Previewing California's House Primaries
CA-02: Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman is the leading favorite to replace retiring Rep. Lynn Woolsey in a deeply liberal district north of San Francisco. But because of that, Huffman will likely face another Democrat in the general election, and liberal activist Norman Solomon and businesswoman Stacey Lawson would make for very different races in the fall. CA-08: Just about anything could happen here, except a Democratic victory in the fall; it's a R+11 district, according to the Cook Report. But 10 Republicans and an ex-Republican independent are competing for the open seat, which covers a massive swathe of southeastern California, making grassroots campaigning difficult. Assemblyman Paul Cook and San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt have some name ID from previous races, but the sheer size of the district and the field makes prognostication impossible. CA-10: Rep. Jeff Denham's Central Valley district got more competitive when the congressional map was redrawn, and Democratic ex-astronaut Jose Hernandez makes Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel's eyes light up whenever Hernandez comes up in conversation -- which is often. Independent Chad Condit is making a low-budget bid for the general election, and his father's time in Congress left him with some residual name recognition, but Condit faces the same problem as independents everywhere: The middle might not be turning out for this year's primary. CA-15: Democratic Rep. Pete Stark's volatility and occasional rudeness have irked many people over his long tenure, but he always won primaries and then crushed Republican opponents in a very liberal East Bay district. This year, Democratic Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell has made a strong push for the general election, forcing Stark into some unusually bad gaffes as the veteran tried to keep Swalwell out of contention for the top two. CA-21: National Republicans have decided on their standard bearer in this new seat: Assemblyman David Valadao, who was among the National Republican Congressional Committee's first crop of "Young Gun" candidates. Democrats lost their earliest recruit to family issues and now prefer Blong Xiong over John Hernandez. CA-26: As I wrote in On Call last week, independent Linda Parks has given national Democrats serious heartburn, but leading Democrat Julia Brownley and outside Democratic groups have outspent Parks by a huge margin, and money usually ends up being a reliable predictor in open primary races. Brownley entered the race late and has other Democratic contenders to deal with, and Parks has name recognition as a longtime Ventura County supervisor. If Parks advances to the top two, she would deny Democrats a big pickup opportunity in a seat that gave President Obama over 55 percent of its vote in 2008. Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland is a dynamite fundraiser, a NRCC "Young Gun," and, as the only Republican on the ballot, is all but assured of a spot in the general. CA-30: Berman and Sherman are both likely to advance to the general election after spending over $5.5 million between them before the primary. That trend will continue in the general election, which looks likely to be the most expensive House race in the nation. CA-31: GOP Rep. Gary Miller does not currently represent any of the 31st District in Congress. On paper, that gives an advantage to fellow Republican Bob Dutton, who has represented a big chunk of the seat in California's state Senate. But big spending by Miller and several super PACs has swamped Dutton; the district will be another interesting test case of the power of money in politics. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a DCCC "Red to Blue" candidate, is likely to advance over a small field that includes a few other Democrats. CA-44: Richardson's fundraising has slowed considerably this year amidst a string of ethics problems, and Hahn could more or less shut the door on her with a strong performance in the primary, as noted above. CA-47: State Sen. Alan Lowenthal has the inside track for Democrats in this new Long Beach seat, while Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong has outspent ex-Rep. Steve Kuykendall among Republicans. CA-52: Democrats are excited about the prospect of challenging Rep. Brian Bilbray, whose seat got more competitive after redistricting. First, though, leading Democratic candidates Scott Peters and Lori Saldana have engaged in a bruising primary fight, in which Peters outspent Saldana about 5-to-1. The primary is one of two high-profile contests for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Tuesday. The liberal group endorsed Saldana and is looking for its first victory of the 2012 House cycle.
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