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California Incumbents Face New Challenges In November

by Faith Eischen, published


The mixture of open primaries and redistricting has shaken up California’s political system this election cycle. Congressional incumbents face new challenges in the upcoming general election. Voters will no longer be faced with typical choices: Republican v. Democrat. Instead, in some cases, voters must choose between same-party candidates. A few independents have been thrown in the mix as well.

Redistricting has further complicated incumbents’ campaigns. Very left-wing Democrats are now running to represent districts with newly added populations of Republicans and Independents. Candidates will be forced to step outside party lines to win votes. Stakes will be higher given the typical voter turnout associated with a close presidential election.

Here are a few California representatives to Congress running for reelection outside the traditional political set-up. The new factors will prove to test incumbents’ ability to appeal to the general public.

Congressional District 10

Congressman Jeff Denham (R) will run against Democrat Jose Hernandez, an engineer and former NASA astronaut in the new California Congressional District 10. Denham currently represents District 19, which has typically been Republican-dominated. Open Congress’ website reports Denham voted with the Republican Party 95.9% of the time, which ranked him 8 among the 242 House Republican member in 2011. Denham only supported one ‘liberal’ bill in the 2011-2012 congressional year.  It is unlikely Denham will stray from his political party roots as the election nears, based on his voting record. However, the new district seat is viewed as a “swing seat that could result in Nancy Pelosi re-claiming the position of Speaker” if Democrat Jose Hernandez wins the election.”

Recordnet has the candidates’ interpretations of the situation:

"This is a district with two distinct candidates and there's a clear contrast between us," Hernandez said. "(Denham) is a typical conservative ... I'm a typical Democrat with values that mirror hard work and perseverance." Denham said he is going to gear his focus on local issues in his campaign. "For me, it's more about Valley jobs and Valley issues," Denham said. "That's what I've been doing for the past year-and-a-half in Congress and that's what I plan to do in the future."

Congressional District 33

Rep. Henry Waxman has been in Congress for decades. Waxman is running for the 33rd Congressional District seat against Bill Bloomfield, a well-funded independent candidate with roots in the Republican Party. The 33rd after redistricting turns the traditionally liberal district slightly to the right with an increase in conservative population. New district lines put CD-33 at 44% Democratic, while 28% is Republican. GovTrack calls Rep. Waxman a far-left Democrat due to his voting record. The new slightly conservative area added to the district may pose a threat to the congressman’s campaign. In June's open primary, Rep. Waxman received 45.5% of the vote, while Bloomfield received 24.6%.

However, the 37-year veteran has not shown much concern for losing his seat. Rep. Waxman anticipates a larger voter turnout in November’s general election. “There was a very low turnout of votes,” he said of the primary election returns, in an Easyreadernews phone interview on Wednesday.

Bloomfield is focusing his campaign messaging on reviving the economy and fixing the deficit. Waxman said, “I respect the fact that he has a lot of money that he’s able to put into the campaign himself which is a real advantage, I don’t think it’s enough to convince people that he’s not a real Republican running in a Democratic district.”

Congressional District 30

Congressman Howard Berman and Congressman Brad Sherman, both registered Democrats and incumbents from neighboring districts, will go head to head in November in California's 33rd Congressional District.

Rep. Berman represents CD-28 and Rep. Sherman represents CD-27. Both have share a 94.2% rate of voting along Democratic Party lines.

There is no denying voter turnout will be greater in the general election compared to the primary, thus Republican and Independents in the 30th Congressional District will likely choose who prevails between the two Democratic candidates.

So, what will each candidate do to garnish Republican and Independent support? The Berman campaign has reached out to Republican and former Los Angeles mayor, Richard Riordan, hoping for his endorsement of the Berman campaign. The Sherman campaign has also reached out to Republican politicians hoping for endorsements, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher recently wrote that although he would personally vote for a Republican candidate if there were one, “if you have decided to pick between Sherman and Berman, pick Sherman.”

Congressional District 24

Incumbent Democrat, Rep. Lois Capps, has her work cut out for her in the upcoming general election. Rep. Capps' former district was staunchly Democratic, but due to redistricting, now make up only 39% of the newly drawn 24th District. Republican registration comes in at 35%, and a fifth of voters are not affiliated with a political party. As a result, Rep. Capps will have to campaign to appeal to a multitude of voters rather than the typical Democratic voter base.

She is set to run against Republican Abel Maldonado, former Lieutenant Governor of California. So far, Rep. Capps has launched her campaign based off past experience as a trustworthy Congresswoman, serving the people of her district. Due to the almost evenly split of CD-24, the race is deemed a ‘toss-up’ between the two candidates.

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