After months of stagnation while waiting for new district lines, incumbent California Congressmen and challengers rushed to declare their candidacies on Tuesday as key matchups emerged, including a potential high-stakes competition between Orange County Democrats.
The realignment of California’s congressional, legislative, and equality boundaries will shape the contours of the state’s political landscape for the next 10 years. However, politicians immediately turned their attention to a more pressing issue for the next 11 months – where they will run in the 2022 midterm elections.
Shortly after the state’s Independent Reallocation Commission approved the new cards – in some cases within minutes of the vote – incumbents announced re-election plans and indicated which of the newly configured seats they were aiming for.
The spate of announcements highlighted how nervous California politicians are introducing themselves to new voters, identifying potential challengers and, in some cases, physically moving in response to the work of the commission.
“We now have our cards. We’re talking to all of our members to see who is running where, ”said Jessica Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party. “We will push them forward [recruited] Candidates who we believe are ready to take the next level. “
The new circles were not drawn on the basis of partisan considerations – the independent commission must not take partisanship into account. But the lines were, by and large, good news for the Democratic Party. Any seats now held by Democrats will be even bluer with the new borders. In contrast, five of the eleven Republican seats are becoming more competitive.
But the shuffling has resulted in sometimes uncomfortable maneuvers for candidates from both parties, particularly in Orange County and Central Valley, two of the most politically contested parts of the state.
So far, two Democrats have been on a potential collision course: Rep. Katie Porter and former Rep. Harley Rouda both intend to run in a coastal Orange County district that includes Porter’s hometown of Irvine and Rouda’s house in Laguna Beach.
The seat is currently held by Seal Beach’s GOP Rep Michelle Steel, who narrowly defeated Rouda in 2020.
Rouda had vowed a rematch, insisting that he recapture that territory in 2022. A spokesman said Tuesday that Rouda plans to continue walking in this coastal district.
But Porter, who has created a national profile for her whiteboard presentations at congressional hearings, also announced that it will run for the seat.
“Around two-thirds of voters in the 47th district have not yet been represented by Congresswoman Porter, and she looks forward to introducing herself to these voters and leading a positive and spirited campaign,” said Jordan Wong, a spokesman for the Porter campaign.
The struggle within the party could prove costly – both financially and politically.
Porter is one of the House’s top fundraisers, with more than $ 14 million in cash as of September. Rouda, a wealthy businessman, has about $ 600,000 in the bank and raised millions for his 2018 and 2020 campaigns; In his first race, he loaned his campaign nearly $ 2 million.
The seat is expected to be one of the most competitive in California over the next year; Voters in the district backed President Biden by nearly 11 percentage points in 2020, but Republicans have a tiny registration advantage.
The prospect of a fight between Democrats and Democrats cheered Patterson, the chairman of the GOP.
“When it comes to Democrats, the more the better,” she said.
The next important steps may come from Steel and her Orange County Republican, Rep. Young Kim.
Steel could run in the newly formed coastal district or go further inland to the neighboring district that includes Little Saigon, Fullerton and Brea. Kim could also compete in that district or in a seat that includes the cities of Orange and Yorba Linda.
Congress members do not have to live in their district.
“You have a bit of flexibility,” said Rob Pyers, research director of the non-partisan electoral almanac California Target Book. “There are two Republican seats, and these are two incumbents who have been long time friends. I am sure they will work something out. “
An adviser to the two congressmen said Monday lawmakers are weighing their options.
Your choices will have far-reaching implications. For example, former Orange County’s GOP chairman Scott Baugh said Tuesday he would face Porter and Rouda if Steel decides to go inland.
“Michelle hasn’t made her choice yet, and I will support her in whatever district she chooses,” Baugh said.
A handful of challengers also switched on Tuesday, including Democrat Jay Chen, who plans to run in the Little Saigon district. But the bulk of the lawsuit came from the incumbents.
For example, Democratic MPs Doris Matsui from Sacramento and Jim Costa from Fresno were quick to announce their re-election plans, affecting other members.
“What we’re seeing is a bunch of members staking out their territory, and we’ll see who’s moving around them,” said Andrew Acosta, a Democratic strategist from Sacramento.
“Everyone has to find out what is best for them. The person next door has to jump into the next district to avoid those potentially democratic versus democratic races there.
On the Republican side, too, the maneuvering was obvious. Rep. Kevin Kiley announced his intention to run in a Northern California district that spans parts of the counties of Sacramento and Placer and is currently occupied by GOP Rep. Tom McClintock. In a statement, Kiley said he believed McClintock, whose wife Lori died this week, would choose to run in a solid Republican district south of his current seat.
Unlike members of Congress, state lawmakers have strict residence requirements. Some signaled that housing was in their future, like MP Luz Rivas, who tweeted that she would be “moving soon” to move within the new borders of her San Fernando Valley district.
For some, the new cards were enough to undo future political plans.
Rep. Devon Mathis, a Republican from Visalia, had considered running for the congressional seat of GOP MP Devin Nunes, who is stepping down to run former President Trump’s new media company. But under the new borders, the district becomes dramatically more democratic.
“Although I really appreciate the excitement and supporters who urge me to take part in the congress, this is simply not possible with the new cards,” wrote Mathis on Twitter. Instead, he will run for office in a new congregation district.