The Democratic Party sees the 2018 midterms as the first national referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency and an opportunity to regain control of the House of Representatives.
And California is central to this effort.
“California is absolutely crucial to Democrats hopes of retaking the majority, said Andrew Godinich, Western Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, “‘the path to the majority runs through California.”
Nationwide, the the Democratic Party needs to flip 24 districts from red to blue. In California, the Dems are targeting ten Republican held districts.
Godinich and at least seven other national staffers are working out of their Irvine-based office, which opened a year ago, to focus on the California battleground.
“There’s no one cookie-cutter mold to to to approaching these districts. But I think that’s part of the reason why this office is so important,” said Godinich. “It’s important to be near these campaigns and near the grassroots organizing that’s happening so you can respond to things on the ground and you can tailor the strategies to fit each district.”
Democrats are especially focused on districts where Hillary Clinton won the presidential vote, even though the Congressional seat is held by a Republican.
Godinich said there are four districts in Orange County that could flip, making Irvine a strategic place to set up central command in California.
The state’s changing demographics and the fact that Democratic candidates are out-raising Republicans have given Godinich reason to be optimistic. He also points to the groundswell of liberal grassroots activism that has taken shape in the form of Indivisible chapters up and down the coast in response to the Trump presidency.
“You saw in Darrell Issa’s district where every Tuesday hundreds of people were coming out to protest his policies and his stances,” said Godinich. “But you know even longstanding members like Ed Royce, who had never seen that type of energy, were facing weekly protests.”
In January, that pressure led the two Southern California Congressmen to announce that they won’t be on the ballot in November. Ed Royce has been in Congress 25 years, and Darrell Issa for 18.
However, Republicans say they’re not worried. Jack Pandol, Western Press Secretary with the National Republican Congressional Committee said the main issue driving California Republicans is a perennial one: “the economy, the economy and the economy.”
“If you look at recent polling on how people feel about the economy, we’re at the highest level of satisfaction in a very long time,” says Pandol. “People are going to be seeing their taxes change and tax cuts in their paychecks. They’ve already been experiencing bonuses because of this tax reform law that was passed.”
Pandol said Democratic hopes are overinflated and that only a few of the races Democrats are targeting are legitimately competitive. Pandol also points to the possibility that all the Democratic enthusiasm could backfire because of California’s jungle primary system, which means that the top two vote getters move on to the general election, irrespective of party affiliation.
“I think they’re in a real pickle here because you know folks don’t want to see the National Democratic Party swoop in and tell them who their nominee is going to be,” said Pandol, “and I think they they realize that there’s a real potential to trigger a progressive backlash against any candidate perceived to be anointed.”
California voters will choose their candidates in the primary election on June 5.
Photo: Ed Uthman/CC/Flickr