In November 2016, I felt pretty ashamed to be an American, but damn proud to be a Californian. The last year has only made me happier for my home state as we’ve led the Resistance and served as a role model for the rest of the country in how to eat progressive policies. This has been a fairly recent development in California’s history, since before then, it was the birthplace of the John Birch Society and the home state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Between 1964 and 1992, California never went for a Democratic candidate in a presidential election. Now, it is one of the most reliably blue states in the nation, thanks to a series of hard-line immigration bills passed by Governor Pete Wilson in the mid-90s that angered the state’s large immigrant population.
As we prepare for what is undoubtedly the most important midterm election of our lifetime, the Golden State is front-and-center [of the drama]. And I know what you might be thinking – “There are Republicans in California?” Yes there are, and they’re running scared, because as we get more liberal, they face the toughest re-election prospects of their careers.
Democrats only need twenty-four seats to take back the House of Representatives. If we want to build that majority, we have to start by knocking off these nine California Republicans.
Darrell Issa (49th district)
One of the richest members of Congress, Issa, the voice of the Viper Car Alarm System, became a national figure leading the Benghazi investigation against Hillary Clinton. Since then, he’s continued to disgrace himself, including casting the deciding vote last May on Trump’s first attempt to repeal Obamacare. But his district, which encompasses Orange County and parts of San Diego, went for Hillary Clinton by seven points in November ’16, and Issa only won re-election by a handful of votes. A strong Democrat, lawyer Mike Levin, has announced he will run against him, and could win. This will be one of the most-watched races in the country this year.
Steve Knight (25th District)
Representing Simi Valley, the home of the Reagan Library, Steve Knight tried to distance himself from Trump with a series of raucous town halls. However, the Congressman still votes with the President an astonishing 98% of the time. Like Issa, his district flipped from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton by a seven point margin. Unlike Issa, however, his district has a higher percentage of non-white voters, which could go against him this fall.
Jeff Denham (10th District)
This seat will be a bit tougher to flip, as Denham has survived tough re-election odds before. Like Knight, he votes with the President 98% of the time. This may not be enough to assuage his voters in California’s Central Valley, since Denham’s major issue – water – speaks directly to their needs. But his bills have never gone through, which his Democratic opponents might attack him on.
Dana Rohrabacher (48th District)
I’ve written several times before about Rohrabacher, the Orange County representative known as “Putin’s Favorite Congressman” who got first access to the memos later given to Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower two months before that infamous meeting, has tried to put the White House in touch with Julian Assange, and claimed that Charlottesville was staged by the Democrats. Although he won re-election comfortably in 2016, Hillary Clinton won his district by two points, becoming the first Democrat to take it in 80 years, and he has had trouble securing fundraising since. Of all the vulnerable congressmen in my home state, he’s the one I’m most eager to defeat.
David Valadao (21st District)
Valadao, who represents part of the Central Valley and Bakersfield, has a heavily Latino constituency, which is why he refused to endorse Donald Trump in 2016. He avoided a series of planned town hall meetings last year in favor of one-on-one discussions with his constituents, for which he drew a lot of criticism. He may be tougher to beat than some of the others, since he’s only attracted one opponent so far, Emilio Huerta, who lost to him in 2016, but a hardline attack on his voting record – 98% with Trump, including the tax bill – could make all the difference.
Ed Royce (39th District)
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Royce has broken with Trump on several issues, including the Iran Deal, pardoning Joe Arpaio, and importing elephant trophies. This might make Royce a decent prospect for re-election, but it doesn’t absolve him, since he votes with the President 96% of the time. It also doesn’t help that Royce received donations from pro-Russia Ukrainian groups in a scheme cooked up by Paul Manafort.
Mimi Walters (45th District)
Walters, a former investment banker, is a two-term Congresswoman who has refused to hold town hall meetings with her constituents and votes in lockstep with her fellow Orange County Republicans. She is an impressive fundraiser, but faces a formidable challenger in UC Irvine Law Professor Dave Min, who may be able to engage her district’s young, non-white voters this fall should he win the primary.
Duncan Hunter (50th District)
Hunter’s district, San Diego, is not as demographically diverse as Darrell Issa’s, and it went for Donald Trump by 15 points in 2016. However, the Congressman has been under FBI investigation for campaign finance violations since last March, and has spent more than $100,000 in campaign contributions on his legal fees. Rumors that he might step down if it gets worse could make his district intensely competitive.
Devin Nunes (22nd District)
The Fresno Congressman stepped down from the ongoing Russia investigation due to a separate House Ethics Committee investigation into his leaking classified information. Now that he’s cleared, he’s back on board, launching attacks on Robert Mueller and his legal team and vetoing requests for subpoenas that could be crucial to the investigation. Currently he’s trying to launch a probe into the Uranium One conspiracy, which would be a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, since there was no conspiracy there and the whole thing can be debunked just by reading this article.
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