All of California’s congressional races are now settled, and the outcomes are a little unsettling for a Golden State GOP that though it might walk away with some gains in America’s largest state in this otherwise strong year for Republicans coast to (well, almost the other) coast.
In three districts where where Republicans had high hopes of knocking off vulnerable Democratic incumbents, the GOP challenger got inside the 5-yard-line but couldn’t gross the goal line.
That would include:
CA CD7: Democrat Ami Bera defeating Republican Doug Ose by 1,400 votes out of over 183,000 votes.
CA CD 26: Democrat Julia Brownley defeating Republican Jeff Gorell by less than 3,300 votes out of nearly 163,000 votes case.
CA CD 52: Democrat Scott Peters defeating Republican Carl DeMaio by 6,000 votes out of over 191,500 votes cast.
And there’s CA CD 16 — the cliffhanger no one saw coming — where Republican Johnny Tacherra came within 1,300 votes (out of over 91,000 votes cast) of unseating Democratic Rep. Jim Costa.
The moral of the story?
Republicans can argue tactics — one argument being that more resources should have been shifted Gorell’s way, given that as a young Assemblyman he has more of a long-term investment than Ose, a former congressman from back in the late 1990s.
But I think the bigger story here is evolution — and the California GOP slowing moving to an upright position.
In 2014, Republicans won races in legislative districts where they enjoyed numerical or ideological advances.
But the party did take a step forward in at least one race that in the past few elections might have amounted to wishful thinking. And that would be California’s 16th Assembly District, where Republican Catherine Baker won by nearly 4,200 votes (out of nearly 135,000 votes cast) in a suburban Bay Area district that used to lean Republican but Democrats now enjoy an 8-percent edge in voter registration.
What Baker’s race showed: given a lower turnout that works to the GOP’s advantage and a candidate well tailored to fit the district’s style and concerns — a Republican can win, even in a sea of blue.
But that’s in a race where only 135,000 locals turned out to vote.
While one of the aforementioned congressional races had a smaller electorate, the other three races had pools of voters 20%-35%-42% larger than the 16th Assembly District.
So the next step in the California GOP’s evolution?
Yes, winning in larger, but competitive congressional districts.
But proving that 2014′s successes weren’t a fluke.
And that begins with defending Baker’s seat in 2016 — no easy feat, given that California Democrats already are mulling how to win back her Assembly district.
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