Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

The California Political Grapevine; A 10-Vote Election in Virginia

In House, State Legislatures on January 9, 2014 at 11:48 am

Political rumors are abounding in California’s Inland Empire. It is unusual, to say the least, when a member of Congress eschews another term in the US House for a run for a county office, but that is apparently what freshman Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA-35) is contemplating.

Yesterday, San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt announced that he would not seek a third term on the Board, and speculation is rampant that Rep. McLeod will soon enter the open seat local race. The fact that she has already filed a county campaign account possessing $900,000 is the key point in favor of her running. In addition to the congresswoman, term-limited state Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R) has expressed his desire for the seat.

This highly atypical move will affect more than just McLeod’s current 35th Congressional District. The man she defeated for the post, former Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA-43), is attempting a comeback in District 31 where he faces Rep. Gary Miller (R) and Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D). Should McLeod make the leap to local office, the 35th would again be open and free for Baca to switch back. If this scenario occurs, then almost assuredly Rep. Miller and Mayor Aguilar will square off in the general election for the San Bernardino-Rialto congressional district. Baca would then presumably draw lesser opposition for the safely Democratic 35th CD.

Prior to her election to Congress, McLeod served 12 years in the California state Assembly and Senate. At 72 years of age, serving at home in a local office may be a more attractive way of continuing her career in public service than enduring the repeated cross-country travel demanded of a US Representative.

Rep. Miller represents the most Democratic congressional district to elect a Republican House member (Obama ’12: 57 percent) in the country. He escaped defeat in 2012 after jumping into this district when his former Orange County seat was collapsed. Under California’s new election law that allows two members of the same party to advance to the general election, Miller found himself facing another Republican last fall. He scored a 10-point victory. It is the upcoming contest that could be the congressman’s toughest since he was first elected to the House in 1998, however, as this is his first term representing a San Bernardino County constituency.

VA State Senate

You will likely remember that a pair of Virginia statewide victories sent two state Senate seats into special elections, contests that will decide whether Democrats or Republicans will control the legislative body for the coming session.

The first of those two elections, the Norfolk-Virginia Beach seat of Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D), was decided last night – sort of. From more than 20,000 ballots cast, 70 percent of a regular election turnout, Democrat Lynwood Lewis leads Republican Wayne Coleman by just 10 votes, meaning a recount is a virtual certainty. And, with an island community’s votes being delayed certification because ice in the water is preventing the election materials from being shipped to the county seat, it will likely be until late Friday before a winner is actually certified.

At the beginning of the election cycle the Senate was tied 20-20. If Coleman were to win this seat, it would allow the Republicans to claim a majority for the session. The seat of Attorney General-elect Mark Herring (D) will be decided later in the month. With this Democratic seat coming down to a virtual tie, Republicans are buoyed at their prospects in the Herring seat, which is somewhat more favorable to the GOP even though held in Democratic hands. A tie now allows the Democrats to assume the ruling majority because they control the lieutenant governor’s office in the person of Lt. Gov. Northam.

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