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California/local politics tidbits

Some interesting local politics news:

The California Supreme Court unanimously smacked down the latest Republican challenge to the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s (CRC) new State Senate maps. The ruling is notable for a couple reasons:

  1. The Court, comprised of six Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, went out of its way to demonstrate the partisan nature of the challenge to the maps. It repeatedly referenced the “open, transparent and nonpartisan” process used by the CRC to draw the maps. Moreover, in the footnotes of the opinion the justices repeated made reference to the Republican Party ties of the various actors challenging the maps.
  2. The ruling means that the new maps will be used during this election cycle, even if voters approve the referendum disapproving the CRC’s maps. If voters do approve the referendum, any new maps will not be used until 2014.

Incumbent Jerry McNerney (D) has another fight on his hands for the newly formed 9th Congressional District. The latest campaign filings just came out, and his most likely challenger, Republican Ricky Gill (watch out for the auto-play on the video), has raised more money than McNerney at this point in the election cycle ($957K to $893K) and has more cash on hand ($838K to $780K). In 2010, McNerney had to raise and spend over $3 million to keep his seat.

Some additional thoughts about the upcoming contest:

  • Many Democrats are complaining that Gill’s numbers are inflated by personal loans he has made to his campaign. It doesn’t matter. Challengers have to spend their own money to compete with incumbents. What matters is that Gill is out-raising McNerney right now. The more challengers raise and spend, the worse incumbents do in elections. So points for Gill.
  • Ricky Gill, who so far is running a very effective campaign by all indications, is not what political scientists call a quality candidate. By this, we mean that he has never held elected office. Candidates who have never held elected office, no matter how much money they raise and spend, tend to do poorly in elections. So points for McNerney.
  • The new 9th District, which encompasses the greater Stockton-Lodi area–including Galt, Lathrop, and Mountain House and stretching all the way over to Antioch/Brentwood/Oakley–by most estimates tilts somewhat Democratic. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 45% to 36%, and the new district voted 58% to 42% for President Obama in 2008 and 51% to 42% for Governor Brown in 2010. So points for McNerney.
  • In 2010, McNerney faced a very well funded challenger (although, again, someone who had never held prior elected office) in a very strong year for Republicans in general and in a district that was more competitive than the new one–and he still won reelection. So points for McNerney.

Does all this mean McNerney will win another term in Washington? Not at all. What we know from political science about the election right now, though, indicates it will be hard for Gill to unseat McNerney. The big wild-card in all of this is the outcome of the presidential election. If Mitt Romney does well in the fall, McNerney will have a hard time holding onto the seat.

(As an aside, it takes some digging through Gill’s web site to figure out that he’s a Republican. It’s not evident in the same way it’s obvious from McNerney’s site that he is a Democrat. Newly enacted Prop. 14, which changed how we select nominees for office in California, does not require candidates to state their party affiliation on the ballot. Will Gill state his then? Will McNerney?)

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