In terms of electoral votes, this is the granddaddy of them all with 55. There will also be a Senatorial election this year to replace the retiring Democratic incumbent Diane Feinstein. Any partisan drama in that race was removed in the primaries since they use a top-two finisher format regardless of party affiliation to advance to the general election. That will pit two Democrats against one another- state attorney general and Obama buddy Kamala Harris against Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. This should be no contest in the end as Harris will win easily.
Likewise, Hillary Clinton will take the 55 electoral votes out of California in easy fashion by no less than 18 percentage points. Given California’s liberal bent, especially around their many population centers, and their large Hispanic population, Trump stands no chance in the Golden State. Instead, the action will be at the Congressional district level and the many referendum questions California voters are confronted with every election.
The current House delegation to Washington favors the Democratic Party 39-14. One can look at this state of affairs one of two ways: either California is a lost cause for the GOP, or conversely, there is no way to go but up for the Republican Party in California. Of the 53 districts, perhaps ten are competitive to some degree. There are 4 open seats- the 20th, 24th, 44th and 46th- all held by Democrats. However, in the 44th, it will be two Democrats squaring off on Election Day and the same for the 46th. In the 20th, Jimmy Panetta is the odds on favorite to keep this seat in Democratic hands while in the 24th, it could be a sleeper race as the Democrats will field Salud Carbajal opposed by Justin Fareed on the GOP side. In the crowded primary to succeed the retiring Democratic opponent Lois Capps, Democratic candidates outperformed Republicans 110,000 to 92,000 votes- relatively close for California.
The 24th District encompasses the counties of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo as well as parts of Ventura County. In 2014, Capps won a relatively close race by only 3 points over a political newcomer. Despite being in California, the 24th is not as strongly Democratic as some other districts in the southern California coastal area. Still, one would have to give the advantage to the Democrats as Trump stands a small chance of winning this district.
Despite incumbency, Democrat John Garamendi has never blown away his GOP rivals in the 3rd District located in the north central portion of the state. However, if the primary results are any indication, he may have an easier go of it this time out than in his previous efforts.
If the GOP has any chance of flipping a seat in California, it is in the 7th District located in the central portion of the state and includes most of Sacramento County. In the top two primary which featured only two candidates, Democratic incumbent Ami Bera outlasted Republican Sacramento County Sheriff by only 14,000 votes. Bera recently came under fire when it was revealed his father circumvented campaign finance laws in his son’s 2010 and 2012 election efforts. Bera has never blown anyone away and just barely won reelection in 2014. This year, he faces a better known candidate. Further, Bera has drawn the ire of local labor leaders for his embrace of TPP. This could also be a dirty campaign as Bera has recently hit Jones over allegations of unwelcome sexual advances to deputies. This is the best race to watch in California.
In the centrally located 10th District, Republican incumbent Jeff Denham will face off again against Mike Eggman who he defeated easily in 2014. This, however, is a presidential election year and the margin of victory may be a little closer, but Denham should prevail.
Speaking of rematches, Johnny Tacherra is back for a rematch against Democratic incumbent Jim Costa in the Fresno area 16th District. In 2014, a GOP wave year, Tacherra lost by 1.4 percentage points in the general election. This year in the primary, Costa garnered 52,000 against 41,000 combined GOP votes between two candidates. If Tacherra could not pull it out in 2014, he’ll likely have a harder time in 2016.
Located in parts of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, the 25th is represented by Republican Steven Knight. His Democratic opponent this time out will be Bryan Caforio. This is somewhat reliable GOP territory and, in fact, featured a rare Republican versus Republican final match in 2014. Rare polling out of this district seems to indicate a Knight victory. Caforio is a lawyer who tries to champion himself as fighting for the little guy whereas his history in law indicates otherwise. The battle in the 25th is more localized than elsewhere and Clinton’s coattails may not have much of an effect here. Caforio’s past carries baggage while Knight has refused to openly endorse Trump. Expect a close one, but Knight should pull it out. Of course being a freshman, Knight carries a target on his back.
Likewise, but in reverse, Democratic freshman incumbent Pete Aguilar carries a target on his back in the 31st District. Aguilar defeated Republican Paul Chabot by 3,500 votes in 2014 and Chabot is back for a rematch. In the nonpartisan top two primary, two Democrats garnered 60,000 votes while three Republicans received 51,000 votes. Winning this district in 2014 was one bright spot for the Democratic Party in a GOP wave year, but then we are talking about southern California here. With Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, expect Aguilar to win by a larger margin than in 2014.
Including most of Riverside County, the 36th District race will pit Democratic incumbent Raul Ruiz against Republican Jeff Stone, a former member of the state senate. Ruiz surprised GOP incumbent Mary Bono Mack in 2014 to win this seat by over 5 points. If he could do that in the midst of a GOP wave, he should exceed that showing this year.
The final race of interest is in the 52nd District in the San Diego area represented by Democrat Scott Peters. He will face off against surprise Republican Party winner Denise Gitsham who overcame the more endorsed and better funded fellow Republican favorite Jacquie Atkinson. Still, if primary results are any indication, the combined total of the five GOP challengers fell woefully short of the total for Peters. Scott Peters seems to be a perennial target of the GOP, but he pulled out victory in 2014 and upset the incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray in 2012. If they didn’t get him in 2014, the GOP is not getting him this year.
As for the Presidential race, Clinton will win California by double digits and it is highly likely that win margin could be greater than 20 points.
At the end of this entry, there is nothing exciting about California other than the GOP possibly picks up a seat in the House in the 7th District. The new electoral vote count stands at 230-180 in favor of Hillary Clinton. The GOP maintains it’s lead in the Senate 51-49, and increase their lead in the House back to 239-196.