California is home to 53 members of Congress, far more than any other state in the union. Thanks to a decennial redistricting that favored Democrats–and to the state’s relatively new election rules that junk traditional party primaries for a “top two” system, there are many interesting House races to watch. With the June 3 primary election less than two weeks away, there are four races of particular interest.
U.S. House: CA-7 – Sacramento Area
In 2012, Democrat Ami Beri narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Dan Lungren. There has been a very high-profile contest between Republicans for the opportunity to retire Beri. Most of this battle has played out between former Rep. Doug Ose, and Igor Birman, former Chief of Staff to neighboring Rep. Tom McClintock. (R).
Ose sits somewhat left of even the GOP establishment. While in Congress he was a leader of the moderate Main Street Partnership. He would be a reliable vote for a GOP Speaker, but not for advancing a conservative policy agenda. Ose spent a staggering amount of personal wealth to try and best Tom McClintock for a different open seat a few years ago, but was solidly trounced.
Birman runs as the solid conservative in the race. His life experiences as a refugee from the former Soviet Union shape his strong ideology. Birman goes into the primary with iconic support from both Ron and Rand Paul, and groups like Freedomworks and Gun Owners of America. He won’t have the big bucks of Ose, but has raised a respectable sum, and he will have a stronger ground game.
A third candidate, Elizabeth Emken, has run a low-key campaign, hoping that an Ose-Birman war would be her ticket.
Ose’s deep pockets are offset by a very low turnout, making this a toss-up.
U.S. House: CA-17 – South San Francisco Bay Area
This analysis is offered by Adelle Nazarian, Associate Editor for Breitbart CA.
Democrats Mike Honda and Ro Khanna will likely take their party’s infighting into November, thanks to the “jungle primary” system. Republican dark-horse candidate Vanila Singh, who polled in second in February–head of Khanna but behind Honda–could have a surprise up her sleeve. Khanna, worried about Singh, has been accused of recruiting his alternate GOP candidates to split the Republican vote.
U.S. House: CA-25 – Northern Los Angeles and East Ventura County
After serving a generation in Congress, Buck McKeon is calling it quits. But like all good politicians, he is trying to hand off his seat to a chosen successor, former State Senator Tony Strickland. Strickland had been raising funds in a neighboring district (in which he lives) for a run against freshman Democrat Julia Brownley, who had defeated him in 2012. Predictably Strickland (and his cash) leaped into the race for the much more Republican-friendly McKeon seat. Strickand enjoys the backing of Mitt Romney and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
Standing between Strickland and his oath of office is popular conservative State Senator Steve Knight. Knight is a former city councilman from Palmdale, and the son of former Air Force Test Pilot Pete Knight, who served that whole area for many years in the State Legislature himself. With the exception of McKeon, virtually all of the community and political support in the district is with Knight, who was recently endorsed by retired U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, a popular figure in the Ventura County portion of the district.
Strickland is a prolific fundraiser. But will all of his campaign spending be able to match a generation of good will towards Knight? One thing is certain: very low turnout will work to Knight’s advantage, after he raised enough money to communicate with high-propensity Republican voters. This one is way too close to call.
U.S. House: CA-33 – West Los Angeles County
This analysis is offered by Joel B. Pollak, Editor-in-Chief of Breitbart California.
The race to replace Henry Waxman has attracted attention because of its colorful cast of 18 characters–including a spiritual guru, a UN genocide prosecutor, a movie producer, two leading members of the Democratic Party establishment, and a few gadflies. After June 3, however, it may attract attention for another reason: the heavily-Democratic 33rd may “fail” to nominate any Democrats to compete in the November runoff.
That’s because the leading fundraiser, independent Marianne Williamson, has also inspired the enthusiastic participation of an army of left-wing activists whose evident disillusionment with the cult of Barack Obama has not diminished their love of utopian politics. They are, essentially, Democrats–Williamson’s platform is “on message” with Harry Reid’s push for campaign finance reform, for example–but they are reveling in the authenticity of Williamson’s grass-roots effort.
The ten Democrats on the ballot will largely split the party vote, while Republican Elan Carr–the strongest of the three GOP candidates and the first candidates of any party to advertise on TV–stands a chance of scooping up enough Republican voters to finish second, at least. Carr is not playing up his party identity, though. The likely message on June 3: a rebuke of both major political parties, and the emergence of a well-heeled radical gentry as the left’s Tea Party.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.