Skip to comments.Election Day in California: 53 House races, and hardly a real contest in sight
Posted on 10/24/2004 9:14:29 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - The five candidates vying to unseat Democratic Rep. Sam Farr of California have little in common - except their address and the likelihood that they will lose.
The Republican, the Libertarian, the Green, the Peace and Freedom candidate and the write-in independent all work from the same donated office space in a former golf shop as they pursue longshot quests to topple the six-term House member.
Their improbable arrangement saves money, but it's also a conscious statement about the near-impossibility of beating a congressional incumbent in California.
"This American system of a representative government, it does not exist anymore. Here's what exists: The incumbents get re-elected," said Mark Risley, the Republican nominee in Farr's central coast district.
The advantages of incumbency - a favorably drawn House district chief among them - are making this year's races more like victory laps for those already in Washington. And the disadvantages of being a challenger have perhaps never been more stark: 53 House seats are on the Nov. 2 ballot in California and just one is a serious contest - and that's only because the longtime incumbent is retiring.
"I call it a monopoly. I don't think it's good for the country," said Joel Smolen, one of Risley's officemates and the Libertarian nominee.
The state Legislature has drawn congressional district lines up and down California to make seats safe for the party that holds them. The map created after the 2000 Census established 33 seats that are essentially safe for Democrats and 20 that Republicans can win, a ratio unlikely to change this year.
"It's an old saying now - it's where the politicians select the voters rather than the voters selecting the politicians," said Allan Hoffenblum, a GOP consultant and publisher of the California Target Book, which tracks political races.
The one seat that is hotly contested is the Fresno-area 20th Congressional District, which is open due to the retirement of Rep. Cal Dooley. The seat appears likely to stay Democratic with Jim Costa, a former state senator, but the national Republican Party has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the race competitive. The Republican candidate is state Sen. Roy Ashburn.
The one other open seat in the state is the Sacramento-area 3rd District, where Republican former Attorney General Dan Lungren is the heavy favorite over Democrat Gabe Castillo. Republican Rep. Doug Ose is retiring.
California is far from unique - of the 435 House seats nationwide, fewer than three dozen are generally regarded as competitive.
Even some presidential battleground states such as Ohio and Michigan boast not a single competitive House seat, making it unlikely that the GOP will lose control of the House. The Democrats would need to gain 12 seats for that to happen.
"We talk about the shrinking battleground states in the electoral college," said Amy Walter, an editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "The same thing is taking place at the House level."
California's Legislature redraws district lines every 10 years, after the census reapportions the number of House seats based on updated population numbers.
Lawmakers have an incentive to protect their own party interests - and that's just what California's Democrats did after 2000, when they cut a deal with Republicans on the 33-20 House delegation split.
At the time, some Democrats thought party leaders could have pushed to add a few more favorable seats in a state where Democratic voters greatly outnumber Republicans. But that would have put some Democratic incumbents at risk and spurred Republican lawsuits, so the party played it safe.
The result is a snoozer of a congressional ballot in a state where voters threw out their governor and regularly pass ballot initiatives that create laws which other states emulate. Indeed, with Democrat John Kerry favored to carry California on the presidential ballot and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer cruising to re-election, the most contested questions will be several controversial propositions.
Though they have little chance of winning, Farr's opponents might cut into his margin of victory.
"I won the last race by 70 percent," Farr said. "I don't expect to win this one by that much with this type of opposition."
The budget battles of 2005 will be a sight to behold.
Bury your pocketbook in your back yard,, you think we have fees galore on almost everything under the sun here already. ;-|
"Because no matter what happens there will be Democrat majorities in the Assembly and in the
Senate and even if the governor was elected God, he couldn't change that.'
--Democratic Senate President Pro Tem John Burton
There was a proposed constitutional amendment that didn't make it on the ballot a couple of years ago that would have changed the districts to computer-generated compact areas based on census districts.
Might be just what California needs.
What's the word on David Dreir's campaign? I've read that local radio guys are trying to "sacrifice" him over immigration.
I am do so disgusted. If you did not know better, you would have no idea that Boxer is up for re-election. All the publicity that went on during the recall and not a peek now of the forthcoming election except the referendums. I pray that Californians including Mexicans (they will vote too, don't kid yourself) are tired of being called "my" people and throw her keister out....
Something definitely needs to be done. and Good Idea! It's not like California doesn't have the programmers for the job job job. ;-)
He's a SoCal fella so I haven't heard anything of late.
I know a couple of radio warriors down there were trying to get on him pretty good. Giving the Asa Hutchinson once over hard treatment. ;-)
There's no polling data available, but Dreier's behavior is indicative of concern. He's appearing on every radio show that will have him, except the John and Ken show on KFI, the one targeting him. He's suddenly talking tough and introducing anti-illegal legislation in Congress. He got some stooge to introduce him at a rally as a big-time anti-illegal crusader. He's even spent thousands of dollars on an ad buy on KFI, the very station with the show that's going after him. Obviously he's at least worried about his image as a weenie on illegal immigration. It would be sweet if he actually loses, but even a near-death experience will be useful.
Bill Jones might as well be running for a role as the Invisible Man. He was pledging to use his own money to give Boxer a real contest, but looks like he doesn't have enough faith in his own campaign to follow through on that. I don't think I've even heard him on a single talk show. What a disaster as a candidate he's turned out to be.
My son runs local campaigns in Placer county. He told me at the outset that Jones didn't have the $$ or the support to run a competative campaign. Guess he shouldn't have backstabbed our Pres. in '00!
They were also targeting a Dem congresscritter...hpw's that race going?
Can you say "Gerrymandered districts", boys and girls? I knew you could.
My husband was complaining a few months ago about the leftists in the legislature and that we need to get them out of there. I explained the redistricting process to him, and how that has ensured that these seats are "safe". I used the "gerrymander" word. His eyebrows went up, his eyes popped out, and he exclaimed, "Isn't gerrymandering illegal?!!" As if being illegal has anything to do with anything...
My husband is a great guy, but he's a political naif.
I was never happy about Jones running to begin with. I didn't vote for him in the primary. He has squandered his primary win, and has shown complete disregard for those who voted for him as their candidate. He's a disgrace.
This is one reason I support Term Limits!
Two terms for a senator (12 years is enough).
Five terms for a representative (10 years is plenty).
Just think if Term Limits were the law of the land, Killer Kennedy would not be in the senate.
I'm really disappointed. Not only did I send him money but I volunteered to do all sorts of things. Not a peep out of him. I can't even get a yard sign from his people. Bill Jones: Candidate Zero.
My Mother-in-law is furious over this. Hates Capps. She lives in San Luis Obispo.
Ah, the spirit of Phil Burton is alive and well.