US House Races/California

Report by Bruce Driver from Indivisible North Boulder.

California District 07:

Candidates are Ami Bera (incumbent D) and Andrew Grant (R).   This race has been targeted by the RNC.   

Bera, a three-term incumbent, is the son of Indian immigrants.   He won his last two races by 1%-2% and won his 2018 primary with 52% of the vote.   His race in 2016 was knockdown/dragout and the most expensive race in the state. He obtained a B.S. and M.D. degrees from the UC-Irvine.   He served as Associate Dean of Admissions at UC-Davis School of Medicine and was the Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County. His website is detailed on his positions on health policy, including a number of ideas to fix Obamacare, that health care is a right and that we should be on the pathway to single-payer.  He voted against the tax-cut bill, legislation to penalize sanctuary cities and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. He believes climate change is real, favors clean energy, opposes off-shore drilling and wants to eliminate bump stocks (but does not mention assault rifles). I’d say he is a moderate/progressive in a district that is no shoo-in for Ds running for the House.  He had $1.4 million cash on hand in May.

Grant came in second in the 2018 primary with 33% of the vote.   He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, American Military University, National Defense Intelligence College and also has an MBA from Sacramento State.   He was commissioned as a Marine and saw action in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He has also been the CEO of the Northern California Trade Center, which promotes exports.   In an interview with the Los Angeles Times about one year ago, he said he would be developing his positions on healthcare, immigration and other issues. He does not appear to have done so if you look at his website today, which contains general, unobjectionable statements on taxes, economic growth and other issues.   He does say that we need to establish “fair practices” toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a position that many Rs can’t seem to accept. He says he voted for Trump. He is way behind Bera in cash on hand, with only $59,000 in May.

Description of district: This district includes eastern Sacramento suburbs and terrain to the East toward the foothills of the Sierra, including the town of Folsom.   It is said to be 57% White, 8% Black,16% Asian and 16% Hispanic. HMI was $61,000. Hillary won it by 11% in 2016. Cook gives it a PVI of D+2, and says that it is “likely D.”  

Summary: Bera may be in for a tough match against Grant, given Grant’s military background.   Grant will likely attract outside support from insurance companies and other corporations, while Bera likely will have to depend on progressives and clean energy companies for support.   Fortunately for him, he starts way ahead of Grant financially.


California District 10

Candidates are Jeff Denham (incumbent R) and Josh Harder (D)

Denham is an almond farmer in the Central Valley and a four-term incumbent in Congress.  He was on active duty and then a reserve in the U.S. Air Force from 1984-1998. He has a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly U.   His positions and votes show him to be a fairly standard conservative R in the Trump era, with a couple exceptions. He voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, wants to deny funding to sanctuary cities, voted for the tax-cut bill but against the Omnibus spending bill, in favor of repeal of Obamcare, is against greenhouse gas regulation and gun control legislation, is in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, favors a reduction of federal involvement in education and wants to lower corporate income taxes to encourage economic growth.   However, he wants to raise Medicaid reimbursements for physicians and is a leader in promoting a full debate on the House Floor on immigration issues, having co-authored the pending discharge petition, although he seems to support the Wall. In short, his politics resemble David Valadao’s in Cal District 21, described below, likely for the same reasons. He won his primary with 38% of the vote and had $2.1 million in cash on hand in May.

Harder teaches business at Modesto Junior College.  He has a B.A. in political science and economics from Stanford and an MBA/MPP from Harvard.   He spent several years at Boston Consulting Group, took a leave of absence to help small farmers organize in Kenya and Uganda with the Gates Foundation, then was a consultant to small business in the U.S.   A down-the line progressive, he says he is pro-choice, for Medicare for all but with fixes to, but no repeal of, Obamacare and for lower drug prices/imports from Canada. He chastizes Denham, saying that he talks a good game on immigration but does little.   Harder wants comprehensive immigration reform, is against the Wall and favors placing DACA recipients on a path to citizenship. On water, an important issue in the Valley, he promotes agricultural water use efficiency, more water storage/replenishing aquifers and inland de-salination plants.   He says climate change is real, advocates for renewable resources and moving away from fossil fuels. He opines that he is a “fierce advocate” for women’s rights and wants to take California’s tough gun control legislation national. He came in second (to Denham) in his primary with 16% of the vote, just squeaking by another R.   (There were 5 other Ds in the race.) He had $367,000 in cash on hand in May.

Description of district:  This is a large area of the northern San Joaquin Valley to the East of San Jose.   Its center is the city of Modesto. It is said to be 46% White, 4% Black, 8% Asian and 40% Hispanic.  HMI was $50,000. Hillary won by 3% in 2016. Cook gives it a PVI of zero, meaning that its voting in the Presidential elections in 2012 and 2016 was the same as the national average.  And Cook rates the race this fall as a “toss-up.”

Summary: Harder is great candidate for this district with the background to show he walks the talk.   Denham is a multi-term incumbent with substantial political skills, contacts and the money to support his campaign.   He will be hard to beat this fall, but Harder could do it, as long as he attracts the resources to compete. Immigration may be the decisive issue in the campaign.


California District 21

Candidates are David Valadao (Incumbent R) and T.J. Cox (D).   

Valadao is a three-term incumbent and is Managing Partner of Valadao Dairy.   He attended College of the Sequoias and spent a term in the California Assembly.   A major issue for this district is water supply, and Valadao speaks out on it frequently, decrying federal and state regulations that require water to be kept in the stream for environmental purposes.   He decries the size of our federal debt but voted for the tax-cut and Omnibus bills, saying that the way to deal with the debt is to reduce spending (!). He voted to repeal Obamacare, for concealed carry and for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.   He appears to be down-the-line right-wing Republican (voting with Trump 99% of the time), except on immigration: He advocates for comprehensive reform, is a co-sponsor of the “Dream Act” and signed the discharge petition to hold a debate on immigration in the House.   He is the son of immigrants, and his district is majority-Hispanic. He won by 13% in 2016. He won his 2018 primary with 64% of the vote. He had $1.3 million cash on hand in May.

TJ Cox is a businessman who runs a community development agency that uses federal tax credits to promote economic development in distressed neighborhoods in the Central Valley.   He has a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Nevada and an MBA from Southern Methodist. He jumped into this race in March after the leading candidate dropped out.  He had moved to Modesto to challenge Jeff Denham in the 10th district, but decided instead to challenge Valadao in the 21st.   To do so, he moved, again, to Fresno where his business is located, but Fresno is not part of the 21st.   (Huh?)   I could not find a statement of positions for him.   He says he will go after Valadao on healthcare. He has been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and by Gabby Giffords’ “Vote Courage” campaign.   He had $442,000 cash on hand in May.

Description of district: This is a large swath of the central and southern San Joaquin Valley and is the nation’s largest dairy district.   It includes parts of Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties and outer parts of Bakersfield. It is home to Big Agriculture.   It is said to be 19% White, 4% Black, 3% Asian and 71% Hispanic, and its HMI was $37,000. Hillary won by 16% in 2016. Cook gives it a PVI of D+5 but says that it “leans R” this fall.

Summary: I can see why Cook rates this race as “lean R,” since Valadao seems popular, well-known and skillful, if too far right for the district, while Cox is a late-comer and seems disorganized.   Valadao’s rout of Cox on June 5 is more evidence of where this race stands now. In this primary, Hispanic turnout was very low. There is time for Cox to up his game, but he better get going or he may lose big, this in a district that is overwhelmingly D by registration.


California District 25

Candidates are Steve Knight (incumbent R) and Katie Hill (D).

Knight is a two-term incumbent.  He served in the U.S. Army for 18 years in active and reserve status.   He also worked for the Los Angeles Police Department, was on the Palmdale City council and served two terms in the California State Assembly and one term in the State Senate.   He has an Associate of Arts degree from Antelope Valley College. His web-page is very thin on the issues, but his statements and votes have been recorded by Vote Smart and other sources.   He has voted with Trump 99% of the time, is pro life/voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, believes that taxes should not be increased to balance the budget but voted for a Balanced Budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for the tax-cut bill and Omnibus spending bill and believes that the government should spend money to promote economic growth (see any inconsistencies?), favors repeal of Obamcare, voted for concealed carry reciprocity, favors sending illegals “home” before they may apply for citizenship, is reported to have stated that Social Security is a “bad idea,” believes that a virtual Wall is better than a completely physical one, opposes greenhouse gas regulation but favors government support of renewables and does not like Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.   He won his primary with 53% of the vote and had $1 million in cash on hand in May.

Hill is executive director of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), a non-profit assisting the homeless to move into housing and offering other services.   PATH is said to have an annual budget of $50 million. She is a graduate of Cal-State Northridge where she obtained a B.A. in English and an MPA. Her website is a little thin on the issues so far, and she has not provided Vote Smart with information, but other web sources say that she: favors strengthening Obamacare on the way to Medicare for All, supports reproductive choice, stands behind Planned Parenthood, wants a federal ban on assault rifles, wants to protect public schools from privatization, favors a path to citizenship for Dreamers, supports labor unions, supports campaign finance reform and tax rebates for small donors to campaigns, would work for a 5-year ban on lobbying by ex-members of Congress and supports the LGBTQ community(she is publicly bi-sexual).   She got 20% of the vote in her primary (way behind Knight), but there were 3 other Ds in the primary, whereas Knight had no competition among Rs by the time of the primary. She had $303,000 in cash in hand in May.

Description of district: This is northern Los Angeles County and parts of Ventura County.   It includes northern parts of the city of Los Angeles, the cities of Simi Valley and Palmdale and the Channel Islands.  It had an HMI of $69,000. It is said to be the most R district located primarily in Los Angeles County, but is changing demographically rapidly from white and wealthy to ethnically diverse.  It is 45% White, 8% Black, 8% Asian and 35% Hispanic. Hillary won by 7% in 2016. Cook gives it a PVI of zero and, in 2018, it is a “toss-up.”

Summary: Hill would be breath of fresh air for this changing district.   The question is whether the district has changed enough to push her over the line against a traditional Republican.   She starts off at a significant financial disadvantage and could use our help.


California District 39  This is an open-district race to replace Rep. Royce.

Candidates are Gil Cisneros (D) and Young Kim (R)

Cisneros has been an Operational Supply Employee at Frito Lay and a Supply Officer for the U.S. Navy.   He has a B.A. in Political Science from George Washington, an M.A. from Brown in Urban Education Policy and an MBA from Regis University.   He and his wife won $266 million in the Mega Million Lottery in 2010.   Since then, he has contributed to civic organizations and serves on non-profit boards, especially those that are Hispanic.   He was a Republican until 2008, when he is said to have stated that the GOP had become too ideological. His Statement of Issues on his website is detailed.   He: is pro-choice, favors tax increases to help balance the budget, opposes lowering corporate taxes to grow the economy, believes climate change is real/supports regulation of greenhouse gases, would ban assault weapons, emphasizes water conservation, opposes repeal of Obamacare and believes that federal education standards should apply to the states.   Uniquely among candidates I’ve researched for these reports, he states his support for animal rights, for the Endangered Species Act and environmental justice. He also says he will hold Pruitt accountable at EPA (lots of luck). There were 17 candidates on his primary’s ballot. He got 19% of the vote and had $168,000 cash on hand in May. One assumes that he may have additional cash that he could loan the campaign.

Kim won this primary with 22% of the vote.   She emigrated from South Korea in 1975, attended U.S.C., was a financial analyst for a bank and controller for a company and a TV and radio personality on Korean media in Los Angeles.   She was a member of the California State Assembly for one term (2014-2016). However, what she mainly has done is to be retiring Congressman Ed Royce’s Director of Communications and Asian Affairs for 21 years.   She has deep roots in the Korean/Asian community in the district, and this is her political base. Her campaign website has only a few bland statements about issues with no details, and she has provided Vote Smart with no info.   She is said in the press to want to promote jobs in the district, beef up education in science, engineering and math and treat people who came to the U.S. as kids with fairness and compassion. She got a zero rating from California League of Conservation Voters over her term in the Assembly, and those who endorsed her are the usual Republican interests.

Description of district: This is located SE of the city of Los Angeles and includes part of Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Bernardino County and many medium-sized cities, including Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills and Fullerton.  Its HMI was $79,000. It is said to be 34% White, 2% Black, 29% Asian and 33% Hispanic. Hillary won by 9% in 2016. Cook’s PVI for the district is zero and it rates the race this fall as a “toss-up.”

Summary: Kim seems to be depending on the very large Asian community in the district to carry her over the finish line.  Neither her website nor legislation she sponsored in the California State Assembly gives a clue what she thinks about any of the issues she may confront in Congress, but her Assembly votes seem to show her as conservative, especially on environmental issues.  Cisneros is clearly the progressive in this race. Will his money carry him forward or will it be a millstone around his neck? Probably both.


California District 45  

Candidates are Mimi Walters (incumbent R) and Katie Porter (D)

Walters won her primary with 53% of the vote, but she was the only R in the primary.   She is a two-term incumbent in the House, having been Mayor of Laguna Niguel, served two terms in the State Assembly and six years in the State Senate.   She has a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and worked as an investment Advisor at Drexel, Burnham and Lambert. She is a conservative R with nothing in her House record that I saw to indicate any deviation from this characterization.  She voted for the Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution but “yes” on the tax-cut and Omnibus spending bills, yes on concealed carry reciprocity, on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, penalties on sanctuary cities, repeal of Obamacare and disapproval of an Obama-era stream-protection rule.  She opposes regulation of greenhouse gases, is against more gun control legislation and supports the Wall.

In her political values, Porter is the opposite of Walters.  She has a B.A. from Yale in American Studies and a J.D. from Harvard and teaches law at the law school at UCal-Irvine.   She has also worked in the Cal AG’s office, as a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, as a Professor of Law at Iowa Law School and Visiting Professor at UNLV Law School.   She supports Medicare for All, opposes repeal of Obamacare, seeks a ban on assault weapons and comprehensive mental health treatment to help avoid mass shootings, would try to overturn the tax-cut bill, favors comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, opposes off-shore drilling, favors high air-pollution emission standards, supports renewable resources, is for reproductive freedom and strong consumer-protection regulations.   Both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have cut commercials for her. She won only 20% of the primary, but she had three other Democrats in the race and had $173,000 cash on hand in May.

Description of district: This compact and densely populated district is also SE of the city of Los Angeles, is entirely in Orange County and includes the communities of Irvine, Laguna Hills and Mission Viejo among many other towns and cities.   Orange County used to be solidly White and solid R terrain, but the demographics have slowly changed over the last 2-3 decades. The district is now said to be 55% White, 1% Black, 21% Asian and 18% Hispanic. It had an HMI of $92,000.   Hillary won by 4% in 2016, but Cook says this district has a PVI of R+3 and rates this race as “lean R.”

Summary: Porter would be a great replacement for doctrinaire Walters for this district.   Feisty and smart, she would likely emerge as a leader in the House. But Walters is popular, dug-in and will be tough to beat even as this district is changing, especially in light of her significant funding advantage.  Porter is definitely a candidate worth supporting.


California District 48:

Dana Rohrbacher, the incumbent R, won the primary with 31% of the vote.   Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda, both Ds, each obtained about 17% of the vote and are next, assuring that a D will challenge Rohrabacher in the election this fall, but the difference between the two amounts to barely 100 votes, with Keirstead slightly ahead.   A re-count is likely. When this situation is resolved, I’ll report on this race. The following is a description of this district.


Description of district:  This is another district wholly within Orange County.  It includes many of the coastal towns/cities that are well-known for surfing and from Beach Boy songs, including Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Sunset Beach and parts of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.   Sunny southern Cal. Its HMI was $80,000 and is said to be 59% White, 1% Black, 18% Asian and 20% Hispanic. Hillary won by 2% in 2016. Cook says it has a PVI of R+4 but that this race is a “toss-up.”


California District 49: 

Candidates are Mike Levin (D) and Diane Harkey (R). This is another open seat, this time created when Darrell Issa announced his retirement.

Levin is a strong clean-energy advocate and professional in southern California.   He has a B.A. from Stanford and a J.D. from Duke Law School. He has been Director and Co-Founder of Clean-Tech Orange County, Director of Government Affairs for Fuel Cell Energy, Member Board of Directors of the California Hydrogen Business Council and of the Center for Sustainable Energy.   His priorities include: promotion of clean energy, Medicare for All, affordable higher education, preventing gun violence, protecting Social Security and a Woman’s right to choose and a $15/hr. minimum wage. He supports greenhouse gas regulation, animal welfare, tax increases on some tax brackets to balance the budget, regulation of indirect contributions by corporations and labor unions to political candidates, banning assault weapons, fixing but not repealing Obamacare, protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination and application of some federal education standards to the states.  He is particularly outspoken on Trump’s walking away from climate change and environmental protection. He is a “No” on the Wall and for a pathway for law-abiding undocumented immigrants to citizenship. He is clearly a progressive, and he walks the talk in his work. He took 18% of the vote in his primary in which there were 15 candidates. He had $279,000 cash on hand in May.

Harkey is a Member of the California State Board of Equalization, has been active in local government affairs in the district, was Mayor of the municipality of Dana Point and spent six years in the State Assembly.   Professionally, she had a 30-year career in corporate banking and finance. She has a B.A., Cum Laude, in Economics from UC-Irvine. She does not discuss issues on her web-page and gave no info to Vote Smart.  But there is information on her stands in the press and in online sources. She has an A rating from the NRA. She received a 3 out of 100, where 100 is “perfectly liberal,” in her second year in the State Assembly.   She calls herself a “conservative” and is co-Chair of the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative on the California ballot this fall. She has an A rating from the California Chamber of Commerce and says that she favors lower taxes, except where the feds need to help California strengthen its infrastructure (!).   She is pro-Wall or reinforcing existing border infrastructure. She says she supports Trump’s economic program. She is definitely a conservative R.

Description of district:  This district covers the northern coastal areas of San Diego County and includes the cities of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and Encinitas.   Camp Pendleton is also located in this district. Its HMI is $81,000 and is said to be 62% White, 2% Black, 7% Asian and 26% Hispanic. Hillary won by 8%  in 2016. Cook says it has a PVI of R+1 and rates this open race as a “toss-up.”

Summary: If you care about clean energy, you want Levin in Congress.   He would immediately be among the most educated, experienced and passionate members of Congress on this issue.   He is also a solid progressive on other key issues. This district deserves better than Harkey, who would likely follow Trump on just about every issue.