Flip the House: California Dems Gear Up for Crucial Midterms

BCK FILE-Following a bruising political year, the midterm elections of 2018 are crucial, especially to states like California. With the executive and legislative branches controlled by the GOP majority, any judicial appointments are likely to follow the suit. 

The GOP and Trump Administration policies have the potential to hurt California on numerous levels, from immigration and health care to the tax bill. Californians, along with residents and homeowners in states like New York, New Jersey, and Illinois that have high state income tax and higher home values and/or real estate taxes, will be impacted by the ceiling on property tax and state income tax deductions that may end up hurting the real estate market, as well. 

It’s no coincidence that Donald Trump is the first president since Eisenhower to have not touched down in the Golden State during his first year in office. He barely tweeted recognition of the acres of wildfires throughout the state. For California, flipping the seats in the midterms is crucial on many levels.

For the Dems to flip the House in November, the party will need to defend eight seats and turn over an additional 24 to gain a majority. There are 468 seats in the U.S. Congress -- 33 in the Senate and all 435 in the House – up for grabs next fall. The GOP comes in with a 51-seat majority in the Senate to 49 Democrats (following Doug Jones’ win in Alabama) including two Independents. 

Going into the November 6 elections, the GOP holds 241 seats in the House; the Democrats hold 194 seats. If we follow the historical trajectory, the Democratic party should gain seats in the House, because ever since 1934, the party of a newly elected president traditionally loses seats in the next midterms. Only twice since then has the president’s party gained seats -- in 1934, following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election and in 2002 following the election of George W. Bush. President Trump’s significantly low approval rating could further impact this trend. 

Incumbents tend to have an advantage in terms of larger campaign war chests and recognition. Most political pundits see 40 competitive races, of which 32 are held by the GOP and eight by Democrats. The Democrats will need to capture at least 24 of these seats to flip the House. 

However, a stream of office holders has resigned or announced they will not be seeking reelection in 2018, including GOP senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as well as others in competitive districts. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he might retire following the midterms. Sexual harassment allegations have caused several lawmakers to leave Congress early, including Al Franken (D-WI), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Blake Fahrenthold (R-TX), and Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) who announced he will not seek reelection in 2018.

The Democrat strategy is to concentrate on the 23 districts in which voters elected Republicans in the Congressional races but where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump. Seven of those seats are here in California, in and around traditionally conservative Orange County where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has opened a satellite office. 

If you remember, in 2016, Orange County voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 80 years. Flipping those seats is reliant on getting out the vote and unifying the party’s liberal and centrist interests. 

The 7 races in California to keep an eye on are: 

Ed Royce, 39th Congressional District 

Dana Rohrabacher, 48th Congressional District 

Mimi Walters, 45th Congressional District 

(Royce, Rohrabacher, and Walters represent Orange County.) 

Darrell Issa, 49th Congressional District (south toward San Diego) 

Steve Knight, 25th Congressional District (Santa Clarita Valley) 

David Valadao, 21st Congressional District (Central Valley) 

Jeff Denham, 10th Congressional District (Central Valley) 

We’ll be looking at important races throughout the country needed to Flip the House and at a Southern California mother/daughter team traveling to cover women running for Congressional seats throughout the country in Women2018. 

Stay tuned.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a CityWatch columnist.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.