2014 Election Preview: California

At the statewide level, the Democrats have a pretty solid advantage in the Golden State. However, there are a bunch of interesting House races to watch and California could have a major impact on the net gain that Republicans see in their majority. A good night for the GOP in California is a good night across the country.

Governor: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has had a career in politics that has spanned five decades and he doesn’t want it to end any time soon. The good news for Brown is that it doesn’t look like he has any challengers capable of stopping his quest for a record 4th term in office. His nearest opponent, State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, trails him by 37 percentage points in polls for California’s June 3rd “jungle” primary. California has a system in which all candidates are on the same primary ballot (regardless of party), with the top two candidates advance to the November election. This shouldn’t factor too much in this race, but it is possible for another Democrat candidate to place second and cause two Democrats to appear on the November ballot. Either way, it looks like California will have Jerry Brown to kick around for a little while longer and this race is Safe Democrat.

House:

CA-3: Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue is running against incumbent Rep. John Garamendi (D) in this mildly Democratic district. Logue is facing long odds, but he picked a good environment and he has kept up with Garamendi in the fundraising department. Logue can win this, but he has to run a near flawless campaign because this race is Likely Democrat.

CA-7: Rep. Ami Bera (D) is in one of the most swingiest districts in the country, a district that mirrored the nation in its vote percentages in the 2012 presidential election. Bera himself only won his race by 3 percentage points and he now faces a much worse environment than he did two years ago. There are three Republicans running against him: former Rep. Doug Ose, 2012 Senate nominee Elizabeth Emken, and former congressional aide Igor Birman. Ose is the clear establishment favorite and he’s dominated in fundraising, but Birman has support from outside conservative groups like FreedomWorks and he’s seen as the darling of the grassroots. Ose has the best chance of winning, but this race Leans Democrat until we know the outcome of the June 3rd primary.

CA-10: By all measures, Democrat beekeeper Michael Eggman is a decent candidate. He’s charming, an entrepreneur, has a decent website, and he’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars thus far. The downside is that he picked one of the worst years to run as a Democrat and he faces an incumbent with a 1.3 million dollar war chest in Rep. Jeff Denham (R). There is no reason to believe that Denham is in danger of losing his seat, but if he implodes or the national environment changes dramatically, the Democrats will be prepared to strike. Right now, this race is Likely Republican.

CA-21: Rep. David Valadao (R) did phenomenally in 2012 in a Democratic year in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. This year, he faces a strong challenge from Amanda Renteria, a former Chief of Staff for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). She’s a compelling candidate with a decent fundraising haul and if this were any other year Valadao would have good reason to worry. But this year isn’t just any other year and Valadao has some strong tailwinds that should keep him afloat come November. If he could pull off a strong victory in 2012, he should have no problem in 2014. So unless things take a dramatic turn for the worse, this race is Likely Republican.

CA-25: This is a Republican held open seat and the GOP looks likely to retain it come November. The GOP front runner is former State Sen. Tony Strickland, who narrowly lost in the neighboring 26th district two years ago. Meanwhile, it looks likely the Democrats are going to try their luck again with their 2012 nominee Lee Rogers, a podiatrist who got 45% of the vote back in 2012. This time Rogers isn’t facing an incumbent, but he won’t have the favorable conditions of 2012 either. Overall, Rogers will have to run a perfect campaign to have a chance at winning in November and we rate this seat Likely Republican.

CA-26: This is a long shot for the GOP, but they have a decent candidate in State Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, a charismatic moderate who fits the bill for the liberal leaning district. He’ll have to face Rep. Julia Brownley (D), who only won in 2012 by 5% in a district that gave President Obama 54% of the vote. We’ll have to wait and see how this race develops, but for now it is Likely Democratic.

CA-31: Here we have another GOP retirement, but this time the picture is a bit rosier for the Democrats. Rep. Gary Miller’s (R) decision to end his 15-year career in the House of Representatives has set off a fight on both sides to replace him. For the Republicans the battle is between former Miller aide Lesli Gooch and and businessman Paul Chabot, a fight that has devolved into personal attacks and calls for the other candidate to drop out of the race. Meanwhile on the Democratic side we have Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, former Rep. Joe Baca, and Colton attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes as contenders. Reyes and Aguilar are near the top when it comes to fundraising, with Baca lagging behind even with the advantage of being a former congressman. Given that this district gave 57% of its vote to President Obama in 2012, race starts off with a rating of Likely Democratic.

CA-36: In 2012, Democrat Raul Ruiz defeated incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) by 5 percentage points as Obama carried the district by 3 percentage points. In 2014 Republicans look to return the favor and they are fielding two candidates who can do just that: State Assemblyman Brian Nestande and former state legislator Roy Hanes. Nestande is currently the favorite, but Hanes is a seasoned politician and there’s no doubt he can make this an interesting race. This district is a bit more Republican than the country as a whole and if Republicans have a good night in November this will be a seat to watch, but right now this race Leans Democratic.

CA-52: As with the situation in the 36th district, here we have a Democratic incumbent who narrowly beat a GOP incumbent in 2012 running in a centrist district. This time, it’s Rep. Scott Peters who is trying for another term while the Republicans are left to decide between former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, former Marine Corps Office Kirk Jorgensen, and Dr. Fred Simon. DeMaio is the favorite to advance to the November election and he’s raised more than $1 million so far in the cycle, almost as much as the incumbent. As a side note, DeMaio is openly gay and it will be interesting to see how he squares that with the rest of the Republican Party. This race Leans Democrat, but you definitely want to keep an eye on California’s 52nd district.

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