California Democratic supremacy tested by crime and inflation

Democrats in many parts of the country are facing a potentially bleak political year, but no one in California is talking about the liberal stronghold changing direction.

The largely irrelevant California GOP could field only little-known candidates for U.S. Governor and Senate, and the GOP appears to have only isolated chances of surprise, even in what should be favorable conditions for the match.

Mail-in ballots are now going out for the June 7 primary election that will set the stage for the November runoffs. The election is taking place amidst a cauldron of uncertain political issues: the possible reversal of the Roe v. Wade of the 1973 Supreme Court that legalized abortion, widespread frustration with a homeless crisis and with residents suffering from pocketbook stress due to runaway inflation and rising housing costs. the state median price hit a record high of $849,080 in March.

President Joe Biden’s popularity has waned, even among some of his fellow Democrats, and the party in the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. California Democrats turned out in historic numbers in 2020 to defeat then-President Donald Trump in a landslide, but next month’s turnout is expected to drop with little drama at the top of the ticket: Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. American Alex Padilla, both Democrats. they face only token opposition.

But none of that adds up to a threat to Democratic supremacy in the state. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1 statewide. Democrats are expected to maintain their large majority in the Legislature.

The Republican Party won four seats in the US House of Representatives in 2020, but Democrats still dominate the Congressional delegation, holding all but 10 of the House’s 53 seats, with one vacancy.

At a GOP state convention last month, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said he would have the house gavel in January, not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of St. Francisco. He predicted more House upsets in California would tip the balance of power in the chamber, but the GOP faces tough races to hold its ground.

Recent history is not encouraging for the Republican Party. Last year, Newsom seemed vulnerable but then easily defeated an impeachment effort fueled by critics of his handling of the pandemic.

“We don’t have a real race for governor. We don’t have a real race for senator,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, who cited the lopsided recall election as evidence of the GOP’s faded prospects, even as Democrats are on the defensive nationally.

“The problem here is that the Republican caucus is very thin,” Pitney added. “There are really no Republicans in California who have a state profile.”

The most closely watched races in the state this year do not involve Republican hopefuls. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, local district attorneys are blamed for reforms that some say fueled the rise in crime. The removal of Chesa Boudin from San Francisco is on the ballot next month. The petition signatures needed to qualify a recall are still gathering in Los Angeles County, where George Gascón could be forced to defend his seat later this year.

Los Angeles will also elect a new mayor from candidates including Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who was on Biden’s shortlist of vice presidential candidates, and billionaire developer Rick Caruso, a longtime Republican turned independent. and then shortly before entering the mayoral race. , registered as a Democrat.

Arguably the most threatened Democrat on the statewide ticket is Attorney General Rob Bonta, a reform-minded Newsom appointee facing challenges from two Republicans and an independent candidate, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who they blame him for increases in crime. Schubert recently left the GOP and is betting that a different ID on the ballot will attract more votes.

A promising new face for Republicans is state controller candidate Lanhee Chen, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, who has multiple degrees from Harvard University, served in the administration of President George W. Bush and won support from the editorial board. left-leaning Los Angeles Times.

Among the top congressional races, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending his seat north of Los Angeles in a Democratic-leaning district. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, is seeking another term in a sharply divided waterfront district in Orange County. And nearby, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, a Korean immigrant, is seeking to win a second term in a district with a slight Democratic edge that includes the largest Vietnamese American community in the country.

Predictions of a disastrous year for Democrats nationally are being reassessed following the leak of a preliminary US Supreme Court ruling that would overturn the landmark abortion decision.

Newsom has called it the “defining issue” in the election and backs a November ballot proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, a move Democrats hope will draw more voters to the polls. It remains to be seen whether abortion could trump economic woes and public safety among voters.

A final ruling in the case is not expected until the end of the court’s term in June. If Roe is struck down, the fallout is likely to be concentrated in conservative-leaning or swing states that could see abortion heavily restricted or banned. California is looking to expand those rights: Newsom wants the state to be a “safe haven” for those seeking abortion, and among the bills in the Legislature is one that would pay the costs for pregnant women to come from another state.

Trump’s influence has framed races in Ohio and Georgia, but his presence is largely peripheral in California. However, his support will be a problem in some close races, particularly races for Congress.

The issue for California Republicans is whether enough voters, frustrated with rising crime, homelessness and the economy, will voice their grievances about Democrats.

“If there was ever going to be a time for a Republican to legitimately attempt a statewide bid, this is the year to do it,” said Matt Rexroad, a GOP consultant advising Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor and one of five candidates running. running for attorney general.

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