Republicans face big risks in contested California races as Democrats fight for control of the House
Reported by the LA Times on October 4, 2018. Written by David Lauter.
Republicans are at risk of a wipeout in California’s six most hotly contested congressional races, a new poll shows — a result that could radically reshape the state’s political map, with major consequences nationally.
But the poll, conducted for the Los Angeles Times by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies, also underscores how close many of the contests remain.
The Democratic tide threatens to swamp congressional districts in Southern California’s suburbs that Republicans have controlled for decades. That would significantly boost Democrats’ chances of gaining the additional 23 seats they need to win a majority in the House.
But if the tide ebbs only slightly, the GOP could emerge with much of its control intact.
With the Nov. 6 midterm election less than five weeks away, none of the Republicans in the state’s six most competitive races have a lead. The Democrats lead strongly in one race and narrowly in three others, and two are dead heats, the Berkeley IGS Poll shows.
Reaction to President Trump appears to drive the results more than any specific issue and, in most cases, more than the individual candidates.
“Trump appears to be the main motivator for voters in these districts,” said Mark DiCamillo, the veteran pollster who directs the Berkeley IGS Poll. “He’s the central figure.”
The overall picture could change between now and election day, but voting by mail begins statewide Monday, and at least four major factors appear set:
Trump is unpopular across most of the targeted districts — four covering parts of Orange and San Diego counties, one in Los Angeles County and one centered on Modesto in the Central Valley. That’s especially true among college-educated white voters, whose alienation from the president has turned suburban districts across the country into risky territory for the GOP, and among Latinos and women.
The share of voters who approve of Trump serves as a ceiling for Republican candidates, with none able to surpass Trump’s level by more than a few percentage points. That’s a significant problem for Republicans; in five of the six districts, a majority of likely voters disapprove of the president’s performance in office.
In several districts, the president’s opponents appear more motivated to vote than his supporters, with self-identified liberals and registered Democrats more likely to say that they view this year’s election as more important than previous contests.
Strategies that the Republicans had hoped would bolster their campaigns and make up for the undertow from the president appear to have had limited effect, at best.
A ballot measure to repeal the recent increase in the state’s gas tax, which Republican operatives had hoped would spur turnout on their side, trails in each of the six highly competitive districts. Money for the repeal campaign has largely dried up as Republicans have diverted funds elsewhere.
A national effort by Republicans to portray untested Democratic candidates as unacceptably liberal appears also to have come up short in these California districts. Several Democratic newcomers have maintained favorable images with voters, the poll showed.
As a result of those factors, Republicans lag behind in two of the four congressional districts that cover most of Orange County, long the heartland of California conservatism. The other two contests are dead heats.
A longtime Republican incumbent, Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale, is narrowly trailing in the only remaining L.A.-centered district the GOP holds.
Farther north, Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock, who has survived previous attempts by Democrats to oust him, is behind by a slim margin in his Central Valley race.
The poll’s findings in those districts are generally similar to other recent nonpartisan, publicly released surveys.
In addition to those six districts, the poll also surveyed the races in two Republican-held seats that have not been top Democratic targets but have attracted considerable attention.
Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has a 53%-45% lead in his race against Andrew Janz, a county prosecutor. Nunes’ role as a defender of Trump has opened a gusher of money for Janz, despite the district’s heavily Republican tilt.
But in another heavily Republican district, Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine has only a 49%-47% lead over Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a result well within the poll’s margin of error.
Hunter was recently indicted on federal fraud charges, turning a usually safe Republican district in inland San Diego and Riverside counties into a competitive one. He recently released a sharply negative ad that tries to link Campa-Najjar, who is of Mexican and Palestinian ancestry, to terrorism.
The poll findings in the six most contested districts illustrate the forces that have put the GOP’s majority at risk.
Democrats have their strongest shot in the 49th District, covering northern San Diego County and the southern Orange County coast up through Dana Point. Mike Levin, the Democrat, has a 55%-41% lead over Republican Diane Harkey, the poll shows. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa decided not to run for reelection in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by just more than 7 points in the 2016 presidential election.
White voters with college degrees make up 45% of the likely voters in this mostly affluent, suburban district, and they back Levin 60% to 35%. Latinos, who make up about 1 in 8 likely voters here, back him by about a 3-1 majority. While men are divided almost evenly between the two, women favor Levin 60% to 34%.
Perhaps most important, likely voters disapprove of how Trump is doing as president 61% to 39%, with more than half, 55%, saying they strongly disapprove. Democrats and liberals were significantly more likely than Republicans and conservatives to say that it was “very important” for them to cast a vote to show their position on Trump.
Next door to the north, the 48th District, which spans the rest of the Orange County coast from Laguna Niguel to Seal Beach and inland to Westminster and Fountain Valley, is a couple of clicks more conservative. Clinton carried the district by less than 2 percentage points.
There, longtime Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda, are in a dead heat, each with 48%. Voters also split almost evenly on whether they approve of Trump.
As in the 49th District, college-educated white voters and Latinos back the Democrat, but they make up a slightly smaller share of the electorate: 39% of likely voters in the 48th District are whites with college degrees, and about 1 in 10 are Latino, the poll found.
Rohrabacher also benefits from significant support among Asian Americans, who make up about 1 in 8 of the likely voters. Elsewhere in California, Asian Americans lean heavily toward the Democrats, but this district includes a large, conservative Vietnamese population. Asian American voters overall divide almost equally between Rohrabacher and Rouda, the poll found.
Among whites without a college degree — the heart of Trump’s voting base — Rohrabacher leads by nearly 20 points, 58% to 39%, almost twice the size of the Republican’s margin with that group in the 49th District. Women support the Democrat, but men back the Republican by an almost equal margin.
The more Trump-oriented conservatism of the 48th District also surfaces when voters said what issues they care about most. Among Republicans in the 49th District, taxes were the top issue; in the 48th, it was “securing the nation’s borders.”
As the two sides vie to break the Rohrabacher-Rouda tie, the poll found a couple of weak spots.
Latino voters in the district were slightly less likely than others to say they viewed this election as more important than usual. That could hold down the Democratic vote.
Rohrabacher, however, has been dogged by controversy over his friendliness to people connected with Russia’s government. Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming share of Democrats said his contacts with Russian officials made them less likely to vote for Rohrabacher. So did 10% of registered Republicans. Among the small number of undecided voters, 45% said the Russia issue made them less likely to vote for him.
The 45th District, which covers a swath of Orange County from Irvine east through most of the foothill communities, resembles the 49th in its affluent, college-educated demographics. Clinton carried the district by 5 percentage points.
The Republican incumbent, Rep. Mimi Walters of Laguna Beach, had confidently predicted she could ride out the national tide flowing against her party, but the poll shows her Democratic challenger, UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter, leading 52% to 45%.
This race illustrates the failure so far of GOP strategies. Walters put money into helping get the gas tax repeal measure on the ballot, hoping it would spur GOP turnout. But the poll shows the measure getting only about a third of the vote in the district.
Republicans have also put millions into ads attacking Porter as too far to the left. That effort has had limited impact. By 50% to 38%, likely voters have a favorable opinion of Porter; self-identified moderates view her favorably 52% to 37%. By contrast, 50% of the district’s voters have a negative view of Walters, compared with 45% who see her positively.
The GOP may have had more success with negative ads in the 39th District, which covers much of northern Orange County as well as parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Gil Cisneros has battled accusations that he sexually harassed a former Democratic state Assembly candidate, Melissa Fazli. A Republican super PAC allied with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has run advertisements in the district about the charge.
Fazli withdrew the accusation this weekafter a meeting with Cisneros, saying it was based on a “misunderstanding.” The super PAC said it would stop running the ads.
The poll can’t directly measure the impact of that issue, but 45% of likely voters have a negative view of Cisneros. That includes 10% of registered Democrats. Just 41% of likely voters view him positively.
Cisneros and Republican Young Kim are locked in a dead heat, the poll showed, with the Democrat holding a nominal 49%-48% edge.
25th DistrictThe demographic picture looks somewhat different in northern Los Angeles County, where Republican Rep. Steve Knight hopes to hold off a challenge from Katie Hill, the 31-year-old former executive director of PATH, a nonprofit organization that provides services to homeless people.
Hill has a slight edge, 50% to 46%, within the poll’s margin of error.
The district, which covers Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and the Palmdale area, has fewer college-educated white voters than the wealthy Orange County suburbs. But it has a higher share of minority voters.
Latinos make up a bit more than 1 in 5 of the district’s likely voters and support Hill by nearly 2 to 1, the poll found. Hill also benefits from a significant gender gap, with women backing her 53% to 44% over Knight, while men split almost evenly. Just over half of the voters have a strongly negative view of Trump.
Similar factors have put Republican Rep. Jeff Denham’s career at risk as he seeks a fifth term in a district centered on Modesto in the Central Valley, where Latinos make up more than 40% of the district's population, but about a quarter of the likely voters.
Denham’s Democratic opponent, Josh Harder, has the support of roughly two-thirds of Latinos, the poll found.
White voters split 52% for Denham, 43% for Harder. Together, that’s enough to give the Democrat a 50%-45% edge in a district that Clinton narrowly carried in 2016 and where 57% of voters say they disapprove of Trump.
The Berkeley IGS Poll, which was done for the Los Angeles Times, surveyed 5,090 likely voters online in eight congressional districts — the 10th, 22nd, 25th, 39th, 45th, 48th, 49th and 50th — from Sept. 16 to 23, using a random sample solicited by email from the state voter file. The number of likely voters in each district varies from 912 in the 22nd district to 519 in the 45th. The margin of error for the likely voter samples ranges from roughly 4 to 6 percentage points in either direction. For a detailed description of the poll’s methodology, go to latimes.com/poll.
MODESTO BEE EDITORIAL BOARD
September 30, 2018 01:33 PM
Updated October 01, 2018 09:55 AM
There’s an elephant in the race for California’s 10th Congressional District, and Jeff Denham is carrying him on his back. That orange elephant’s name is Donald, and there’s nothing Denham can do to make him disappear.
If you like what our nation is becoming, send Denham back to Congress. But if you’re worried about millions being left behind economically, that healthcare is endangered, that discrimination is increasing, that our nation is sundered by rage fueled on both sides by an angry, unchecked president, then vote for Josh Harder.
Vote for Harder despite his inexperience and lack of civic involvement. Vote to leash the orange elephant.
In 2016, we declined to endorse Denham for the first time in five elections – including twice for Congress – though we knew Michael Eggman had no business running in a district he had only visited since becoming an adult. So concerned were we over the damage candidate Trump would do if elected, we grudgingly recommended Eggman.Re-electing Denham, we wrote then, would further enable a President Trump by helping his party control all branches of government. That’s how it has turned out.
Denham has proved a loyal foot soldier, voting 97.8 percent of the time to further Trump’s agenda – a far higher percentage than many more doctrinaire Republicans. Denham has supported some of Trump’s greatest hits, like opposing a carbon tax, rolling back consumer protections imposed on banks, eliminating a Medicare watchdog and more.
Health care – Never mind that the Affordable Care Act fulfilled most of its promises – slowing rate increases, coverage for pre-existing conditions, covering millions of uninsured Americans, covering dependents through age 26 – Obama created it, so Trump hates it. With no replacement in sight, Denham and other House Republicans voted to destroy it (as they had 50 times before Trump’s arrival).
Thanks to principled Senate Republicans, a badly damaged Obamacare survived. But after removing penalties for healthy people who refuse to participate, rates have soared by 30 percent this year. A case before the Supreme Court could kill off the ACA, leaving the healthcare system in disarray.
In Denham’s district, an estimated 100,000 residents would be harmed – some losing insurance, some losing jobs.
Dreamers – Denham did more than most Republicans to protect young people brought here as children and raised as Americans, even bucking his party’s leaders. But after earning a reputation as one of Trump’s most solid backers, he couldn’t convince his cruel taskmaster that revoking DACA was a heartless folly. Nor could he convince enough of his Republican pals to pass legislation to protect the Dreamers.
An estimated 5,000 of Denham’s constituents are among 680,000 young people now living in a court-ordered limbo, protected only so long as judges say they are. The only chance Dreamers have is for Congress to force immigration reform down Trump’s throat. That happens only if Democrats take control.
Tax cuts – Denham has been flogging the idea that Trump’s economy is the greatest thing since the New Deal. Good luck with that after April 15, when millions of Californians – thousands living here – will realize their state and local taxes are no longer deductible and their income tax bills are hundreds of dollars higher. Then those meager income tax cuts might not look so good.
Roaring economy – It’s a sugar rush fueled by tax cuts and deficit spending. Corporations and the wealthiest got 90 percent of the benefits. A few firms handed out one-time bonuses to employees, but most workers got little or nothing. Unemployment is down, but how much is due to gig work? Meanwhile the national debt has risen from $19.6 trillion under Obama to $21.5 trillion today. In peacetime, such a leap is unprecedented and unsustainable.
Tariffs – Trump’s trade war is hitting our region especially hard as retaliatory tariffs on almonds, walnuts, dairy products, wine and fresh foods sink in.But what about water? Passing America’s Water Infrastructure Act could provide real benefits to California. We might not get more storage here, but the levees along the San Joaquin River – protecting thousands of homes around Manteca – desperately need repair. This bill promises to help. Denham should be proud of it; we’re glad he worked with Democrat Jim Costa to get it passed. Denham also stood with hundreds of our region’s residents to protest the state’s coming water grab on a day when Harder must have had something else to do.
Harder points out that Denham voted to make the tunnels lawsuit-proof. Yes, but it didn’t become law. And in our editorial board, we gave Harder several chances to decry the state’s water grab, but his responses lacked passion. Still, only someone determined not to be re-elected would vote against our water interests. So we’re not especially worried.
Besides, we like Harder’s ideas on Medicare for all, debt relief for college graduates, and fixing infrastructure (though both are wrong about Proposition 6).
We’re more concerned that Harder has exactly zero experience as a decision-maker. No school board, city council or legislative seat. He’s a newb, but a smart one.
In two debates – at The Bee and in Turlock – Harder let Denham’s anger wash over him, responding mainly in head shakes and eyebrow lifts. But soon he began channeling Muhammad Ali’s famous rope-a-dope strategy, letting the more powerful fighter punch himself out then hitting back.
Many of Harder’s best shots were aimed at Trump, but they landed on Denham.
The Bee recommends Josh Harder for Congress.
The article includes some video footage of the two candidates that are worth watching. Click HERE to be directed to the Bee article and these videos.
“When women run, women win.” That’s been the line on getting more women into public office; if only there were more candidates, there would be more elected.
So with a record 256 women running for the House and Senate this year, will there be a record-breaking surge of women in office come January?
Probably, probably not, and maybe. It depends on which office you’re following, and what happens in toss-up races over the next seven weeks.
This has definitely been a historic year so far: The 2018 midterms have broken the record for the number of female candidates who filed as well as for the number and share of women who won primaries in House and Senate contests. The number of women winning primaries for the governor’s office is also the highest ever, and the share is the highest since 2000.
According to a report written by Alexander Burns and published in the New York Times, Democrats must flip at least 23 Republican-held seats to retake the House this November. There are currently 66 highly competitive seats — those considered a tossup between the two parties or leaning slightly toward one — according to race ratings provided by the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper.
As of August 13th:
The ratings for dozens of competitive congressional races have shifted in the direction of Democrats in recent months.
Democrats have seen the overall national environment move in their direction, and a handful of narrower developments have helped their candidates. Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered congressional map was redrawn. Republicans have battled legal scandal and other politically damaging revelations in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota.
Right now, 10 seats currently held by Republicans are either likely to be won by Democrats or lean slightly toward them, while another two dozen Republican-held seats are designated as tossups — political coin flips that could just as easily break in either direction. If Republicans lose the 10 seats that currently tilt to the Democrats, they must win at least half of their tossup seats in order to keep control.
There are also more than 50 other Republican-held seats that are contested enough to make Democratic victory at least a plausible possibility. Many of those are in conservative-leaning suburbs and rural areas in the Midwest and West.
If you would like to participate in helping California's swing districts go from red to blue, we encourage you to sign up for one of South Bay Swing Left's events in District 10. These include door-to-door canvassing and high traffic contact events as well as phone banking and postcard writing parties.
With only three months until the November 2018 election, we need all hands on deck to turn California (and the nation) from red to blue.
You can make a difference. Watch the video below to find out how you can help or sign up for one of South Bay Swing Left's events and help us swing District10!
In a recent Shelby County election, Tennessee Democrats were victorious over their Republican opponents, winning 21 of 26 county offices.
Of the 26 county offices on the ballot, Democrats won all but five — and those were previously Republican commission seats. Before the election, Republicans held nine of the ten most high-profile county offices, including mayor and sheriff.
Lee Harris pictured below is the new mayor of Shelby County. A former state senator in Tennessee, the early results of 153,583 ballots counted show Harris with 84,956 votes, or 55.3 percent, to Republican David Lenoir's 68,491 votes, or 44.6 percent, according to unofficial results from the Shelby County Election Commission.
In another high profile race, Democrat Floyd Bonner sailed to victory to become the first African American sheriff in Shelby County history.
On the commission, Democrat Michael Whaley narrowly beat Republican Richard Morton for a seat that belonged to term-limited Republican Heidi Shafer. That will give the Democratic commissioners eight votes, paving the way for Lee's initiatives.
Other results include: Down ballot, Democrat Bill Morrison beat Republican Chris Thomas for Probate Court clerk. Democrat Janis Fullilove narrowly beat Republican Bobby Simmons. Democrat Melvin Burgess beat Robert "Chip" Trouy for property assessor. Democrat Regina Newman beat Republican George Chism for trustee. Democrat Temiika D. Gipson beat Republican Tom Leatherwood for Circuit Court clerk. Democrat Heidi Kuhn beat Republican Richard DeSaussure for Criminal Court clerk. Wanda Halbert beat Donna Creson for County Court clerk.
History is in the making if Democrats can do the work, get out the vote, support candidates up and down the ballot in November.
Article excerpts from KosMedia
Photos credits: AFP/Getty images; Lee Harris Facebook page
"Honored to receive the endorsement of President Barack Obama and looking forward to an exciting 12 weeks before this election. Sign up to help us cross the finish line: www.HarderforCongress.com" ~ Josh Harder
With only three months until the November 6th midterm election, Josh Harder along with numerous other Democratic candidates received the endorsement of former President, Barack Obama.
You can help us take back the House by participating in one of our South Bay Swing Left events. We have High Traffic Contact at local Farmer's Markets, grocery stores etc. where we engage people and ask questions as well as door-to-door canvassing and phone banking events.
For more details or to sign up, click here.
Josh Harder is a political neophyte who wants to ride the wave of blue anger to Washington. Can he pull it off?
If the Democrats are going to take the House of Representatives this fall, the party will have to win at least 24 seats currently held by Republicans. Of those seats, only one represents a district within commuting distance of the Bay Area: the 10th Congressional District. Just over the Altamont Pass from Livermore, the 10th includes the fast-suburbanizing communities of Tracy, Turlock, Modesto, Oakdale, and Manteca. It’s in this last town that we find 32-year-old venture capitalist and first-time Democratic congressional candidate Josh Harder, who has just joined a meeting of Indivisible Manteca, a liberal group whose support he badly needs if he hopes to win in November.
Dressed in jeans and a blue checked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, Harder looks every bit the Stanford grad and Harvard MBA that he is. But as he munches on a cookie in the breakfast nook of the local Indivisible leader, the fifth-generation Central Valley native is trying to make the dozen activists in attendance understand that he’s not just some Silicon Valley transplant who parachuted into the district to run for office. He wants them to know that he’s one of them. This goal could, on its face, present a challenge for Harder, because he did, in fact, just move back to the district 16 months ago to run for office. For this reason and others, Indivisible didn’t back him in the June primary. Regardless, Harder edged out five others and won the privilege of facing off against four-term Republican incumbent Jeff Denham in November.
If Harder feels any anxiety while selling his vision to the activists here, he isn’t showing it. “The center of the resistance is us,” he begins. “It’s Manteca, Tracy, and the Central Valley. This is the seat that has to flip if we’re going to take the House.” Harder, in spite of his political inexperience, knows how to serve red meat to a deep-blue crowd, yoking Denham to President Donald Trump and his administration at every opportunity. “Ivanka was just in California at a $5,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Denham. Pence has been fundraising too. Three visits!” he yelps. “It means that they think Denham is vulnerable.”
The group—which, after he finishes speaking, votes to endorse Harder—wants to know how he plans to campaign: which radio stations he’s putting ads on (most of the local ones, including the Spanish-language outlets), whether he will put up a billboard near the Altamont Pass (probably not—too expensive), whether he would debate Denham (he would, but Denham likely wouldn’t reciprocate). The Indivisible members also want to know if Harder would vote to reinstall Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if the Democrats gained the majority. Harder refuses to commit: “It’s more important to vote for a Democratic Speaker than to say specifically who that should be.”
Though this group is devoutly left-leaning, nobody grumbles about the dodge. After all, they, too, just want to win. Following the meeting the group’s leader, Wayne Adler, tells me he plans to vote for Harder no matter what his position on Pelosi is. “We are not focused on her. We have our own problems,” he says. This is good news for the challenger. If Harder is to succeed, he’ll need the votes of people like Adler—who moved to the Central Valley three years ago from Reno and works as a manager at a building company—along with plenty of other disparate subsets of this transitioning district: farmworkers, professionals who commute to the Bay Area, retirees, Latinos, whites, centrists who can’t bear the thought of handing Trump another vote in Congress, and liberal activists.
“The real question for the past year and a half was whether this blue-wave energy would dissipate before the election,” Harder says later. “Is it just 20 people in Manteca, or more?”
The surest answer: It’s more, maybe many more. But will it be enough?
To unseat Denham, a 51-year-old former Air Force mechanic who owns a plastics business and looks like he eats steaks bigger than his young opponent’s head for dinner, Harder is going to have to sell himself to voters as an authentic neighbor, a product as native to the Central Valley as the almonds, peaches, and tomatoes that grow in its fields. So he’s been leaning into his local-boy-makes-good life story: Harder grew up in Turlock, where his father works as an optometrist and his mother volunteers for a local church. He graduated from Modesto High School, after which he left home for college, studying politics and economics at Stanford before going to Harvard, where he earned master’s degrees in business and public policy.
After grad school, Harder joined the Boston Consulting Group, then moved on to Bessemer Venture Partners, the oldest VC firm in the country, eventually rising to vice president, first out of its New York office and then in San Francisco. At Bessemer, Harder led investments in little-known companies including the legal e-discovery outfit Disco, recruitment marketing enterprise Smashfly, and business intelligence firm SiSense. But soon he felt the lure of politics. “I worked a little on the Hillary campaign in 2016. After the loss, I was devastated,” he says.
It was the 2016 election that put the district in play for the midterms, says Patty Hughes, a Democratic operative in Riverbank, a small town bordering Modesto. Before Denham was elected in 2012, the area had been represented by Blue Dog Democrat Gary Condit, from 1989 to 2003, and then the centrist Democrat Dennis Cardoza. (Denham had previously held a different seat, in Santa Clara County, from 2010 to 2012.) Clinton beat Trump in the 10th by 3 points, but Denham defeated Democratic challenger Michael Eggman by 3.4 points. “It’s been a consistently purple-leaning-red district,” Hughes says, but one in which the 2018 election looked ripe for change.
Enter Harder. Returning home to Turlock in April 2017, he took a job teaching business at Modesto Junior College while he prepared for his run. He wasn’t the only one sensing opportunity—more than a dozen Democrats flirted with entering the race, with six ultimately appearing on the ballot. Predictably, Harder faced accusations of opportunism. “In many cases,” the Cook Political Report wrote about himand several other Democratic challengers, “these candidates’ educations and professional successes have taken them far away from the humble hometowns they are now seeking to reconnect with, giving Republicans an opening to portray them as out-of-touch elites.”
For Harder, that impression was cemented by the fact that, even in Democratic circles, he was entirely unknown. Hughes, as well-connected as any Democrat in the district, met him only a few days before he filed to run, at a training conference at the Plumbing and Pipefitters Local 442 union hall in Modesto. “He was born here, went to school here, then went away. That’s not so unusual,” she reasons. However, “nobody knew who the heck he or his family was.”
But Harder had plenty of connections outside the district, which helped him amass a considerable war chest. As of early July, according to Federal Election Commission data, Harder had raised $1,366,552 in contributions greater than $200. Less than 1 percent of that came from donors who lived in the 10th. (Some 13 percent of the $1.3 million didn’t have any address listed with it; an additional $98,852 came in small donations and wasn’t included in the geographic donor breakdown.) The rest poured in from places such as San Francisco, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto. Still, as they so often do, the votes followed the money; in the primary, Harder finished five points ahead of his nearest rival.
“If my ancestors could survive colonization, we can survive this administration,” Julissa Ruiz Ramirez says. The Cal State Stanislaus student is part of a new generation of Latino activists who see in Denham and the Republican Party the faces of oppression. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Ruiz Ramirez became a citizen this year, just in time to get herself arrested in the Capitol Hill office of Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy during negotiations on immigration reform.
It was one of many protests Ruiz Ramirez has carried out at the offices of Republican politicians. On March 5, she and others tried to enter Denham’s district office in Modesto. Staffers locked the doors. After the protesters left, Ruiz Ramirez called the office—not identifying herself as one of the demonstrators—to ask if it was open. “Yes,” the staffer told her, but she would have to come in through the back door. “We just had some Mexicans here protesting outside.” Ruiz Ramirez seethes as she recounts the slight. “I get mad, because the congressman goes on TV, goes on Spanish television and radio, to tell us he’s with us,” she says.
Although it would not have been sufficient to satisfy activists like Ruiz Ramirez, Denham spent seven weeks this spring working on a compromise on immigration policy that would protect Dreamers. Ultimately, the bill failed, but according to congressional scholar Sarah Binder, a professor at George Washington University, “he took a stand and tried to make it work. He worked hard.”
The way incumbents stay in office when their party is in trouble is by focusing on local issues. And setting himself up as the doomed but earnest champion of the Dreamers could help Denham with the region’s moderate and Latino voters. But that’s assuming they can—or want to—distinguish him from his party’s xenophobic wing. And it’s not just opposition from the left that is endangering Denham: Hardcore Trump voters may fault him for trying to reach a deal on the Dreamers in the first place.
A member of the all but vanished tribe of GOP moderates, Denham may simply not be able to build a meaningful coalition of allies. This is a conclusion that Harder is working to reinforce. “We are not going to get real immigration reform passed with this Congress,” he says. “The only way we do that is by winning some elections in November.”
Right now it’s hard to tell whether predictions of a blue wave will be borne out—and whether Harder will be able to ride such a wave to victory. He could well end up like another young, inexperienced Democrat, Jon Ossoff, the 30-year-old who came within three points of defeating Republican Karen Handel in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Or Harder could follow on the heels of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old who unseated 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley in the June Democratic primary in New York City. Do voters here want a fresh face, or will they stick with an experienced incumbent with a centrist streak? Harder thinks he knows the answer: “I want to draw a sharp contrast with my opponent,” he says.
Since Harder can bank on the district’s liberal voters, he is free to spend his time playing to the middle, emphasizing local concerns, and hoping that the blue wave carries him the rest of the way. “We could spend all our time talking about 24 million Americans who have lost healthcare,” he says, “or we can talk about how my congressman voted to take away healthcare from my little brother”—a senior at Cal State Stanislaus. And instead of talking about immigration in the abstract, he points to people like Ruiz Ramirez, who now volunteers with his campaign.
But many of the region’s problems weren’t created in the last election—and won’t be solved in this one. Take the Seneca Foods plant in Modesto. At its postwar height, the factory employed 10,000 people, canning peaches that trucks carried to every corner of the country. Today the plant employs just 265 full-time and 2,165 seasonal workers—and in March, its corporate owners announced that they would be closing the plant down.
“If you take the Central Valley as its own state, it would be the poorest in the entire country. Poorer than West Virginia. The Bay Area would be [the richest]. The question is what to do about it,” Harder says. Here he unleashes his inner wonk, floating a complex proposal to index the payroll tax against the county’s unemployment rate. It feels like a glimpse of the part of Harder that he keeps offstage: earnest, data driven, and as dry as the valley would be without all the canals and reservoirs. But just like the water infrastructure, it may end up being just what Harder’s home turf needs in order to flourish again.
Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco Magazine
Barack Obama Urges Women to Get More Involved in Politics—'Because Men Have Been Getting on My Nerves'
"We’re violent. We’re bullying. You know, just not handling our business.”
Barack Obama is fed up with men calling the shots in politics.
The 44th President of the United States spoke at a Town Hall in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, and explained why he thinks women should play a bigger role in creating public policies.
“Women in particular, by the way, I want you to get more involved," he said. "Because men have been getting on my nerves lately. I mean, every day I read the newspaper and I just think, ‘Brothers, what’s wrong with you guys? What’s wrong with us?’ I mean, we’re violent. We’re bullying. You know, just not handling our business.”
Obama may have been referring to the wave of sexual misconduct cases in Hollywood and beyond, or President Donald Trump's views on womens' issues like abortion, but he did not specify. "I think empowering more women on the continent, that right away is going to I think lead to some better policies," he added.
A young woman who is attempting to and progressively breaking through the male-dominated U.S. congress is New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won her district’s Congressional primary election on June 26. She has advocated for other female candidates like herself, including Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Cynthia Nixon, who is running for Governor of New York.
Obama has not publicly endorsed these candidates. However, he did endorse Hillary Clintonin the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On Facebook, Obama shared that he was visiting South Africa with the Obama Foundation to deliver a speech in front of 200 young leaders to honor the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. "I was proud to visit sub-Saharan Africa more times than any other sitting President, and I’ll return this week to visit Kenya and South Africa," he wrote.
Article by Eileen Reslen, July 18, 2018 published in Elle