California Forum

Want to take back Congress? Flip California’s Republican seats

While a large audience waits in an Orange County high school auditorium to hear Republican Rep. Darrell Issa speak at a town hall, counter-protesters line up outside.
While a large audience waits in an Orange County high school auditorium to hear Republican Rep. Darrell Issa speak at a town hall, counter-protesters line up outside. AP

The Democratic loss in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday wasn’t just a heartbreaker, it was a bank-buster, with Democrats dropping over $25 million to make a race of it in a traditionally Republican district in suburban Georgia.

This smarts even more when you consider that this campaign cash would be enough for Democrats to compete in and win all seven of the Republican California congressional seats that Hillary Clinton carried in the presidential election – better known as the California 7.

Jon Ossoff’s 4-point loss to Karen Handel in Georgia shows that Californians can’t count on one-size-fits-all strategies to win back the seven teetering districts in our own state.

Californians sent $545,000 to the Ossoff campaign in Georgia. Last year, we funneled $500 million to out-of-state political candidates and causes. It’s time to make those investments at home.

This year alone, Californians sent $545,000 to the Ossoff campaign in Georgia. Last year, we funneled $500 million to out-of-state political candidates and causes. It’s time to make those investments at home, and make sure that the California 7 is the game-changer we need in Washington, not another cautionary tale of what not to do.

It’s past time that California Democrats who know these local communities, these voters, and the issues they care about, were called on to develop the individualized and localized strategies and grass-roots plans to take these districts back.

That is why we’ve created Fight Back California, which is dedicated to defeating the California 7.

Who are the California 7? Jeff Denham, CA-10, Turlock. David Valadao, CA-21, Bakersfield. Steve Knight, CA-25, Palmdale. Ed Royce, CA-39, Brea. Mimi Walters, CA-45, Irvine. Dana Rohrabacher, CA-48, Huntington Beach. Darrell Issa, CA-49, Vista.

Democrats are just 24 congressional seats short of giving Donald Trump the reality check he needs and eliminating the Republican majority in Congress. And the road to Democrats taking back the House runs through California.

The key to Democrats winning these districts is starting the campaigns now. It starts by identifying the “ticket splitting” voters in each district - those voters who voted for Hillary Clinton and the Republican member of Congress. We will talk to them face-to-face to find out what will get them to vote for a Democrat for Congress. We’ll engage them and local leaders early on to identify strong candidates with deep local roots and clear policy positions.

Simply running on an “I’m not Donald Trump” message won’t cut it. Voters expect and deserve more. And we’ll give it to them. They need to know how these individual members are voting against their interests and failing the people in their district.

We have launched our first program in Congressional District 10 to defeat Republican Jeff Denham. This district covers Modesto, Turlock, and Tracy. Democrats have a 2-point registration advantage in California’s 10th district. President Obama won the district in 2012 by 5 points, and Hillary won the district in 2016 by 3 points.

Denham has been a target for defeat each election since 2012, and each election Democrats have come up short. But with a well-funded, localized, sustained, face-to-face campaign, Democrats can defeat Jeff Denham and his California colleagues who are equally out-of-step with their districts.

Creating a government that is by the people and for the people starts right here at home. The saying that “as goes California, so goes the country,” is truer than ever, and it starts with the California 7.

Ellen Tauscher is a former congresswoman representing Contra Costa and Alameda counties and undersecretary of state in the Obama Administration. Katie Merrill is a California Democratic strategist. They can be contacted at info@FightBackCA.com

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