Democrats sweat nightmare scenario in California

congressDemocrats who cheered the retirement announcements of Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce last week are sobering up to a new fear: A potential nightmare scenario in which no Democratic candidate ends up on the November ballot in either seat, dealing a blow to the party’s efforts to retake the House.

The problem is California’s unusual, top-two primary system, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation advance to the November general election.

Prior to the retirement announcements, Democrats had been pounding for months on Royce and Issa, yoking the two vulnerable Republicans to a president loathed in this heavily Democratic state. But with no GOP incumbent in either race — and with Democratic candidates threatening to splinter their party’s share of the vote — Democrats now face the prospect of getting scrubbed entirely from the November ballot.

In recent days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee acknowledged it could be forced to spend money in one or both primaries to ensure that two Republican candidates do not finish atop the field in June. And Democratic candidates, mindful of a potential culling effort, have sped up their voter outreach, polling and opposition research operations.

The party is seeking to avoid an embarrassing repeat of 2012, when two Republicans finished ahead of then-Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar in an Inland Empire congressional district in which Democrats held a voter registration edge.

The defeat was one of the party’s most stunning losses of the election cycle. And though Aguilar would go on to win a House seat two years later, his name has now taken on the quality of a verb.

Surveying the competitive House districts this year, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said, “‘We don’t want to get Aguilar-ed.”

The fallout from California’s top-two primary could even go beyond districts where incumbents are retiring, in part due to the proliferation of Democratic candidates this year. On Tuesday, the number of Democratic candidates running in California’s 14 Republican-held districts reached 67, one more than in the past three election cycles combined, according to a count by Rob Pyers of the California Target Book, which handicaps races in the state.

He said Democrats appear most at risk of knocking themselves out in a nationally-targeted Orange County district held by Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, where a second Republican, Greg Raths, is considering challenging Walters.

“With something like 7 or 8 Democrats running,” Pyers said, “if [Raths] runs, then he stands a good chance of getting more of the vote than any of the Democrats,” advancing with Walters to an all-Republican contest she would likely be favored to win in November.

While Takano said finishing first and second in any competitive district it would be a “tricky thing to pull off” for Republicans, he acknowledged, “It is an outcome that is possible — we’ve seen it happen — where two members of the same party make it onto the ballot.”

The Royce and Issa contests are especially significant to national Democrats, who bolstered their operations in the area last year in an effort to take advantage of demographic changes working in the party’s favor in Southern California’s densely populated suburbs. The two seats, touching parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, are among seven Republican-held districts in California that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

Seven Democrats are already running in Royce’s district, including six candidates who have raised more than six figures. Four well-funded Democrats are campaigning in Issa’s district, including Doug Applegate, who nearly topped Issa in 2016.

“The political earthquake and phenomenon that is embodied by Donald Trump has created just so much vitriol and enthusiasm for Democrats that you’ve got multiple candidates, many of which are well-funded … and we haven’t seen that before,” said Dave Jacobson, a Democratic strategist advising businessman Andy Thorburn in the Royce district.

In such a large field, Jacobson said candidates are moving earlier to “break through all the clutter.”

Takano, Jacobson and other Democrats predict Republicans will have difficulty containing their own field of candidates, eliminating any mathematical advantage they might have by running only two candidates in each district.

“Frankly, I think you’re going to see a splintering of the GOP, in much the same way that you’re going to see a splintering of the Democratic field,” Jacobson said.

In the week since Royce and Issa announced their retirements, a rush of Republicans announced plans to seek those seats or said they are mulling entering the race. But Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, said, “Just because people announce doesn’t mean they’re going to file.”

The Republican field has had little time to gel, and Brulte said, “At the end of the day, I don’t know that everybody’s going to run.”

Recalling Aguilar’s defeat, Brulte said of the possibility of a top-two repeat, “It’s already happened in a very competitive district.”

The Republican candidates bidding to succeed Royce and Issa include former lawmakers who have won previous elections in the area, in some cases with moderate profiles that Democrats fear could appeal to voters in swing districts.

Drew Godinich, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Democrats are mindful of the Aguilar example and “we are watching these races very closely to make sure that a Democrat gets through.” While the DCCC has not yet intervened in the primary, he said, “The DCCC reserves the right to get involved in these races if necessary.”

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said state Democrats “worry a lot about the math problem” in the top-two primary, but he said “we can’t do much” to control the field. California Democrats historically “don’t have the strong types of party control” as exists in other states.

And any effort to elevate one Democrat over other candidates is risky. The party is still suffering from animosity from progressive Democrats furious about the treatment of Bernie Sanders in the last presidential primary.

“It’s a delicate dance, because we respect the fact that everybody’s individual right to run for office, that should be respected,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.). ““But at the same time, it’s just about having an honest dialogue and trying to see if people are being honest with themselves … If they’re honest with themselves, then they should stay in the race if they’ve got a real shot. And if they really don’t have a real shot, maybe it’s time to consolidate together.”

At a recent gathering of local Democrats in Royce’s district, activist Shana Charles said the possibility that two Republicans will advance in the primary is “certainly on the radar of many activists in Orange County.”

California’s top-two primary benefitted the Democratic Party in 2016, when two Democrats advanced in the U.S. Senate race. And it is possible two Democrats will face each other in the gubernatorial runoff this year, depriving Republicans of a stop on the top of the ticket.

But in some cases, Charles said, “it backfires.” The current election cycle, she said, has “made me rethink this top-two ballot.”

This article was originally published by Politico

GOP Congressman Darrell Issa will not seek re-election

Nine-term Congressman Darrell Issa, among the most vulnerable Republican House members in this year’s elections, unexpectedly announced Wednesday morning that he would not seek reelection.

In an emailed statement, Issa recounted his accomplishments but specified no reason for the decision.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” he said. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”

Issa, whose district straddles the Orange-San Diego county line, was nearly upset in 2016 by Democrat Doug Applegate, winning the closest House race in the country by just 0.6 percentage points.

Roll Call has listed him as the most vulnerable House member. Democrats consider winning his district essential to flipping the 24 Republican House seats needed to take control of the House. …

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Two California Republican Congressmen Vote Against GOP Tax Reform

800px-US_Capitol_from_NWTwo California Republicans, Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), voted against the tax reform bill on Tuesday.

They were the only Republican members of California’s congressional delegation to do so. Every one of California’s Democrats did so, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are also expected to vote against the bill.

Ten other Republicans also voted against the tax reform bill, most from other high-tax states, notably New York and New Jersey.

Both Issa and Rohrabacher are considered vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections, after Hillary Clinton won their districts in 2016. Both are among seven Republicans in the Golden State who are being targeted by Democrats.

Issa was barely re-elected in 2018, and faces four Democratic challengers next year; Rohrabacher already faces seven Democratic challengers (plus two Republicans, one Libertarian, and an Independent) in next year’s primary. Notably, five of those Republicans still voted for the tax reform bill.

Rohrabacher has stated publicly that he opposes the tax reform bill because he is concerned that the partial repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and the cap on mortgage interest deductions, could see taxes raised on some of the residents of his district despite the lowering of income tax and corporate tax rates.

Issa opposes the bill for the same reason, but also publicly blamed Governor Jerry Brown and California Democrats for the dilemma facing California taxpayers.

One Republican who switched from “no” to “yes” was conservative Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), who voted against the original House version of the bill but supported the compromise bill drafted with the Senate because of revisions that addressed his concerns.

In a speech on the House floor, he said, in part:

The new version leaves the casualty loss, medical expense and student interest deductions intact.  No family needs to fear being ruined by taxes after a major declared disaster or illness, and graduates can continue to plan their lives knowing interest on their student loans will not be taxed.  The new bill eases the proposed limit on mortgage interest deductions and allows up to $10,000 of state and local taxes to be deducted – all important improvements for Californians.

Most importantly, the lower tax rates in this bill now more than compensate in almost every case for the remaining limits on state and local tax and mortgage interest deductions.  Even taxpayers who lose tens of thousands of dollars of deductions will still pay lower taxes than they do today.

The House will have to vote again on the bill, after two minor provisions in the legislation ran afoul of Senate parliamentary rules for reconciliation (which allows votes pertaining to budget issues to pass on a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority). Rohrabacher and Issa are expected to repeat their “no” votes.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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Rep. Issa Now Opposes Republican Tax Reform Bill, Saying It’s Bad for California

After blaming Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown last week for high California taxes, Rep. Darrell Issa on Tuesday backed away from a Republican plan to end the exemption for state income taxes and large mortgages.

“I cannot endorse changes that may make the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse,” Issa said. “Tax reform should lower taxes for all taxpayers — regardless of where they live.”

He said he cannot support the Republican tax reform bill in its current form, which would limit the mortgage interest deduction to loans under $500,000 and end the deduction for state income taxes.

“My overriding concern with the current House tax reform proposal is that many Californians who need and deserve tax relief won’t benefit from the current framework, or at worse, may see their tax burden rise as a consequence of certain changes including, but not limited to, the elimination of the state and local income tax deduction,” he said. …

Click here to read the full article from the Times of San Diego

Dems Launch 2018 Campaign Against 20 Republicans Including Ed Royce and Darrell Issa

130510_darrell_issa_mscott_328Democrats have launched an all-out offensive assault in Blue State California well ahead of the 2018 midterm elections with particular aim taken at increasingly vulnerable House Republicans Rep. Ed Royce, Rep. Darrell Issa, and Rep. Jeff Denham.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced on Thursday that it was launching “March into ’18,” a program aimed at taking out Republican members of Congress in 20 districts across the country. Those districts are: CA-10, CA-39, CA-49, CO-06, FL-26, IA-01, IL-06, KS-03, MN-02, MN-03, NE-02, NY-22, NY-24, PA-06, PA-07, PA-08, TX-07, TX-23, TX-32, and VA-02.

Full-time local organizers will be hired in these districts, dedicated to unseating the Republicans. The hiring began on February 1st. The campaign will run ads on Twitter, the social media site that President Donald Trump has used consistently to communicate directly with Americans. The DCCC will target ads at “those that have followed or tweeted about local Women’s Marches, ACA rallies, and other events” according to their own statement. Those ads will direct recipients to local events where they can get involved in Democrat activism.

Issa, first elected to the House of Representatives in 2000, barely squeaked out a win over Democrat challenger Doug Applegate last November. Democrats focused intense effort on unseating the congressman and almost did as the election results-watch was drawn out for days. Ultimately Issa won 50.3 to 49.7 percent according to the California Secretary of State. Royce won over challenger Brett Murdock more comfortably last November, 57.2 to 42.8 percent.

Most DCCC targeted seats are in districts where failed 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the district according to the Orange County Register.

“This is an unprecedented early investment in key Republican-held House districts, in order to engage voters and help make their voices heard. So many people are looking for ways to tell their stories, channel their energy and organize for change, and this project will help do just that,” DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan said upon the announcement.

A dedicated “March into ’18” website and Facebook page have been established to field potential workers for training to “Build events such as house parties and phone banks,” “organize protests and days of action,” and promise events via live stream and social media.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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Contentious Visa Program Under the Spotlight

130510_darrell_issa_mscott_328With contending pieces of legislation now up for consideration in Congress, California has returned to the national spotlight on one of the most contentious immigration issues — special visas granted by the federal government to attract foreign talent.

Long critiqued by economic nationalists, including some Democrats, the H-1B visa program has been accused of undercutting qualified candidates in key industries who are U.S. citizens. “The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from U.S. colleges and universities,” according to Ars Technica. “The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.”

With the prestige, economic importance and compensation level attached to those jobs, they have become a focus of reform for allies of President-elect Donald Trump. “Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the highest-profile Republicans in Congress and a supporter of Mr. Trump, said Wednesday in a statement on his website that he is reintroducing a bill designed to ‘stop the outsourcing of American jobs’ and ensure laws are not ‘abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad,’” The Wall Street Journal reported. The bill would seek to achieve that outcome by hiking “required salaries for positions granted under the H-1B scheme that replace American workers from $60,000 to $100,000 per year,” according to the Journal.

Bipartisan frustration

In a sign of the cross-cutting partisan interests shaking up some established battle lines on immigration, Issa boasted a Democrat, fellow Californian Rep. Scott Peters, as the co-sponsor of the Protect and Grow American Jobs Act. Silicon Valley, where political allegiances at the end of the Obama era have begun to shift in new ways, has come under attack for its use of H-1Bs. “In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program,” Ars Technica recalled, noting that Microsoft rounded out the list’s top 10. “The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off.”

But other big California corporations have not been left out of the criticism. “It’s specifically required that there be a shortage” in qualified candidates, Issa said of Southern California Edison, which he attacked for asking “employees being laid off to train their replacements,” as U-T San Diego noted.

“Edison said at the time of the layoffs that it was ‘not hiring H-1B workers to replace displaced employees. Any H-1B visa workers SCE does hire for its own workforce are paid a wage comparable to SCE’s domestic workforce. Disney and a handful of other California companies have been criticized in recent years for similar moves.”

Dueling drafts

Issa and Scott’s path forward has been complicated, however, by legislative competition from one of his fellow California delegates to Congress. “Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Santa Clara County Democrat, warned Thursday that she believes Issa’s bill could undermine Silicon Valley’s job market,” the San Jose Mercury News reported. “That’s because tech companies in a location such as Silicon Valley, where software engineers can command a starting wage of $140,000 a year, might still have incentives to use foreign workers for $100,000, Lofgren said.”

Casting her alternative as a return to the original intent of U.S. visa laws to attract the so-called best and brightest, Lofgen recently announced the details of a draft bill that will circulate formally in several weeks’ time. “Under her plan, employers who pay as much as 2.5 times to three times the prevailing wage in their metro area would get first preference to hire people through the H-1B visa program,” according to the Mercury News. Lofgren has suggested that Issa’s intended fix could leave some problems intact. “Raising the wage from $60,000 to $100,000 would do nothing to prevent the sort of outsourcing abuse we’ve seen under the H-1B visa program,” she warned, according to the paper.

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Some big-name California Republicans among Trump delegates

As reported by the Associated Press:

Mitt Romney, John McCain and other prominent Republicans have distanced themselves from Donald Trump, but the billionaire businessman’s list of delegates from California released Monday includes Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the second-ranking Republican in the U.S. House.

Trump’s line-up of delegates also includes Reps. Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter and Dennis Revell, a son-in-law of Ronald Reagan.

In California, Republican presidential campaigns select delegates that are awarded in the June 7 primary, based on the outcome of voting in its 53 congressional districts and the statewide tally.

Trump’s list also includes Harmeet Dhillon, vice chair of the California GOP, state Senate GOP leader Jean Fuller, former congressman Doug Ose and former state Sen. Tony Strickland. …

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