to their success — or their rivals’ effort to erect a “red wall” — could run through Southern California.

Here are six House seats down south that Dems hope will flip blue:

District 25

Katie Hill (D)

Rep. Steve Knight (R)

A UC Berkeley poll and Siena College/New York Times poll from mid-September show the race at a statistical tie. Still, Hill has a huge fundraising advantage that could help her unseat Knight. As of Sept. 30, she controlled 85 percent of the available cash between the two candidates — the largest advantage in any of the five races we’re closely watching in Southern California.

District 39

Gil Cisneros (D)

Young Kim (R)

Latest polling shows the race is deadlocked. This race is arguably the most important one to watch. There’s a huge Asian and Latino population in the district that reflects a growing minority population in Orange County. Political consultant Paul Mitchell said this is the race on which he’s focused in the initial phase of mail-in ballot returns. Kim, a former assemblywoman, has held elected office before, but Cisneros hasn’t. They both have raised a combined $3.4 million, as of Sept. 30.

District 45

Katie Porter (D)

Rep. Mimi Walters (R)

Credible, nonpartisan polling in this race showed Porter with a narrow lead in mid-September. Animosity toward President Donald Trump could be a driving factor that helps put Porter over the edge. In the 2016 presidential election, Clinton won the 45th District by more than 5 percentage points.

District 48

Harley Rouda (D)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R)

A poll from February showed most likely voters in the district were unhappy with Trump and not inclined to support Rohrabacher’s re-election. Rouda has also raised a lot more money and has a lot more aviailable cash to spend leading to Election Day.

District 49

Mike Levin (D)

Diane Harkey (R)

This is easily the most likely district to go to the Democrats after Republican Rep. Darrell Issa decided against re-election. FiveThirtyEight gives Levin a 97 percent chance of defeating Harkey. Ongoing polling from the New York Times and past polls show Levin ahead by double-digit percentage points.

District 50

Ammar Campa-Najjar (D)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R)

This is arguably the strangest race in California: Will voters re-elect a man indicted on charges of fraud and campaign finance violations?

The polling has been minimal and varied. Two latest polls from Tulchin Research — a Democrat-leaning partisan poll, have the two candidates in a statistical tie. Meanwhile, a late-September poll from Monmouth University, which is more credible, has Hunter up by 13 percentage points.

This race has gotten a lot of national attention amid Hunter’s false allegations that his opponent has ties to terrorism. Campa-Najjar responded by calling Hunter a national security risk and an “ideal target for foreign actors.” On paper, it’s a district Hunter should win. But Mitchell believes Campa-Najjar has a legitimate pathway to victory.

WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S

Get ready to feel the Bern. Former Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is coming back to California to campaign for Democrats ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. He’ll be in Berkeley on Saturday for an 11 a.m. rally, where he will stump for Rep. Barbara Lee.

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, will campaign with Levin in Oceanside on Friday at 6 p.m.

ADDING ACCOUNTABILITY

Anita Chabria emails...

An investigation by The Sacramento Bee in partnership with CALmatters found California state investigators have repeatedly failed to enforce laws meant to prevent fraud and abuse at the more than 1,000 for-profit colleges and schools it is charged with overseeing, leaving a serious gap in accountability as federal regulators back away from the job.

TWEET OF THE DAY

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (@Cunning_Jordan) — “The rigors of a campaign are not bothering Ryder, clearly.”

INFLUENCER OF THE DAY

‘One of the greatest’ or missed opportunities? Influencers have plenty to say about Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy?

“Governor Brown had two great successes. One was to help fix the sinking state budget. He’s leaving office with the state in strong fiscal shape thanks in part to some of his tough decisions and leadership. The other great success was demonstrating that states and regions can get things done to cut climate pollution. He has filled a national leadership void on climate change at a very important time in history, elevated attention to the issue and demonstrated action.

“Jerry Brown’s greatest failure:

“Governor Brown has had two significant failures. First, he has been either unable or unwilling to overtly act to substantially reduce the state’s production of oil and gas—the carbon fuels whose use creates the climate change we’re experiencing. Presumably he has been concerned about the economic impact that discouraging oil drilling would have on oil extraction regions in the state, such as the Southern San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles County. But the effect of inaction has been that there is no plan for how to cut California’s most direct contribution to climate change while transitioning those oil producing regions to cleaner, greener economic drivers.

“Second, he has wasted time and money on trying to revive the peripheral canal. That was an idea that was advanced unsuccessfully during his father’s tenure as governor, continued during this governor’s earlier terms in office, defeated by voters statewide in 1982, and then revived and repackaged as tunnels during Jerry Brown’s last two terms in office. At a time of climate change, it’s an idea that is out of step with the realities of California’s water system and demands. The time and effort wasted on the tunnels would have been better spent on helping communities and regions improve water conservation, efficiency, recycling, storm water capture, groundwater cleanup and a range of other actions that make them better able to meet water demand and withstand longer, more intense droughts.”

— Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club California

MUST-READ: Which California state worker unions gained members after Supreme Court’s Janus ruling?

OPINIONATED

The Bee’s Editorial Board defends the tax credit plan from California Sen. Kamala Harris, insisting it’s barely enough to prevent poverty.

Jim Knox, managing director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California, and Carol McGruder, co-chairwoman of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, think banning flavored tobacco sales will protect Sacramento’s kids.

Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299, the University of California’s largest employee union, says UC hospital workers are striking for very good reasons.

TOONED OUT

Jack Ohman on Donald Trump’s Nationalism League

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