How One Candidate Beat the Odds in the One Party State of California

‘We invested in talking to voters directly, and made sure we had a message that speaks to voters’

Anyone who thinks it is impossible for Republicans in California to regain relevance has not studied the campaign, and improbable victory, of Josh Hoover. The odds were against Hoover, who ran against a seasoned incumbent Democrat, five term Assemblyman Ken Cooley. The redrawn 7th District, with 38 percent registered Democrats versus 32 percent Republicans, favored Cooley. To make matters much more challenging, Cooley’s campaign spent $4.8 million compared to Hoover’s $1.7 million.

Hoover won by 1,383 votes, less than one percent, and how he did it is a case study in how California’s Republican candidates can win despite having far less money and a registration disadvantage. Reached by phone earlier this week, Hoover said that while there were a lot of factors in the race that came into play, the most obvious explanation for his victory was that he simply outworked his opponent in making direct contact with individual voters. The Hoover campaign mustered far more people to send texts, make phone calls, and walk door to door.

Cooley, by contrast, during the final month was spending over $250,000 per week on television and radio ads. Throughout the campaign Cooley was mass mailing expensive campaign flyers. Cooley’s campaign relied on mudslinging, like so many do, but it may have backfired on him. When a household has received over dozen flyers attacking Josh Hoover as a Trumpian misogynistic book burning extremist, they’re taken aback when they meet the candidate and realize he’s not a monster at all, but a genuine, humble, reasonable, thoughtful person who cares about the people living in his district.

As Hoover put it, “Cooley never attacked me on anything I ever did, he created generic talking points on why Republicans are bad and tried to paint them over who I am. It didn’t resonate because it wasn’t believable.” No. It wasn’t. Not when the target of the unfounded attacks has walked precincts, knocked on thousands of doors, and met voters face to face.

Hoover, who along with hundreds of volunteers, knocked on over 40,000 doors during his campaign, didn’t have the funds to match Cooley punch for punch on the air. Instead he put campaign resources into calling every grassroots activist organization in the region that would support him, and recruited volunteers. His campaign staffers called every potential source of volunteers not once, but every week throughout the summer and fall. If any organizations, such as the county GOP, provided Hoover their volunteer list, then every person on that list was called regularly. It worked. During the final weekends of the campaign, Cooley had at most 50 people in the field. By contrast, throughout the late summer and through the first weekend in November, Hoover was consistently sending over 100 people out to walk precincts.

Not only did Hoover’s team recruit volunteers from the county GOP office, from GOP legislative staffers, from local tax fighting groups, and other activist groups, but he also set up internship programs at the local colleges and high schools, where scores of additional teenagers and young adults were recruited to engage in direct voter contact.

Along with prioritizing putting limited resources into building up a bigger ground game than his opponent, Hoover focused on a positive message. When forced to respond to negative ads that were attacking him as a bad person, Hoover’s flyers instead attacked Cooley on his record and his actions. But Hoover’s primary message, consistently expressed in direct voter contacts, was that he cared about the same issues as his voters – quality education, public safety, homelessness, the cost of living.

When Cooley made a late pivot to claim he would clean up the homeless encampments along the American River, it was easy for Hoover to respond. After all, Cooley has been in the state legislature for ten years, and the situation has not improved.

There were some factors helping Hoover that may or may not be replicable in other districts. The new 7th district incorporates a lot of walkable suburbs, making it easier for a volunteer to knock on hundreds of doors in a single day. The redistricting cut away some of Cooley’s reliable blue communities and replaced them with Fair Oaks (purple), and Orangevale (red). Even in Folsom, also added to the 7th District and mostly blue, Cooley was starting from scratch and had no advantages of incumbency.

There may have been complacency in Cooley’s campaign, but until Republicans start winning more races, Democratic complacency may benefit any Republican trying to beat the odds. When asked repeatedly how he won, Hoover was consistent, “we knew from the beginning we would not leave anything on the field,” he said, “no stone unturned in regards to volunteer effort and ground game. We invested in talking to voters directly, and made sure we had a message that speaks to voters with kitchen table issues rather than a partisan message. Our message was that we care about the people in our community and we want to put forward solutions.”

In California, Every Voter is Fair Game

Another key strategy Hoover adopted from the start was to consider every voter fair game. In a strategy that informed both their message and how they prioritized which households and neighborhoods to send door knockers, they set a goal to attract 10 percent of registered Democrats, plus all no-party-preference voters.

There is a subtle but important difference between the registration landscape based on which party has more registered voters, versus one based on how many voters are not in the opposition party. This comparison is useful in California since registered Democrats greatly outnumber registered Republicans. The first chart, below, is sorted from registration data on all 80 Assembly Districts. It shows the twenty districts in the California Assembly that have the highest values when subtracting the percent Democrat registration from the percent Republican registration. The percentage difference shows in column one (RvD gap). This is a traditional way of evaluating a candidate’s chances.

As can be seen on the above chart, the 18 Republicans that won this November all did so in the districts where Republicans have the strongest registration. That would include, however, six victorious Republicans (names italicized) that won in districts where there were more registered Democrats than Republicans. Juan Alanis, in the 22nd District, was able to prevail despite a 7.72 percent registration disadvantage. But maybe, in this era of widespread and growing bipartisan dissatisfaction with failing Democratic policies, the registration advantage or deficit isn’t the only way to view a Republican candidate’s prospects.

The next chart, below, presents the same data, but this time sorted by column two, which calculates the percentage of registrants in each district that are not registered as either Democrats, Greens, or the Peace and Freedom parties (“Non DGP”). Sorted this way, the roster doesn’t shake out much differently, but the approach this represents is the future. Every voter is in play, and for targeting and messaging, the prevailing question is how many voters have proclaimed themselves to be either liberal or progressive, and how many have not.

This second chart reflects Joshua’s strategy. The results are interesting on both charts. They show that in all 12 districts where there was a GOP advantage, the GOP candidate won, and that in six cases, Republican candidates won in districts where there was a Democrat advantage. Republicans should study the tactics of all six candidates who beat the metrics, i.e., had negative GOP percentages and high absolute numbers of Democrat voters – they are Devon Mathis (33), Laurie Davies (74), Tri Ta (70), Josh Hoover (7), Greg Wallis (47) and Juan Alanis (22).publican

If six Republican Assembly candidates could beat the odds this time, what if next time every Republican Assembly candidate emulated Hoover’s strategy, aspiring to attract every independent or Republican voter, along with 10 percent of the Democratic (or Green or P&F) voters? Were all of them to fully succeed in this objective, then two years from now, Republicans would control 71 seats in the Assembly. Strategists may pick their number, and ratchet that goal down to whatever reality they’re comfortable with. But this is not fantasy.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

GOP Support for Trump Fades, Polls Show

Following a month of negative publicity, nonpartisan and partisan surveys signal a fall from grace.

 It’s been a rough month for former President Trump.

Since his Nov. 15 announcement that he plans to make a third run for the presidency, his legal problems have increased; his handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, lost the Senate runoff in Georgia; he has endured widespread criticism over his public association with racists and antisemites; and a growing number of Republican figures have started to say publicly what they used to whisper in private: Trump is a liability for their party.

Just after the midterms, it appeared that the results would undermine the former president within the GOP. A raft of new polls show that this has occurred: Trump’s once-solid support among Republicans has cracked, and his approval within his adopted party has fallen to levels not seen since he won its nomination in 2016.

No one should count the former president out. If we’ve learned anything in the more than seven years that he’s dominated public attention, it’s that Trump has formidable survival skills and that Republican elected officials have little stomach for battling him. But for now, and perhaps for longer, the midterm results have shaken his hold on the party in a way that previous events — even the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — failed to do.

The evidence of a Trump fade could be almost as unwelcome at the White House as it is at Mar-a-Lago: President Biden and his aides have been planning a reelection campaign in large part around the argument that Trump poses a singular threat to American democracy. The former president’s recent social media post in which he called for the “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” in order to place him back in office could serve as Exhibit A.

If Republicans nominate someone else, Democrats will argue that the candidate poses the same threat. But that’s a more difficult case to make to voters, especially if whoever emerges as the GOP nominee keeps a distance from Trump.

In this year’s midterm elections, candidates who closely tied themselves to Trump and his lies about the 2020 election — such as gubernatorial hopefuls Kari Lake in Arizona, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan — all lost. But voters seemed perfectly willing to cast ballots for other Republicans, such as Govs. Brian Kemp in Georgia and Mike DeWine in Ohio.

The evidence for a Trump fade comes from surveys by both partisan and nonpartisan pollsters.

The most recent Wall Street Journal poll found Trump trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis 52%-38% in a hypothetical primary matchup. Perhaps worse for Trump, only 71% of Republicans had a favorable view of him. That’s down from 85% in March and the 90% or higher that polls typically found through most of his presidency.

At the same time, the share of Republicans who see Trump negatively has increased. The Economist/YouGov poll reported last week that 28% of Republicans had an unfavorable view of Trump — the worst rating since YouGov began tracking his image at the start of his presidency. Most of the change had taken place since August, the polling found.

Suffolk University poll conducted for USA Today found that just 47% of Republicans want Trump to run again, compared with 45% who do not. The share that wants him to run dropped from 56% in October and 60% in July.

It’s possible that these polls have caught Trump at a temporary low from which he’ll rebound. He has been through a month of steady negative publicity and has a rival, DeSantis, who benefits from not having been tested in a national campaign.

But those negative headlines aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

Some of the most damaging stories for Trump have resulted from his own actions, including his decision last month to have dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, two of the country’s best-known antisemites. Some Trump supporters blamed the dinner on the former president’s staff and said that in the future, aides would more diligently screen his visitors, but Trump has never taken well to efforts to control him.

On Wednesday, Trump posted on social media that he had a “major announcement” scheduled for Thursday. It turned out to be the launch of a line of digital playing cards featuring cartoon versions of his image. That’s hardly as damaging as dinner with racists, but it’s not the sort of action likely to calm Republicans who worry that their former standard-bearer isn’t focused on the task ahead.

Then there are the legal problems.

Between now and the first primaries of 2024, Trump could face trials in three civil cases: New York state Atty. Gen. Letitia James has accused him and his company of financial fraud involving inflated claims about the value of his assets; the writer E. Jean Carroll has accused him of raping her in the 1990s, then defaming her after she made her allegations public; and investors who lost money in what they allege was a pyramid scheme by a company called American Communications Network have sued him and his adult children for promoting the plan in television ads and public appearances.

Trump has survived many lawsuits over the decades, but now he also has exposure in at least three criminal investigations.

The district attorney in Atlanta is investigating whether he violated Georgia laws with his telephone call on Jan. 2, 2021, pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” — the number he would have needed to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. And Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith is overseeing two federal investigations, one into the Jan. 6 attack and the other into the mishandling of classified documents and other records that Trump hid at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate.

Some Trump backers have suggested that if he were indicted in one or more of those cases, he could use the charges to rally Republican voters to his side. Perhaps. What the current polling suggests, however, is that bad news has encouraged many Republicans, including some inclined to sympathize with Trump, to look for an alternative candidate.

Right now, that’s DeSantis. Whether the Florida governor can maintain his high standing remains unknown — lots of candidates look great until the campaign begins. For now, however, he fulfills the need that many Republicans feel for a candidate who espouses Trump’s policies without his erratic personal behavior.

The Suffolk University poll found that 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they want “Republicans to continue the policies Trump pursued in office, but with a different Republican nominee for president,” compared with 31% who want Trump to run again.

“Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump,” said the poll’s director, David Paleologos.

But, as Paleologos noted, the 31% who still back Trump could be enough to win Republican primaries in a multicandidate field, which is how Trump won in 2016.

And it’s possible that many of those who have stuck with Trump this far will remain with him. His remaining backers are disproportionately rural and white voters who did not go to college — groups that have been among his staunchest supporters since the 2016 campaign. DeSantis does better among groups of Republicans who were more skeptical of Trump to begin with, such as college-educated white voters.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

GOP’s Duarte Takes California Central Valley US House seat

Republican John Duarte defeated Democrat Adam Gray on Friday in a new California U.S. House district in the Central Valley farm belt that produced the closest congressional contest in the state this year.

With virtually all of the ballots counted, Duarte has just over 50% of the vote. Gray conceded in a statement, saying, “I accept the results and have called to congratulate my opponent.”

“This was one of the closest races in the country. More than 130,000 ballots were cast, and the outcome will be decided by just a few hundred votes,” Gray said.

Duarte said in a statement, ”“I promised our Valley families that I would be their bipartisan champion in Washington, D.C. by fighting for food on our tables, gas in our tanks, and water on our farms. That is exactly what I am going to go there to do.”

Earlier, Republicans regained control of the House. With Duarte’s victory, Republicans will hold 221 seats next year, Democrats 213, with one Colorado race undecided and going to a recount.

The 13th District has a prominent Democratic tilt and a large Latino population, similar to other districts in the sprawling farm belt region. But the most likely voters tend to be white, older, more affluent homeowners, while working-class voters, including many Latinos, are less consistent in getting to the polls.

That provided an opening for the GOP, despite the 14-point Democratic registration advantage.

Duarte, a businessman and major grape and almond farmer, was the top finisher in the June primary. His priorities included obtaining adequate water supplies for farmers in the drought-wracked state — a perennial issue in the Central Valley — along with addressing inflation and crime.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

CA GOP Candidate Josh Hoover Defeats Assemblyman Ken Cooley in Assembly 7th District Election

Cooley concedes after slow 3 week vote counting

Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) conceded the Assembly District 7 election to Republican candidate Josh Hoover on Tuesday, ending one of the closest Assembly elections three weeks after election day.

Cooley, who previously was the Mayor and a City Councilman of Rancho Cordova  in the 2000’s and early 2010’s, was first elected to the East Sacramento County seat in 2012, replacing outgoing Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. The Assemblyman won his next elections by at least 54% of the vote. However, redistricting in the last few years, as well as GOP efforts at signing up people to vote, made 2022 his first real Assembly election challenge.

Meanwhile, the GOP backed Hoover, the Chief of Staff to outgoing Assemblyman/incoming Congressman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) and a school board member of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, bringing both Assembly and elected experience. The election proved to be tight, with neither candidate managing to pull far out ahead in any pulls throughout the summer and fall. Early results on election day showed Cooley out ahead by only about 300 votes with 25% of the vote in. As more votes were counted, Hoover slowly took the lead, with mail-in votes, which usually favors Democratic candidates, going more towards Hoovers favor.

By November 18th, a large Democratic vote influx swung the race toward Cooley by over 900 votes. But the rollercoaster of the count continued, and by last week Hoover was up again. On Tuesday, the results stood at 50.5%, or 82,226 votes, for Hoover and 49.5%, or 80,749, for Cooley. With 92% of the votes now counted, the lead was seen as insurmountable for the Cooley campaign, who conceded late on Tuesday, officially flipping what was a Democratic seat.

“I received a call from Assemblyman Ken Cooley today,” said Hoover in a press release. “He was gracious in defeat and congratulated me on my victory. Thank you to the voters for entrusting me to serve the people of the 7th Assembly District and represent our community in the Legislature. I am truly honored.”

Many political experts noted that the win, while not being part of an overall red wave, showed that California is still competitive for Republicans, and may indicate a growing conservative voting base within the state in the coming years.

“Hoover’s win showed that there is still a strong GOP force in California, or at least one strong enough to keep flipping seats,” explained Michelle Wallace, a Washington political analyst of state and federal elections in Western states, to the Globe on Friday. “In terms of the House, California looks like it is going to gain GOP held seats for the first time in forever, Governor Newsom became the first Democratic candidate for Governor to get under 60% since 2006, LA almost elected a non-liberal Democrat as Mayor, and, while more of a mixed-bag, we are still seeing surprises like this pop up in Assembly and state Senate races. The Democrats just lost their Rules Committee Chairman in the Assembly.

“I think we need 2024 to make sure, as the Presidential election and the evening out of the chaos of redistricting can smooth it all out, but it looks like California might be in a gentle turnaround on conservative candidates and policies. There’s been a lot of efforts to turn it around, and with crime worries and growing wildfire, housing and homeless crises affecting everyone, the problems are much more visible and Democrats are being asked now why they didn’t prevent this. Hoover’s win was definitely part of this first tremor, taking an area long held by a Democratic candidate. Democrats now have to go on the offense in a lot more places than usual, and in California, they just aren’t used to that.”

Before Cooley’s concession on Tuesday, the Assembly 7th District race had been the closest in the state.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Some Loudmouth Politicians Are Finally Wearing Out Their Welcome

Voters gave a cold shoulder to candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Los Angeles County voters gave the heave-ho to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

In one typically funny Monty Python sketch, author Oscar Wilde walks into a drawing room and says something pithy to the Prince of Wales: “Your Highness, there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Bystanders laugh for an extended time in a sycophantic manner.

Wilde says something else and, again, he evokes laughter. Once again, Wilde says something similarly inane, but suddenly he faces stunned silence. The Python troupe apparently was poking fun at an incident in Wilde’s career, but I thought of the skit in the context of Donald Trump and the midterms.

First, we have a former president who can think of nothing worse than not being talked about. Second, I’m reminded of how Trump continues to make, er, unusual comments that for years have evoked thunderous applause, but suddenly fewer people find them funny anymore. Something changed after the GOP’s electoral flop.

After Trump gave his big speech on Tuesday, most networks and even Fox News downplayed the rambling talk. The New York Post—a reliably pro-Trump publication—featured this headline at the bottom of its front page: “Florida man makes announcement.” Buried on Page 26, the Post published a brutal short item under the headline, “Been there, Don that.”

“With just 720 days to go before the next election, a Florida retiree made the surprise announcement that he was running for president,” the article explained. “Avid golfer Donald J. Trump kicked things off at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and classified-documents library.” Ouch.

Perhaps Trump Fever finally has broken, which is encouraging after digesting the substance of his speech. He championed law-and-order themes that are inappropriate in a constitutional republic. He vowed to restore public safety by sending the military into cities even if cities don’t want the “help.”

Trump even touted China’s model for handling drug dealers: “If you get caught dealing drugs, you have an immediate and quick trial. And by the end of the day, you’re executed.” Our Constitution assures due process for anyone accused of a crime. Only under totalitarianism can someone be accused of a crime, judged, and executed on the same day. That’s childish posturing, not serious policy.

Nationally, Trump was the biggest loser on Election Day, even though he wasn’t on the ballot. Fortunately, voters rebuked other politicians with a similarly un-American sense of justice. Los Angeles County voters gave the heave-ho to Sheriff Alex Villanueva. They chose former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, who seems like a normal reform-oriented lawman, by a 60-percent to 40-percent margin.

Unlike Trump, Villanueva at least conceded defeat. But his concession speech contained all the whiny, self-focused blather we’ve come to expect. “Every adversity I’ve faced throughout my years in law enforcement has always propelled me to a bigger stage, a bigger audience and a bigger voice,” he said. He certainly has a big voice, but perhaps voters had grown as tired of it as they’ve grown of Trump’s.

As NBC News reported, Villanueva “blamed defeat on what he claimed was a sweeping misinformation campaign and the use of ‘false narratives’ focused on issues including alleged deputy gangs, his alleged resistance of oversight by the county and Civilian Oversight Commission and other allegations of internal harassment and retaliation against purported whistleblowers.”

In April, Villanueva held a press conference where he pointed to a photo of a Los Angeles Times reporter and hinted that she may be a target in a criminal-leak investigation. He later relented, but instead of being observably concerned by the Times‘ reported allegations that “sheriff’s officials attempted to cover up an incident in which a deputy knelt on the head of a handcuffed inmate for three minutes,” he harangued the reporter.

Then there are the deputy-gangs allegations. Some deputies “have been accused of celebrating police brutality, intimidating and retaliating against fellow deputies, and running a shadow hierarchy that operates outside the chain of command,” per LAist.

Deputy gangs undermine trust in law enforcement and could violate citizens’ rights, but Villanueva calls them “cliques” and claims to have handled the problem. He defied subpoenas to testify and viewed the allegations as a political smear. He seemed unconcerned that some of his deputies may sport tattoos with alleged gang names such as Banditos and Executioners.

“I don’t expect deputies to get tattoos of Hello Kitty,” he said during a re-election kickoff event. “These are grown men and women and the tattoos they put on themselves. That’s an expression of their First Amendment right.” Wow.

Click here to read the full article at Reason.com

Is There a Conservative Re-Alignment Taking Place in the Golden State?

Ric Grenell and Fix California are succeeding at an improbable task

Ric Grenell’s Fix California started a statewide inspection of the 58 counties’ voter rolls in July 2021 pushing voter integrity, as well as an effort to register Conservative voters.

An alarming report by the Election Integrity Project California following California’s November 3, 2020 election showed the election was marred by significant voting and registration irregularities. The non-partisan organization analyzed the state’s official voter list of February 9, 2021 and reported its findings to California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber June 17, 2021 – to no avail.

Grenell and his team at Fix California launched their statewide legal survey analyzing the current status of voter rolls throughout the state.

Specifically, Fix California has been looking for and cross-checking inactive registrations, voter registrations cancelled, registrants not satisfying the citizenship requirements for registration, deceased registrants, individuals who moved out of state, the number of voter applicants providing applications to vote with either a blank affirmation of U.S. Citizenship or an affirmation of non-citizenship for 2016 to date, out-of-state change of address requests.

Public records requests have allowed Fix CA to cross check voter data with the California Secretary of State, Department of Motor Vehicles, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address database, California Attorney General, any California Superior Court, the County Health Systems, county and city district attorneys’ offices, and county and city election departments.

This is cross checking which should have been going on all along by counties. And that’s been Grenell’s concern: “through our work on the data front, we are identifying key areas where there appears to be high concentrations of inaccurate or poorly maintained voter rolls.”

Results are starting to pour in for both voter integrity and voter registrations.

Upon founding Fix California only last year, Ric Grenell said he wanted to re-align California, the bastion of liberalism, to a place where conservative ideas and policies have a fighting chance. After this year’s pilot program, where the organization invested high-six figures into a statewide voter registration effort, he may be onto something. Fix California is currently registering over 10,000 conservatives a month at a fraction of the cost of many other national organizations.

Fix California spent 2021 investing in an extensive data analysis to:

(1) Identify California voter roles that were out of data. The organization put every county on notice through a broad legal effort to clean up their voter roles.

(2) Identify a target list of unregistered conservatives. All-in-all Fix California identified 1.4M unregistered conservatives.

In 2022, Fix California ran a two-phase pilot program in the months preceding the June Primary and November General Election working to begin registering these targets.

In total, over 50,000 of Fix California targeted residents have been registered, averaging more than 10,000 registrations per month – ahead of the 2022 Midterm Elections.

According to Grenell, these conservative registration efforts consisted of digital peer to peer engagement via SMS text messaging, emails, and digital advertising.

Fix California also ran engagement via phone banking, with callers making over 136,000 total phone calls to get conservatives registered to vote before the election.Volunteers were recruited at “Take Action” rallies held by Fix California in both Southern and Northern California, where hundreds of attendees came to hear speeches from local conservative leaders, headlined by Ambassador Ric Grenell.

Since the rallies, over 400 people have signed up to volunteer, and Fix CA has trained over 100 of them to use the phone banking system to call conservatives and get them registered to vote.

While the RNC typically spends over $45 per registration during voter registration efforts, Fix California spent under $15 per registration during 2022.

Fix CA’s 2022 engagement was targeted to Contra Costa, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties, determined to be most important for this year.

While Fix California is a non-partisan, non-profit organization, an independent review of the data shows the counties targeted by Fix California may have had major impacts in competitive state and federal elections. (The most recent data is from Friday 11/18/22. Vote/registration data is not finalized).

  • In Assembly District 7, Fix CA registered at least 1,037 new voters. Republican challenger Josh Hoover appears to be down only 906 votes to the incumbent Democrat Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Sacramento).  It’s a surprisingly close result.
  • In Assembly District 47, Fix CA registered at least 1,847 voters. The Republican Greg Wallis is only down by 1,138 votes, with Democrat Christy Holstege at 83,352 votes, and Wallis with 83,284 votes. The current result is so close, the Secretary of State reports candidates are tied at 50% each.
  • In Assembly District 40, Fix California registered 3,431 voters and Republican Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares appears to have defeated Democrat Pilar Shiavo by approximately 1,850 votes.

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

Noncitizen Bill Makes Aliens and Diplomats D.C. Voters

Congress can stop a law that gives the franchise to any adult 30-day district resident.

Hard as it is to believe, the mayor of Washington, D.C., might soon be elected with votes from illegal immigrants or the staff at the Chinese embassy. Last month the D.C. City Council passed a bill to expand the franchise in local elections to any adult with 30 days of residency. Mayor Muriel Bowser did not sign or veto it, so the bill was officially enacted Monday without her signature.

A few jurisdictions have moved to let noncitizens vote in local races, but the D.C. plan stands out, given how it follows progressive ideas to a bizarre conclusion. New York City passed a noncitizen voting law that a court ruled this year was a violation of the state Constitution. But that proposal at least required noncitizen voters to have U.S. work authorization. No such limitation appears in the D.C. bill, meaning illegal aliens and foreign college students would be able to vote, and that’s not all.

“There’s nothing in this measure to prevent employees at embassies of governments that are openly hostile to the United States from casting ballots,” the Washington Post reported. A writer at the lefty New Republic agreed with that assessment: “A Russian diplomat could live their entire life in Moscow or St. Petersburg, take a job as a cultural attaché at Russia’s D.C. Embassy in August 2024, move into their new apartment that September, and cast a ballot in D.C.’s local elections that November.”

It reads like a bad parody of progressive decadence. Try to imagine American diplomatic personnel showing up to cast ballots for the mayor of Beijing or Moscow. Beyond that, the standard objections to noncitizen voting apply. It weakens the incentive to naturalize. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal races, so including noncitizens in local races would force election officials to manage two voter lists and two sets of ballots. It’s begging for a fiasco.

These arguments didn’t persuade the D.C. City Council, which passed the bill 12-1 on first reading. Because the district is a federal enclave, acts of the council are subject to review by Congress, and the bill now goes to Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have 30 legislative days to object via a joint resolution.

Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz have said they will seek to block the noncitizen voting proposal. Will Democrats stand in the way of that attempt? Let’s see the roll call.

Perhaps this is also a moment to think bigger. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has suggested “a constitutional amendment, a U.S. constitutional amendment, that only American citizens vote in our elections.” A 2024 presidential candidate who takes up that call might find a receptive public.

As for D.C., if the passage of this bill with little dissent reflects the rest of its governance, maybe Congress is overdue to consider some deeper reforms in how America’s capital city is run.

Click here to read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

What Divided Government Means for Washington

Republicans’ narrow control of the House of Representatives will usher in a return to divided government in Washington next year, likely shattering the chances of any major legislation, stoking divisions within the GOP and putting President Biden on defense as the new Congress investigates his administration.

Mr. Biden, who downsized his agenda to get bills through a Congress narrowly controlled by Democrats, will now have to contend with House Republicans who have said they plan to pressure him to cut government spending and make other policy changes by threatening to withhold votes to keep the government open or to ensure that the U.S. meets its debt obligations.

The extent of their leverage will likely be limited by Republicans’ performance in the midterms, which fell far short of the blowout many in the party had predicted. The GOP has won enough seats to capture the House majority, the Associated Press said. But supporters of former President Donald Trump and congressional leaders were already blaming each other for the smaller-than-expected margin, a possible sign of divisions to come.

Legislating will likely grind to a near halt, including some bills that once saw bipartisan support but have recently drawn skepticism from Republicans, such as assistance for Ukraine in defending itself against Russia. Republicans will get to push a competing agenda if they can hold their caucus together on key priorities—a daunting task with such a small majority.

“Everybody’s relevant, nobody’s irrelevant,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.). When asked what the razor-thin majority would look like, he said: “Go ask Joe Manchin,” referring to the centrist Democrat who is a key swing vote in the Senate.

Republican leaders say their plans include boosting border security, restricting abortion, encouraging more pay for police and reversing Democrats’ plans to expand the Internal Revenue Service. They will also use their oversight authority to investigate the Biden administration and the president’s family.

“A new Republican House is going to view its mandate as to stop the Biden administration, and I don’t see a whole lot of opportunities for them to necessarily work together,” said Brendan Buck, who worked for Paul Ryan and John Boehner when they were GOP House speakers.

Democrats won a crucial victory in Nevada to retain their hold on the Senate, regardless of the outcome of a coming runoff in the Georgia Senate race. The Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate means a priority for the party in the next two years will be confirming Mr. Biden’s nominees for judges and positions in the executive branch.

Meanwhile, the 2024 presidential campaign is kicking off, with Mr. Trump on Tuesday announcing another run for president.

Several of Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidates lost key races, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a potential challenger to Mr. Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, won easily. The shadow primary could deepen divisions within the House GOP’s narrow majority between Mr. Trump’s loyalists and those ready to move on.

Mr. Biden said after the midterms that it remains his intention to run again but said he wasn’t in a hurry, adding that he expected to make a decision by early next year. Democrats’ performance in the midterms could help Mr. Biden fend off any potential primary challengers as he makes his final decision.

Still, more voters disapproved than approved of the job being done by the president, and more than half of the electorate thinks Mr. Biden, 79 years old, lacks “the mental capacity to effectively serve as president,” according to preliminary results from a poll of more than 94,000 registered voters for The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and Fox News.

The midterm results add Mr. Biden to the list of U.S. presidents who lost House majorities roughly two years after they took office, but unlike his immediate predecessors, Mr. Biden staved off heavy losses.

Former President Barack Obama—who in 2010 lost more than 60 seats and control of the House and saw Democrats’ Senate majority narrowed by six seats—called the outcome a shellacking. Mr. Trump responded to his party’s setback in 2018—when Republicans lost more than 40 seats in the House and the majority—with a defiant, nearly 90-minute press conference. Congressional probes followed both elections; Mr. Trump was impeached twice and acquitted twice in the Senate.

After wrangling members of their own parties to pass some priorities in the first two years of their presidencies, Messrs. Obama and Trump turned to executive authority after the midterms, as Mr. Biden is expected to do. Mr. Biden and Democrats would likely block most Republican proposals. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

Republicans say they could use must-pass bills to push for spending cuts and other priorities, threatening government shutdowns, but it could be difficult to unite the conference around a strategy. The government was shut down in 2013 under Mr. Obama, when some Republicans pushed to repeal Obamacare as part of a spending package. A spending fight between Congress and the Trump administration after the 2018 midterms turned into the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

Generally in shutdowns, government employees miss paychecks, but essential government functions remain open. They haven’t significantly affected economic output, but a prolonged stalemate can affect the stock market. They can have a negative effect politically as polls in recent years have shown voters disapprove of shutdowns.

“When you’ve got divided government, you have the tools that you have at your disposal, and walking away from those tools is dereliction of duty,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R., Texas). “You’re not going to pass grand bipartisan bills to save America.”

Mr. Biden said at a press conference recently that voters don’t want constant political fighting and that he plans to invite leaders of both parties to the White House in the coming weeks.

“I’m prepared to work with my Republican colleagues,” he said. “The American people made clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.)—who is favored to become speaker in the new Congress, though he faces an uphill climb in securing the needed votes—has pointed to legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling as an opportunity to push for spending cuts. In 2011, a standoff with the GOP-controlled House over the debt ceiling sent stocks plunging, leading to Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating for the first time.

Mr. McCarthy has said the House GOP wouldn’t write a blank check for aid to Ukraine, and he has said House Republicans will try to undo legislation that gave the IRS $80 billion to hire tens of thousands of workers, audit more high-income Americans, improve taxpayer service and implement better technology.

Many GOP lawmakers have signed on to a proposed federal abortion ban at 15 weeks of pregnancy, which Democrats campaigned against ahead of the midterms. Early results show the issue helped Democrats win in many races. A survey compiled by the Associated Press found that 10% of those who voted called it the most important issue.

“On the debt limit, on funding the government, on Ukraine, on a whole host of issues, every piece of legislation is going to be about trying to get it across the finish line with someone having a problem that they need to contend with,” said Ron Bonjean, a former senior House GOP aide. “It’s going to be legislative quicksand for the next couple of years.”

Although there is little appetite for major bipartisan bills, there could be support from both parties for narrow bills dealing with regulations on cryptocurrency, tech companies and China, some lawmakers and aides said.

Separate from the legislative jockeying, House Republicans are preparing broad investigations of the Biden administration, including scrutiny of the president’s handling of the southern border. The U.S. Border Patrol arrested a record 2.2 million people caught crossing the southern border illegally in the past year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Lawmakers have also said they would look into the U.S.’s chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan; the origins of the Covid-19 virus and pandemic policies; and the foreign business dealings of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden. Both Bidens have denied wrongdoing. The younger Mr. Biden has said the Justice Department is investigating whether he paid his taxes.

They could also look into the Justice Department’s operations under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who infuriated many GOP lawmakers when he authorized the application for a warrant to seize records with classified material that Mr. Trump took to his home in Florida. The search was part of an investigation into possible mishandling of classified information as well as violations of laws governing retention of presidential records. Mr. Trump has called the probe an effort by Democrats to undermine him.

The White House bolstered its legal team over the summer, hiring Washington defense lawyer Richard Sauber and Ian Sams, who was a spokesman for Vice President Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign. That group is expected to grow ahead of the new Congress, according to people familiar with the planning.

Top Republicans have played down the possibility of impeaching Mr. Biden, but rank-and-file members, who would likely have more power in a narrow House majority, have called for such a move. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) has introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Biden.

During the Obama administration, Republicans dug into the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and a government loan guarantee to the failed solar company Solyndra.

Click here to read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

Democrat Christy Smith, Losing Ground, Blames Her Own Party

With Mike Garcia winning blue district again, she says she got ‘next to zero’ help.

The race for a hotly contested Los Angeles-area congressional district had not been called, but Democrat Christy Smith sensed she would end up on the losing end. And she felt there was a clear reason why.

“Our campaign got next to zero outside resources to fight this battle. In fact, I was fighting the institutional power of my own party from the outset of this race,” Smith said in a scathing series of remarks on Twitter.

With no help on the airwaves and little elsewhere from Democratic Party committees and PACs, she said, “we didn’t stand a chance.”

Smith is no different from scores of other candidates who believe victory would’ve been theirs if not for stingy support from Washington. But her unusually blunt remarks Sunday highlighted the stark turn of events in the campaign for California’s 27th District — a contest in which Democrats were expected to mount an all-out effort to oust incumbent Rep. Mike Garcia after he barely eked out a win two years earlier.

“This is a massive screw-up on their end,” said political consultant Brandon Zavala, who ran Smith’s 2020 campaign but did not work on this year’s race. “We’re looking here at a Biden plus-12 [district] that we’re about to hand to Republicans.”

The typical postelection second-guessing of spending decisions has sharpened with Democrats exceeding expectations in this midterm election. Instead of losing control of the House in a rout, the party nearly held the GOP to a draw, with Republicans probably now on track to have a bare-bones majority.

Now, it appears every spending decision in close races in California and across the country could have tipped the balance enough for Democrats to keep House control.

Veterans of past midterm elections cautioned that such armchair quarterbacking misses the whole picture of how parties decide where to devote resources.

“In hindsight in any election, the easiest thing to say is, ‘I wish I had done more of X,’ ” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and a former top official for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The hardest thing is, ‘I would’ve done less of Y’ in order to pay for it.”

Smith’s woes underscored a particular challenge for candidates running in the Los Angeles media market, where reaching voters via television can be prohibitively expensive. In a year when Democrats were playing defense all across the country, the party opted to stay out of Los Angeles’ broadcast market entirely — a decision that reverberated through closely watched congressional races.

In Orange County, Democrat Jay Chen was outspent by roughly $5 million, according to AdImpact, a firm that tracks TV and digital ads, in his unsuccessful bid to unseat GOP Rep. Michelle Steel, who got millions of dollars of assistance from the House GOP campaign arm and allied outside groups. GOP Rep. Young Kim had around $500,000 more in advertising than her Democratic challenger, Asif Mahmood, whom she easily defeated.

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who remains locked in a close contest with Republican challenger Scott Baugh in Orange County, also got no advertising help from the House’s Democratic campaign committee, although her commanding fundraising meant she had plenty of funds to outspend her opponent.

In Riverside County, Will Rollins, the Democrat who challenged incumbent Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, had a slight advantage on-air, but his unexpectedly narrow loss made some allies wonder whether more party help could’ve made a difference.

“With greater investment from the party leadership, Democrats could have flipped the [seat]. We hope the close nature of this race leads to a meaningful investment in this district — and in breakthrough candidates like Will — moving forward,” the liberal nonprofit group Square One said in a statement.

The Rollins and Mahmood campaigns declined to comment about party spending decisions. A Chen spokesman praised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for its help reaching the district’s multicultural voters, including with digital advertising in Vietnamese, Korean and Mandarin. “While the outcome in this race fell short of what we had hoped for, the DCCC … was an engaged partner,” spokesman Orrin Evans said.

Los Angeles was one of the most expensive media markets in the nation even before a flood of advertising for the city’s mayoral race and statewide gaming initiatives pushed prices higher.

Sheri Sadler, a veteran Democratic media buyer, said the market was so expensive that she didn’t place ads in L.A. for state controller candidate Malia Cohen. “You have to have a war chest in L.A.; that’s just the way it is,” Sadler said, adding that the effectiveness of broadcast ads is declining as viewing habits change.

“The prices keep going up and the ratings keep going down,” she said.

Drew Godinich, a Democratic strategist, said such costly media markets can “act as protective bubbles for incumbents.”

“For challenger candidates, it’s a high barrier to entry — the cost of first defining yourself positively, and then defining your opponent, is nearly prohibitively expensive,” said Godinich, who worked for the DCCC in California in 2018.

Nowhere was the party’s absence more acute than in the 27th Congressional District, which includes Santa Clarita, the Antelope Valley and parts of the San Fernando Valley. The once-solidly GOP region has grown more Democratic as Los Angeles residents moved there for affordable housing. Redistricting — the every-decade redrawing of congressional maps following the census — made the district even bluer by excising conservative Simi Valley.

Garcia handily beat Smith in a special election in 2020 and by just 333 votes for a full term later that year. In that election, Smith, along with the DCCC and House Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), spent nearly $10 million.

Soon after winning reelection, Garcia joined 146 other House Republicans in objecting to the full counting of electoral college votes in January 2021 an effort to overturn Biden’s win in the presidential election. The vote came just hours after supporters of then-President Trump overran the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Garcia maintained a conservative voting record: He opposed impeaching Trump for his role in the insurrection, voted against citizenship for “Dreamers” and co-sponsored legislation that would have in effect banned abortions nationwide.

But he also worked on issues tailored to the district, particularly regarding military families and veterans — a potent issue in a region with deep ties to the armed forces and the aerospace industry. His ads highlighted his background as a former Navy fighter pilot and focused on fiscal issues such as lowering taxes.

Smith, in an interview, said she lacked the money to tell voters about his record, a message she believes could have tipped the race.

“Absolutely, it would have made a difference,” she said, adding she had gotten “hammered” by outside Republican groups’ TV ads.

With the possibility that the district would be “the tipping point to hold the House,” Smith said on Twitter, “the utter lack of investment made no sense.”

Smith also faulted national Democrats for recruiting former Navy intelligence officer John Quaye Quartey to run against her in the primary. (Quartey’s campaign declined to comment on the issue, as did the DCCC.) Smith said she and her allies had to spend heavily in the primary to defeat Quartey, who ultimately received single-digit support.

Garcia and GOP groups spent over $7 million on advertising between Labor Day and election day, while Smith spent less than $1 million; Democratic allies spent under $50,000 on digital ads, according to AdImpact.

This year, the House Majority PAC initially booked $3.3 million in television time in Los Angeles, but canceled it, as they did in other races around the country. A spokesman for the committee did not respond to a request for comment.

The DCCC never booked a dime. A spokeswoman said the committee faced unprecedented spending by Republican groups.

“We had to make tough calls and fully invest in the candidates we believed could not only get close, but win difficult races in California and nationwide,” said Maddy Mundy, a DCCC spokeswoman.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which spent heavily promoting Garcia, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Garcia’s campaign.

As of Tuesday evening, the race had not been called by the Associated Press. Republicans remained on the cusp of capturing the House majority, needing only one more win.

Garcia declared victory the day after the election and applauded Smith for “jumping in the ring again.”

While Smith has not conceded, she acknowledges that overcoming Garcia’s lead is unlikely. She said in an interview that she felt it was important to speak out before the race is called.

“I wanted to put the narrative out at a time when hopefully it didn’t seem like sour grapes,” Smith said. “Regardless of the outcome of this particular race, I still have a responsibility as a Democratic leader in the state to highlight areas where we could be doing better.”

Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign newsletter, said he was sympathetic to Smith, but he also recognized why national Democrats pulled back.

“You have to consider, any Democrat that’s losing any Democratic district, that is being won by a Republican despite Joe Biden carrying it by double digits, has to be considered a missed opportunity,” he said. “But I’m not surprised at all by this result.”

He said Smith’s history in the district explained the party’s decisions.

“I think Democrats took a look at 2020, when Joe Biden won the [district] by 11 points or so — they spent $10 million to support Christy Smith trying to beat Mike Garcia. Then she came up just short. Then they looked at how her campaign was going over the summer. And they triaged. They decided that the money was better spent elsewhere,” Rubashkin said.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Kevin McCarthy Wins GOP Nomination for House Speaker Amid Party Factions

 Republican leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination Tuesday for House speaker, clearing a first step with majority support from his colleagues, but he now faces a weeks-long slog to quell right-flank objections before a final vote in the new year.

McCarthy has led House Republicans this far, and with the party now on the cusp of majority control, he has a chance to seize the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if Democrats are defeated.

The GOP leader won a 188-31 vote, with ballots cast by new and returning lawmakers, but the challenges ahead are clear. McCarthy will need to grind out support from no fewer than 218 lawmakers from his slim ranks when the new Congress convenes in January, leaving just a few votes to spare.

“We’re going to have the ability to change America,” McCarthy said, upbeat as he entered the private meeting.

He noted backing from right-flank Republicans Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as part of his “vast support.”

But Republican leaders are facing an intense backlash on Capitol Hill over their disappointing performance in the midterm elections, when McCarthy’s promises of a GOP sweep that would transform Washington collapsed. Instead, the House could have one of the slimmest majorities in 90 years, leaving McCarthy exposed to challengers.

The fallout is spilling down-ballot into other Republican leadership races and into the Senate, where Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face a challenge from GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the party’s campaign chairman, in Wednesday’s elections. Scott announced his bid at a party lunch Tuesday.

The former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, announced he was challenging McCarthy, saying Americans want a “new direction.”

“The promised red wave turned into a loss of the United States Senate, a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, and upset losses of premiere political candidates,” Biggs said in a statement. “McCarthy does not have the votes needed to become the next Speaker of the House and his speakership should not be a foregone conclusion.”

Many in the Republican Party are blaming their losses on Donald Trump, the former president who endorsed hundreds of candidates, many of them far-right contenders rejected by voters. Trump is expected to announce his 2024 bid for the White House from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Tuesday evening.

It’s not just McCarthy whose leadership is in question but his entire team. This includes Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the campaign chairman who traditionally would be rewarded with a leadership spot but finds himself in a three-way race for GOP whip that was forced into a second-round of voting.

The No. 2 Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had an easier time, winning the majority leader spot uncontested, by voice vote. He pledged that House Republicans, if they win the majority, will launch “oversight necessary to hold the Biden Administration accountable.”

And one of Trump’s top allies in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York — the third-ranking House Republican and the first lawmaker to back Trump in a 2024 run — is working to fend off rival Rep. Byron Donalds, a Black Republican from Florida seen by many lawmakers as a potential new party leader.

A self-described “Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Black man,” Donalds said after a closed-door forum late Monday he has enough support for the race with Stefanik to be close.

Trump backs McCarthy for speaker, but the two have had a rocky relationship, and even Trump’s support is no guarantee McCarthy will reach the needed 218 votes when the new Congress convenes, particularly if Republicans win the House with just a slim, few-seat majority that would leave him no cushion for detractors.

At least one Trump ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said he’s voting no on McCarthy.

It’s a familiar dynamic for House Republicans, one that befell their most recent Republican speakers — John Boehner and Paul Ryan — who both retired early rather than try to lead a party splintered by its far-right flank.

McCarthy survived those earlier battles between party factions, but he was forced to back out of a bid for the speaker’s job in 2015 when it was clear he did not have support from conservatives.

The weeks ahead promise to be a grueling period of hardball negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and rank-and-file Republicans as McCarthy tries to appease them and rack up the support he will need in the new year.

In a sign of how desperate Republicans are to bolster their ranks, some made overtures to conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas to switch parties and join the GOP.

“They just said, ’name your price,″” Cuellar told reporters. “I’m a Democrat.”

The conservative Freedom Caucus lawmakers, who typically align with Trump, are prepared to extract demanding concessions from McCarthy before giving him their backing. They have a long list of asks — from prime positions on House committees to guarantees they can have a role in shaping legislation.

“I’m willing to support anybody that’s willing to change dramatically how things are done here,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, said after meeting privately with McCarthy.

But even rank-and-file lawmakers are assessing their choices for speaker, a position that is second in line to the president.

“I don’t just automatically assume heir apparent, necessarily,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who said he is still studying his choice for House speaker.

“We are voting for somebody who is going to be two heartbeats from the presidency,” he said.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNewsLA