‘Path to 218 runs through California’: State races pivotal in fight to control the House

Barring divine intervention or the West Coast falling into the sea, President Biden will handily win California in the November election.

But should he — or presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump — secure a second term in the fall, the future of either’s policy agenda rests heavily on which party controls Congress, where Republicans currently hold a wafer-thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

With the Golden State home to some of the most hotly contested swing districts in the country, the House’s fate will almost certainly come down to California.

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The battle for the next two years of partisan political control will be waged door-to-door, from California’s beachside suburban cul-de-sacs to the tiny farm towns in the state’s fertile Central Valley.

Those battlefields will look a lot like Bridgecreek Plaza — a sun-bleached shopping center a few hundred yards from a freeway onramp in Orange County’s Huntington Beach. The mall is home to a crystal store, several insurance brokers, a dentist and the local Republican Party headquarters.

It’s also where about two dozen GOP faithful gathered on the morning of election day, bowing their heads for a quick prayer and pledging allegiance to a portable flag before turning their attention to Jessica Millan Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party.

Patterson was in a very good mood.

When she was first elected to lead the party, in 2019, California Republicans were “essentially the third-largest party in the state,” having sunk below the share of voters registering “decline to state” under party preference.

But Patterson had presided over a massive voter registration drive over the last five years, and the party had moved back into second. People across the country liked to dismiss “blue California,” she said, but they were forgetting that California has more registered Republicans than any other state.

“California Republicans are the reasons why we have a House majority,” she added, to raucous cheering.

That majority was what they hoped to hold on to, and the group would spend the morning of the March 5 primary election canvassing for Scott Baugh, a Republican attorney and former state Assembly member vying to push Democratic Rep. Katie Porter’s soon-to-be-open congressional seat back from blue to red.

The latest round of redistricting put more conservative enclaves such as Huntington Beach and Newport Beach into California’s 47th Congressional District, and Baugh lost to Porter only narrowly in 2022 despite being vastly outspent, making the coastal Orange County district one of the most competitive in the nation.

The charismatic Porter will be out of the House picture after a failed Senate run; her seat is one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s three offensive targets in California and top priorities. And it’s equally prized by Democrats.

In a country where enmity and distrust separate the two major political parties on most issues, California’s utmost importance to any November House strategy is one of the few things on which Republicans and Democrats can agree.

California is home to 10 races rated as competitive by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report — five of them in districts that are represented by Republicans but that President Biden won in 2020. In the months to come, both parties will be investing significant resources in those races, as national attention inevitably turns west.

With an expected Biden-Trump rematch, voter turnout in 2024 is also likely to be supercharged compared with the 2022 midterm election. That could give an edge to Democrats, given the registration advantage that they hold in many of the competitive districts. Republicans gained one California House seat in the 2022 midterms, a nonpresidential election when turnout was substantially lower than when Biden and Trump topped the ballot two years prior.

“At the end of the day, the path to 218 runs through California,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson Dan Gottlieb, referring to the number of seats needed to garner a House majority.

Gottlieb was bullish on his party’s chances, citing the high turnout expected for the presidential election, along with strong Democratic candidates and “a bunch of dysfunctional and out-of-touch Republicans enabling the worst of their party’s chaos and dysfunction and extremism.”

But Gottlieb’s GOP counterpart was equally roseate in his outlook, with National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Ben Petersen reveling in the ugly and expensive primary fights that consumed Democrats in several of the state’s most crucial swing districts.

In the O.C. district where GOP volunteers fanned out for Baugh on primary morning, Democrats had sunk millions into a bruising primary battle between state Sen. Dave Min and fellow Democrat Joanna Weiss. Min ultimately emerged victorious, but only after surviving a barrage of negative advertising centered on his 2023 arrest for driving while intoxicated — arguably a gift to Republicans ahead of his fall battle with Baugh.

“Extreme Democrats are stumbling out of their vicious primary fights broke and bested by Republicans, who saw a groundswell of support for a commonsense safety and affordability agenda,” Petersen said, adding that the primary results made clear the GOP was “playing offense in California” in a way that would set the stage for victories in November.

Baugh, though, is not expected to go unscathed. In 2022, Porter’s ad campaign ripped the Republican for his antiabortion stance, as well as his work as a lobbyist and criminal charges he faced over campaign violations, for which he ultimately paid $47,000 in fines.

In the San Joaquin Valley, there were last-minute fears that a bruising primary battle would lock Democrats out of one of the races where they have the best chance of flipping a seat, but those concerns proved overblown.

Rudy Salas, backed by the Democratic establishment, vanquished fellow Democrat Melissa Hurtado to secure a spot in the fall against incumbent Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) in the 22nd Congressional District, but that race also put a dent in Democratic coffers.

The November race will be a rematch of the pair’s 2022 runoff, when Salas lost to Valadao by several thousand votes. And Salas and Valadao won’t be the only rematch on the November ticket.

In a heavily agricultural San Joaquin Valley district that includes all of Merced County and parts of Fresno, Madera, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, incumbent GOP Rep. John Duarte will once again face off against Democratic challenger Adam Gray. Duarte won the 13th Congressional District in the midterm election by fewer than 600 votes, one of the closest races in the nation.

Several hundred miles southeast, in Southern California, Democratic challenger Will Rollins will again take on GOP incumbent Rep. Ken Calvert, the longest-serving member of the California delegation. The recently redrawn 41st Congressional District stretches from the suburban Inland Empire, where Calvert has long lived, to Palm Springs, where Rollins and his partner make their home.

The district’s new boundaries — which now include one of the largest concentrations of LGBTQ+ voters in the nation and liberal pockets of Californians in the desert — are far more friendly to Democrats. They also set up Rollins, who is gay, as a potent challenger to Calvert, who voted against LGBTQ+ rights in the past, but who says his views have since evolved.

One race that will have some new blood this year, after the same pair of candidates dueled in three previous elections, is California’s 27th Congressional District in northern Los Angeles County.

Once solidly Republican, the district has been reconfigured by redistricting, and has undergone a political transition driven by younger, more diverse transplants from L.A. seeking affordable housing in Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley. The district briefly switched from red to blue with former Rep. Katie Hill’s victory in 2018, but the young Democrat’s very public scandals and ultimate resignation helped hand the seat back to the GOP.

Now-incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Garcia beat Democrat Christy Smith in a 2019 special election to fill the seat, then twice more for full terms in 2020 and 2022. He will face off against George Whitesides, a fresh Democratic challenger, in November.

Ludovic Blain, executive director of the California Donor Table, a progressive group that pools donor funds, said his organization hopes to invest about $10 million in California House races in the fall, working with local nonprofits in key areas to turn out voters of color.

They’ll be focusing on seven key races: the three aforementioned rematches, Porter’s open seat and two other Orange County races, and the Garcia-Whitesides matchup.

One point of concern Blain raised is that Republican Steve Garvey’s place near the top of the ticket, facing off against Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) in the Senate race, might affect Democrats in House races.

Schiff engaged in a controversial strategy in the primary, boosting Garvey to lock out Porter and his other major Democratic challenger, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), whom Blain’s organization supported.

It was a gambit that some in the Democratic establishment said would actually help Democrats in other tight races, since a less-competitive Senate race would siphon away far less money from the party’s coffers.

Democrat Min to face Republican Baugh in California’s competitive 47th Congressional District

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Dave Min and Republican Scott Baugh will face off this November in California’s competitive 47th Congressional District.

The coastal Orange County district, which includes famous surf breaks in Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, is considered crucial for both parties in the fight to control the House. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Katie Porter did not seek re-election, instead running an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate.

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Baugh, a former state lawmaker, sailed through the primary with little Republican opposition after serving as the party’s nominee in 2022. He narrowly lost to Porter that year.

Min, meanwhile, faced intense competition from fellow Democrat Joanna Weiss in what became one of the state’s nastiest primaries. She criticized Min for a drunken driving arrest last year, while he attacked her husband’s work as a lawyer for the Catholic diocese.

California puts all candidates on the same primary ballot, and the top two finishers, regardless of party, move on to the general election.

“I am deeply humbled and grateful for the support from voters across Orange County,” Min said in a statement. “This victory is not just about winning an election, it is about the future we are collectively shaping. It’s about reclaiming the House for Democrats and Orange County families.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Two Democrats battle to keep Katie Porter’s Orange County U.S. House seat blue

Armed with a whiteboard and a penchant for grilling corporate executives during congressional hearings, Katie Porter quickly emerged as an apostle for Democrats in Orange County.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press; Joanna Weiss for Congress)

But despite spending millions on her campaign and having a national profile, she won reelection in 2022 by only a sliver. Now, with Porter running for Senate, two top Democrats — Sen. Dave Min and Joanna Weiss — have emerged to take on former GOP Assemblyman Scott Baugh in 2024.

For Democrats, both in Orange County and nationally, the stakes are high. The 47th Congressional District is among four Orange County-based districts that are expected to be among the nation’s most competitive in the 2024 election as Republicans and Democrats fight for control of the House.

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“If Democrats can’t keep this seat, they have no hope of winning the House majority, because demographically this is exactly the type of district that is coming into the Democrats coalition,” said David Wasserman, a congressional forecaster for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

In Porter’s district, which includes a large swath of the Orange County coast and Irvine, Democrats have a slight voter registration advantage, but it’s close enough to be a prime target for Republicans in 2024.

Orange County’s transformation into a more culturally and economically diverse region has turned the place Ronald Reagan once said was where “good Republicans go before they die” into a political battleground.

In 2018, Democrats, including Porter, flipped four congressional districts in what they celebrated as a “blue wave.” Republicans won back two of those seats in 2020. The 2022 midterms were a stalemate.

“Neither Dave Min nor Joanna Weiss is the phenomenon of Katie Porter, not in their persona, and not in their ability to raise money. And so it’s going to take a lot of resources on the national chess board coming from the Democrats to make the seat competitive,” said Jon Fleischman, a former state GOP executive director and a political strategist.

For months, Democrats debated over which candidate has the best chance to finish in the top two in the March primary and beat Baugh in the November election.

Min’s supporters cite his appeal with Asian Americans, an impactful group of swing voters, his support from police unions and his legislative record supporting abortion rights, gun control and environmental protections — stands expected to draw Democrats to the polls.

Weiss has grown a large base of support from anti-Trump suburban women who argue she is the stronger candidate on progressive issues such as abortion and is focused on economic and environmental issues that are pivotal to Orange County voters. The support of both groups is expected to be key to keeping a Democrat in the seat.

Min argues that most female voters over the age of 30 who rank abortion as a top issue are already aligned with Democrats, noting “that is not a swing vote at this point.”

Both candidates have spent time — and money — appealing to Democrats by touting their progressive agendas. Min has raised about $1.2 million this cycle, while Weiss has $1.2 million including $225,000 that she lent her campaign. The candidates have roughly $825,000 and $832,000 cash on hand, respectively, according to campaign finance disclosure reports submitted in September.

Min, who has secured endorsements from the California Democratic Party and Porter, this month sent a mailer to voters, including independents, citing his record of protecting abortion rights, pushing for tougher gun laws and legislation he’s written in an effort to end offshore drilling.

“Those who know CA-47 best … have overwhelmingly endorsed Dave Min because of his track record of winning tough elections and standing up for the values of Orange County, including defending reproductive rights, advocating for tougher gun laws, working to end offshore oil drilling, and fighting to protect survivors of sex abuse and domestic violence,” Dan Driscoll, Min’s campaign manager, said in a statement to The Times.

Early this month, he dropped his first advertisement in the race, a six-figure video buy that will run on digital and cable platforms titled “United” and boasting the message that “California Democrats are united behind one candidate: Dave Min.”

Weiss, who founded Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE), a fundraising and volunteer organization that aims to advance progressive candidates, has picked up endorsements from several California representatives including Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), a close ally of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

Weiss’ campaign has pounced on Min’s 2023 DUI arrest as a critical weakness that Baugh could exploit in the general election. Min was arrested last May and charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence after a California Highway Patrol officer witnessed him running a red light while driving a state-owned car just a few miles from the Capitol.

He apologized, saying he accepted “full responsibility” and that there was “no excuse” for his actions. Just hours after news of Min’s arrest broke, the California Republican Party distributed an email calling him “DUI Dave” and saying he had “put lives at risk when he made the reckless decision to drive drunk.”

Min’s arrest was enough to sway Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose district includes many of the same cities in the 47th, to endorse Weiss.

“There’s no reason to drive drunk. That’s a bad judgment call and that’s concerning,” said Foley, who ran unsuccessfully against Min in the state Senate primary in 2020. “This is going to get used by Republicans. They’re going to use it against him and he won’t be able to win the general.”

The fight took a tense turn on Thursday, when Weiss’ campaign released an ad criticizing Min for allegedly accepting money from special interests and for his DUI. The ad included dashcam footage from the police patrol car that showed Min swaying as the officer conducts a field sobriety test.

“It’s important that voters in our community understand their choice in this election. Dave Min cannot be trusted and he is a huge liability for Democrats in this must-win race to flip the House,” Weiss’ campaign manager Emma Weinert said.

Min responded by remarking on X, formerly Twitter, that “it’s so disappointing to see Joanna Weiss run such a negative campaign.”

Min’s camp argues that Weiss, a first-time candidate, doesn’t have the name recognition needed to win such a competitive seat.

Questions have also been raised about the source of money Weiss has used to support her campaign. An article published by the Daily Beast this month suggests funds Weiss has put into the campaign is income earned by her husband Jason Weiss, who specializes in labor and employment law at the firm Sheppard Mullin and has defended the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in sex abuse lawsuits.

Weiss called the story “a desperate attack.”

“I’m the No. 1 woman fundraiser in the country who isn’t an incumbent in the 2024 cycle,” she said. “I think the article unfairly attempted to highlight the purported self-funding, but we’ve had men completely self-fund their campaigns here in Orange County and no one asked them where their money came from.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Judge Decides Vince Fong Can Run for Congress in 2024

Fong first declines, then announces candidacy following Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Resignation announcement

Assemblyman Vince Fong, the Bakersfield representative who Congressman Kevin McCarthy endorsed to succeed him, got good news Thursday when a Sacramento Superior Court Judge ruled he can run for Congress.

The question of his candidacy arose when the Republican Assemblyman announced he would run to replace Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. House of Representatives, after only a few days before, declining to run, saying it wasn’t his time.

Assemblyman Fong, who is serving his fourth term in the California State Assembly, released the following statement December 7th on his plans for the 2024 election cycle:

“Representing the residents of the Central Valley is an honor and privilege. In the past 24 hours, I have been humbled to receive an outpouring of encouragement to run for Congress. I want to thank everyone who reached out for your kind words and offers of support.

“After giving it thoughtful and prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided that now is not my time, and I will not be running for Congress in 2024.

Following today’s ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang, Fong said:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the voters of the 20th Congressional District, who will now have the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice in the March 5th election. I am grateful that Judge Chang upheld the integrity of our elections and sided with Central Valley voters against an overreaching Sacramento politician.”

“I look forward to getting back on the campaign trail and working as hard as I can over the next several months to once again win the trust of Central Valley voters and earn the right to represent them in Congress.”

The issue with Fong’s announcement to run for Congress was that Fong had already filed paperwork to run for the Assembly, and the deadline had passed to back out.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Fong could not run for congress because California law does not allow candidates to appear on the same ballot twice for different jobs. The state also prohibits candidates from dropping out of a race after the filing deadline closes.

The California Secretary of State said, “no withdrawal is allowed, and a person cannot run for more than one office in the same election.”

The Globe reported that Fong would likely need to go to court and have a judge decide if he can decline the Assembly race in order to run for Congress. And he did.

The CAGOP defended Fong’s decision to run for Congress, claiming the Secretary of State’s decision was “egregious:”

On Thursday, California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson weighed in on Fong’s court win:

“Today’s ruling was a victory for the voters of Congressional District 20 who will now get to decide who can best represent them from a full slate of candidates. The Sacramento Democrat machine tried and failed to interfere in a district that heavily favors Republicans, but the court rightly saw the legitimacy of Assemblyman Fong’s candidacy and put an end to Democrats’ political games. We look forward to a robust campaign in CA-20 as voters – not Sacramento Democrats – choose a leader to send to Washington on their behalf.”

The Globe spoke to political legal experts and reported:

“The law is very clear on this,” said Mark Georgiou, a legal advisor to political campaigns in several western states, to the Globe on Monday. “What happened is Fong wanted the Assembly again and assumed that McCarthy would just run again, or if he didn’t, that Grove would go in. That’s what that 7th announcement was all about. Then Grove bailed, and Fong saw an opening. He obviously wants the House seat, but he just didn’t foresee the race opening up this year. And honestly, an open year was his in, as strong GOP seats in California don’t open too often.”

“Honestly, he declared too early, especially with McCarthy facing all that heat earlier this year, and wanted to kind of reneg on it for the bigger seat. The law says differently. Bad luck, but he could still run for a higher office in the future. If he had grace, he could have played being too late to the punch with a joke, back a candidate, and then a higher office later on. He went this route instead though, and predictably, was stopped pretty quickly. Him and the CAGOP and McCarthy can go on about how unfair this is, but in all honesty, it’s just the law. It’s like getting mad at the tree when you veer your car off the road into it.”

Congressional District 20 is a safe Republican district, so is the real issue — is the Kevin McCarthy camp trying to maintain a hold on the district and power in Congress with a friendly? Fong worked as McCarthy’s district direct director for 10 years, and is assumed by all to be loyal to the McCarthy machine… especially after CD 20 candidate David Giglio’s tweet:

“Do you want to know why people don’t take Republicans seriously when we talk about election integrity? It’s because we have corrupt establishment Republicans out there who think it’s ok to ignore/violate election laws to benefit themselves while laughably claiming to be doing so out of concern for election integrity. The GOP has spent 3 years chastising Democrats for ignoring election laws during the 2020 election to benefit themselves and now here we are with Republicans doing the same thing. Behavior such as this makes us look like fools.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

House votes to formalize impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden along party lines

WASHINGTON — House Republicans voted Wednesday to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden as their investigation reaches a critical juncture and right-wing pressure grows.

All 221 Republicans supported the resolution.

Up until this point, House Republicans had not had enough votes to legitimize their ongoing inquiry with a full chamber vote. The probe has struggled to uncover wrongdoing by the president, which is why it hasn’t garnered the unified support of the full GOP conference.

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unilaterally launched the inquiry in September, even though he had previously criticized Democrats for taking the same step in 2019 when they launched the first impeachment probe of then-President Donald Trump without taking a vote at the beginning.

The vote came after Hunter Biden defied Republican investigators’ subpoena for closed-door testimony and reiterated that he is willing to testify publicly as part of the GOP-led investigation into the president.

“I am here to testify at a public hearing, today, to answer any of the committees’ legitimate questions,” Hunter Biden said in his first public statement since being criminally indicted twice. “Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry, or hear what I have to say.”

Following Hunter’s statement, the Republican chairman behind the impeachment inquiry into the president said they will start contempt of Congress proceedings against the president’s son for not participating in the closed-door deposition.

Hunter defended his father, saying, “Let me state as clearly as I can, my father was not financially involved in my business, not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with the Chinese private businessman, not in my investments home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist.”

He continued, “In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It’s shameless. There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business because it did not happen.”

Part of the reason for Wednesday’s vote came from the White House telling the trio of GOP-led congressional committees leading the investigation that its subpoenas were illegitimate without a formal House vote to authorize the inquiry. That prompted some reluctant, more moderate Republican lawmakers to get on board with their party’s investigative efforts. The Trump administration made a similar argument against House Democrats at the start of his 2019 impeachment.

The argument from Republican proponents of the effort, according to multiple GOP lawmakers and aides, is that a floor vote will strengthen their legal standing against the White House and fortify their subpoenas to secure key witness testimony.

“The inquiry will help us be more informed,” GOP Rep. Nick LaLota, who represents a swing district in New York, told CNN.

Potentially bolstering the GOP inquiry: Last week’s tax indictment against Hunter Biden, which overlapped with many of the alleged financial imports and overseas business deals that Republicans have intensely scrutinized with their own probes.

In response to allegations they have stonewalled the inquiry, a recent White House memo touted that Republicans have accessed more than 35,000 pages of private financial records, more than 2,000 pages of Treasury Department financial reports, at least 36 hours of witness interviews, and just this week began receiving 62,000 more pages from the National Archives including much of Joe Biden’s communications as vice president.

But even as the majority of House Republicans rally around the inquiry vote, GOP leadership has made a point to indicate that formalizing the inquiry does not mean impeaching the president is inevitable, even as pressure within the party and among the Republican base grows.

“We’re not going to prejudge the outcome of this because we can’t,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters Tuesday. “It’s not a political calculation. We’re following the law and we are the rule of law team and I’m going to hold to that.”

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, echoed Johnson’s sentiment by telling reporters, “Voting in favor of an impeachment inquiry does not equal impeachment.”

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has been pushing Republicans to impeach the president, told CNN the reason he sees his party’s leaders signaling caution is because House Republicans do not have the votes to actually impeach the president, particularly in their shrinking, narrow majority.

“I think it’s a realistic approach,” Gaetz said. “I don’t think we have the votes to impeach anyone.”

Indeed, moderate GOP Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who supports authorizing an impeachment inquiry, said that “more likely than not,” Republicans will not end up bringing articles of impeachment against the president because the evidence will not raise to the bar of high crimes and misdemeanors, the standard for impeachment.

While Republican leaders are emphasizing caution, others in the party are ready to go full steam ahead.

“I think we start the inquiry and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing is impeachment,” GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas told CNN.

At every stage, House Democrats and the White House have refuted and sometimes even debunked the accusations leveled by Republicans, who have tried to connect Joe Biden to his son’s million-dollar overseas deals.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, attacked Republican efforts to open an impeachment inquiry, and argued that House Republicans are trying to create a “dark cloud” that will follow the president into the election next year.

“That of course is the whole purpose of the impeachment inquiry,” he said Monday. “There is not one particle linking Joe Biden to a crime, and yet they insist that there is going to be a Senate trial for impeachment of Joe Biden in the fall during the presidential campaign,” Raskin said.

Since McCarthy launched the inquiry in September, the trio of committees leading the investigation have interviewed various officials from the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service while also obtaining a mountain of documents and new bank records, including from Biden family members.

Click here to read t he full article at ABC30

But Not Schiff or Porter – Both Harvard Law (Thank You Michelle Steel): 74 Members of Congress Demand Harvard President Gay Resign in Letter to Governing Board Members

More than 70 members of Congress demanded Harvard President Claudine Gay’s resignation in a letter addressed to University governing board members Friday evening.

The letter, which was led by Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 and largely signed by Republicans, calls for the resignation of Gay, MIT President Sally A. Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill. The letter comes three days after Gay’s testimony during a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about antisemitism on college campuses prompted a wave of backlash.

“Given this moment of crisis, we demand that your boards immediately remove each of these presidents from their positions and that you provide an actionable plan to ensure that Jewish and Israeli students, teachers, and faculty are safe on your campuses,” the letter stated.

“Anything less than these steps will be seen as your endorsement of what Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth said to Congress and an act of complicity in their antisemitic posture,” the letter added.

Gay faced fierce criticism for not unequivocally stating that calls for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s policies on bullying and harassment. Gay attempted to clarify her remarks in a statement released on Wednesday and then apologized for the impact her testimony had during an interview with The Crimson on Thursday.

“These desperate attempts to try and save their jobs by condemning genocide are too little too late,” the letter stated. “It should not take public backlash nor 24 hours of reflection to realize that calling for genocide is unacceptable.”

A University spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Click here to read the full article in the Harvard Crimson

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo likely to enter race for Congress

The battle to replace the retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo in a South Bay House seat next year is likely to draw another big name: former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. 

Liccardo, who was termed out of office last year, will be the guest at a fundraiser Sunday at the home of Cooper Teboe, a top Silicon Valley fundraiser whose clients include Rep. Ro Khanna. He is expected to form an exploratory committee before then, Eric Jaye, a longtime Democratic political consultant who has advised Liccardo on his two mayoral runs, told the Chronicle on Tuesday.

Jaye, a former adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said Liccardo is consulting with thought leaders and others in the region about whether to run. 

“Is he very serious? You bet. Is he doing all the things a candidate does when they are very seriously looking at a race? For sure,” Jaye said. “He’s going to do his due diligence.” 

That includes raising money.

“I would love to invite you to come meet him and encourage you to donate to his campaign (I am personally giving a maxout donation),” Teboe wrote on the fundraiser invitation, which was first reported by business news site San Jose Spotlight.

While Liccardo has not yet filed the requisite paperwork to become a candidate, he has made no secret of his desire to run for Congress. Earlier this year, he told Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, that he had commissioned a poll on running against her and was considering a challenge. 

Lofgren told Spotlight: “I plan to run and I don’t usually run to lose.” 

Now Liccardo, 53, is eyeing another of the four House districts that represent portions of San Jose. Eshoo, 80, announced last week that she would not seek reelection next year. 

While Liccardo has some level of name recognition as the two-term mayor of California’s third-largest city, San Jose is split between four House districts. Jaye estimates that 36% to 40% of Eshoo’s House district is in the city of San Jose. Liccardo does not live in the district.  Members of the House are not required to live in the districts they represent.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a friend of Eshoo’s, announced Wednesday that he also plans to run.

Simitian has $681,003 cash on hand in his House fundraising account — more than Eshoo ($599,672), according to campaign filings. Simitian has represented 85% of the congressional district over the more than two decades that he served in the Assembly, state Senate and on the Board of Supervisors. 

Assembly Member Evan Low, D-Sunnyvale, who has served nearly a decade in the Legislature after representing the city of Campbell on its City Council for eight years, is also likely to launch a campaign as soon as next week.

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that he’s been “honored by all the people reaching out to me about the seat. I do love my current job. I’m taking some time to think about it and I haven’t made a decision yet.” 

Jaye said a poll of 400 likely primary voters commissioned by Liccardo’s supporters over the weekend found that he was the favorite among the candidates eyeing the race, with 16% support, followed by Simitian with 12%. No other candidate reached double digits. 

Click here to read the full article in SF Chronicle

Democrats in key California House races are running to the center

There’s a word that isn’t often heard, much less bragged about, at gatherings of the top Democrats in California. 

And that word is “centrist.” 

But some California Democrats running in some of the most important House races in the country are dropping the “c” word. 

Sure, some Democrats typically move a little toward the center in the general election if they’re facing a more moderate Republican. But four prominent House candidates are talking up their moderate qualities now, roughly three months before voters start casting ballots in the March 5 primary. 

The California Democratic Party has endorsed all four, a sign that it believes they are key to flipping five seats to wrest control of the House back from Republicans. The state party may be way left of Democratic voters in California on some issues — see its 2018 endorsement of state Sen. Kevin de León over Sen. Dianne Feinstein — but they’re betting on centrists to help them win next year.

The party’s challenge is that two of these candidates ran against the same Republican opponents last year as centrists — and lost. Another is running in a district where a Democrat ran as someone who could appeal to both moderates and progressives — and lost. And the fourth is trying to succeed someone who is one of the most outspoken progressives in Congress.

Yes, the centrist positioning may help Democrats in more conservative-leaning Central Valley and Southern California districts. But these candidates also are counting on three more practical factors to help them win. 

First, that next year’s electorate will resemble what it is like in most presidential years — larger and more Democrat-friendly. Two, that the desire to expand abortion rights will continue to pull moderate and no party preference voters to Democrats. And third, in the last presidential election, Democrats did very little of the in-person, door-to-door campaigning that is a strength of their party because of the pandemic. Next year, Democratic canvassers will be back on doorsteps. 

And through Election Day, the c-word will be a mainstay.

“I don’t play a centrist on TV. I’m a real authentic centrist,” former Democratic Assembly Member Adam Gray told me at this month’s California Democratic Party convention, whose delegates lean further left than the state’s voters.

“It’s where my head is and my heart is,” said Gray, who is likely to face off again against Rep. John Duarte, R-Turlock (Stanislaus County), who beat him by 564 votes last year. “And I’m proud of the fact that I’ve taken on my own party when I needed to.” 

And it has cost Gray. When he served in the Legislature from 2012 to 2022, Gray lost two committee assignments after challenging the party’s position on issues where he felt it would mean less water flowing to farmers and others in his district. 

“My voters know after 10 years of service for them, that if push comes to shove and I got to choose between their best interests and the Democratic Party’s best interests, I will choose them every time,” Gray said. “And that’s not talk. That’s a record.”

And it is a record that has made him more popular than Califorrnia Gov. Gavin Newsom in a district that includes all of Madera and Merced counties along with parts of Fresno, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. Gray won nearly 50% of the vote in his 2022 loss to Duarte, 4 percentage points better than what Newsom did in his district during his reelection campaign last year.

Gray is with his party on abortion rights, which will be the issue Democrats push to the forefront of every campaign through Election Day. 

But Gray is no more centrist than he was last year when he lost to Duarte.

Ultimately, what may propel Gray to Washington is a higher turnout in his district in a presidential election, which President Joe Biden won by 11 percentage points over Donald Trump in 2020. Only 136,254 voters in that House district cast ballots in last year’s midterms, far fewer than the 252,852  who voted there in the 2020 presidential race. 

Farther south, in a Los Angeles County district represented by Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, Democrats endorsed George Whitesides, who has never held political office. 

Whitesides was CEO of Virgin Galactic and before that served as NASA’s chief of staff. He uses a phrase that Republicans from the business world frequently invoke in describing their political bona fides: “I’m a job creator.”

“I’m somebody who’s worked well with folks from all different parts of the political spectrum,” Whitesides told me. “The folks in this district want somebody who’s going to just honestly address the biggest challenges that we’ve got in our communities and in our country. And I honestly believe that we can provide that perspective and bring a perspective of problem-solving.”

Yes, of course, he’s going to point out to voters in the district — where Biden won by 12 percentage points in 2020 — that Garcia voted with Trump 84% of the time. More importantly, Garcia voted not to impeach Trump for inciting the 2021 insurrection against the Capitol and opposed certifying presidential electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona. 

But Whitesides stressed that “what will matter most in this district is honestly kitchen-table issues.”

“It’s going to be who can help bring more jobs to the Antelope Valley, who can improve the infrastructure of the Antelope Valley to make commutes easier, who can help improve education and who can help protect communities from the risks of wildfires,” he said. 

But Christy Smith, a former state legislator who lost to Garcia last year, pitched a similar message. From her campaign website: “Smith has a unique ability to appeal to progressive Democrats as well as moderate and independent voters by focusing on the issues affecting her district and all Americans.”

Smith blamed a lack of support from the Democratic Party and other political action committees for her defeat, tweeting, “Our campaign got next-to-zero outside resources to fight this battle.” It was her third consecutive loss to Garcia, who defeated her  in a special election in 2020 and again later that year for a full term by 333 votes. 

Whitesides believes that the increased turnout, along with a focus on kitchen table issues, can help him defeat Garcia. 

Will Rollins thinks the same formula can help him, too, in another Southern California race. The former federal prosecutor is taking on Republican Rep. Ken Calvert of Corona in a rematch of their 2022 race. Though he’s supported by retired progressive Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rollins may have been the only Democratic candidate at the state party convention last weekend to duck out briefly to attend a gathering of alumni who worked for former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“As I see it in California, and broadly, the problem with the country too, is we don’t have a center right,” Rollins said. “And so we’re stuck with sort of one-party control. And that’s not the healthiest for our democracy in general.”

Rollins, who is gay, supports abortion rights and has hammered Calvert for his conservative views on LGBTQ issues. Even though Calvert has changed his position and now supports same-sex nuptials, he voted against the Equality Act in 2021 that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure died in the Senate.

Rollins originally decided to run after Calvert joined most California House Republicans in voting not to certify state election results in a bid to derail Biden from being inaugurated. But he thinks his argument for replacing Calvert goes beyond that, given the nation’s low unemployment rate has dropped and inflation is flattening.

“We Democrats have a really strong argument on the economy,” Rollins said. “I think we just have to do a better job of appealing to those sort of small business owners and center-right people who care deeply about seeing prosperity for themselves and their families and tying that equality of opportunity to their own and our collective success as a country.”

Rollins believes that a presidential election year turnout will help him. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates his race as “toss up Republican,” meaning it gives Calvert a slight edge.

The most curious to talk up his moderate tendencies is state Sen. Dave Min of Irvine. He’s running to succeed Rep. Katie Porter in an Orange County district that she spent $28 million to win in 2022. Porter is running for the Senate.

Porter endorsed Min to replace her, saying that she had “every confidence that his campaign will ensure that California’s 47th Congressional District continues to be represented by a progressive Democrat.” 


But Min said that Porter — a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — has provided “a blueprint” for how to win in a purple district like theirs. But as Min sees it, that blueprint wasn’t because she was progressive. It was due in part to viral videos of Porter grilling wealthy CEOs when they testify before Congress — like when she explained to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon that it is impossible for one of his bank tellers to live on what he pays them. 

When Porter spoke at a Senate candidate forum at last week’s state party convention, she sought to distinguish herself from the moderates.

“You can count on me to stand up for regular Californians and never be one who does the bidding of corporate America,” Porter said. “But that’s not just about being a Democrat. That’s about the kind of Democrat you are and you can count on me.”

Min told me that “what Katie has shown is that people want elected officials who will fight for them and engage on issues they care about.”

Min puts climate change, education and standing up against hate crimes at the top of his agenda for his district, which Biden won by 11 percentage points. 

To stress his moderate support, Min emphasized his endorsement from law enforcement groups like the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents 950 public safety unions. 

“The biggest hits any Democrat will get is going to be around public safety and homelessness,” Min said. “But having the police behind me is a big validator that I think helps rebut that argument in a big way.”

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Rep. Tony Cárdenas won’t seek reelection in 2024, setting up race for San Fernando Valley seat

WASHINGTON —  Tony Cárdenas (D-Pacoima) will not seek reelection in 2024, setting up what could become a contested race for his heavily Democratic San Fernando Valley-based seat.

Cárdenas, 60, who was the first Latino to represent the district, told The Times he plans to leave Washington at the end of his term, capping three decades in public office.

“It will be the first time in 28 years that I’m not on the ballot,” Cárdenas said in a Thursday interview. “The truth of the matter is I thought I could do this just for a few years … I’m just at the age where I have enough energy and experience to maybe do something [different] and have another chapter of a career where I don’t have to go to Washington, D.C., 32 weeks out of the year.”

Cárdenas’ announcement is unlikely to threaten Democrats’ quest to reclaim the House majority. His district, which spans much of the San Fernando Valley, is solidly blue. But his departure creates opportunities for ambitious young Democrats from the Los Angeles area to come to Washington. Cárdenas is backing Luz Rivas, a state Assemblymember who told The Times she would run to replace him.

“Luz is a genuine public servant who has dedicated herself to delivering opportunities for the Valley,” Cárdenas said. “She gets things done, and has always put working families first. I am proud to support Luz for Congress.”

Rivas, a native to the Valley, won her Assembly seat in 2018. If elected to Congress, she would be the first Latina to represent the district in Washington.

Cárdenas said the lack of nonwhite representation among people in power was a main reason he first ran for public office. Not having role models of color can stifle nonwhite kids’ ambitions for greatness, he said.

“Our teachers, counselors, police officers, would look at us and say you’re never gonna amount to anything,” he said. “I don’t think anyone with those titles should ever tell a child you’re never going to mount anything. But we all experienced that crap, that garbage, those lies.”

Cárdenas was first elected to the Assembly in 1996 at 33. He went on to serve three terms in Sacramento and won three more on the Los Angeles City Council. In 2013, he became the first Latino to represent the Valley in Congress, handily winning election after redistricting removed Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s home in Burbank from the district.

Cárdenas said he’s proud of the work he’s done in his career, notably his efforts to overhaul the state juvenile justice system and ban solitary confinement of minors in federal prisons. As a congressman, Cárdenas was the top sponsor for more than 180 bills, three of which became law, including one in 2021 that addressed crib safety for babies.

In Washington, he served on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and spearheaded an effort to bring a Smithsonian Latino Museum to the National Mall. He chaired BOLD PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ fundraising arm, and under his tenure, the committee’s coffers grew, as did the number of elected Latinos in Congress.

Cárdenas was unable to ascend into House party leadership in 2020 and last year, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) bypassed him when picking the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a woman sued Cárdenas, saying that he had sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. The woman later dropped her lawsuit, which Cárdenas’ lawyers characterized as a “total vindication.”

Cárdenas’ announcement was a surprise, said Fernando Guerra, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. The congressman is “senior and influential enough” that he could have had an impact in the House if Democrats were to retake the majority next year, Guerra said.

But “D.C. is no fun anymore,” Guerra added. “My instinct is that he’s just had it and he feels there’s another way he can influence through another role.”

Guerra lauded Cárdenas for his reputation in Southern California. “He’s an icon in the San Fernando Valley,” he said, noting that Cárdenas opened doors for Latinos. “Without him, you would not see the level of Latino political incorporation that currently exists.”

In a statement, California Sen. Alex Padilla lauded Cárdenas for running “for office at a time when Latinos didn’t see ourselves represented in positions of power.”

“His decision to enter public service and his approach to politics opened the door for many others to follow, including many who couldn’t have imagined running for office, including myself,” California’s senior Democratic senator said.

Padilla and Cárdenas are close friends and roommates in Washington. Padilla was Cárdenas’ campaign manager for his first run for office in 1996.

Weeks before election day in 1996, Cárdenas saw an article in the Los Angeles Times, which was left open on Padilla’s desk in the campaign office. The article, which detailed his campaign’s financial struggles, left him feeling low, he said.

Soon after, his sister told him that their father, Andres, had risked his life to save a man who was trapped in a burning field in Stockton decades earlier. His father never shared that story with him while he was alive.

“I didn’t need that story at that moment,” he said. But “that day, I needed something. And boom, it came.”

“For the first time in my life, I said to myself, this is my community, this is my country,” he said. “And I’m going to finish this. Whether I win or not, doesn’t matter. I’m going to finish this and I’m going to do it right.”

Click here to read the full article in this LA Times

Can a Democrat not named Katie Porter win her congressional swing seat?

Democrats Dave Min and Joanna Weiss are waging a heated battle over who is more electable in a purpling Orange County.

LOS ANGELES — Rep. Katie Porter has been a bright spot for Democrats as they try to claim territory in Orange County, California’s historic bastion of conservatism. But even with a nearly $30 million campaign war chest and a gift for turning congressional hearings into viral takedowns, she barely won reelection last year.

Now, with Porter vacating the seat to run for Senate, Democrats are torn between two candidates. Each represents a key constituency that could help keep the district blue absent her star power: Asian Americans and anti-Trump suburban women.

The answer to whether a Democrat not named Katie Porter — without her national profile or piles of campaign cash — can win in southern California’s 47th congressional district will echo far beyond Orange County. It could very well determine the balance of power in the House.

The contest between Democrats Dave Min and Joanna Weiss has become even more charged since Min, the early Democratic favorite, was arrested on drunken driving charges in May after running a red light. (Min called the incident “the worst mistake of my life.”) As Democrats in California and Washington argue about whether picking Min is too politically risky, the Republican who narrowly lost to Porter last year is salivating at another shot to flip the seat.

“Our suspicion is they will have come through a fairly bloody primary process,” GOP candidate Scott Baugh said of whoever emerges as the Democrat candidate in the general election.

The left began agonizing over the district as soon as Porter decided in January to run for Senate instead of seeking reelection. Their path to retake the House runs through California and requires picking off vulnerable Republicans who lost a key patron with the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

But in this case, the party is playing defense in a district where Democrats have a whisper-thin registration advantage. Though President Joe Biden won the seat by 11 points over former President Donald Trump in 2020, Republicans doubt he can replicate that margin this time around.

It is an especially fraught moment for Orange County Democrats, who have whipsawed between successes and setbacks in recent years — sweeping the county’s six-district delegation in 2018, only to backslide and give two seats back to the Republicans. Porter’s narrow victory last year further underscored how tenuous the party’s gains have been, even with a political celebrity on the ballot.

“No one can be like Katie Porter,” Min said in a recent interview. “I’m not going to try to be like Katie Porter. She’s uniquely charismatic, uniquely funny, uniquely famous.”

While neither Min nor Weiss sell themselves as Porter clones, they all share a similar political origin story: the 2018 midterms. Min and Porter, neither of whom held elected office, ran for Congress that year. After Porter bested Min in an acrimonious primary, Min used that campaign as a springboard to his successful state Senate run in 2020.

Also in that election cycle, Weiss helped build Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE), a fundraising and volunteer machine that embodied the political awakening of suburban women after Trump’s election in 2016. The group was especially successful in organizing in the county’s coastal areas, home to mostly affluent mainline Republicans and independents that were a pivotal voting bloc for Democrats’ successes that year.

Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), who grew up in Orange County and now represents an inland swath of the county, said Weiss’ experience mobilizing women voters will be essential in 2024, as Democrats hope to harness the lingering anger about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. As recent elections in Ohio and Virginia showed, the right to an abortion remains a deeply potent issue.

“When you talk about things like a woman’s right to choose, that’s very personal,” Sánchez said. “Being a woman in that race, she’s going to be able to deliver that message.”

Min, who is Korean American but has a surname that is also common among Chinese and Vietnamese people, says he can appeal to otherwise conservative-leaning Asian Americans.

These voters “are the margin of victory in a lot of cases,” said Tammy Kim, the Democratic vice mayor of Irvine who previously ran an Asian American Pacific Islander progressive advocacy group.

“I really like Joanna Weiss — I really do. … I hate the fact that her and Dave are running against each other,” Kim said. “With that being said, I believe if there is an AAPI seat, this is one. And I want to see Dave Min get it.”

Min said Porter, who endorsed his campaign, told him she believed the seat should be represented by an Asian American. Porter’s campaign did not comment on Min’s remarks.

The harshest fights between the Democrats so far have little to do with differences in policy or political strategy. Instead, it’s all about Min’s DUI.

The incident generated new momentum for Weiss, who was already in the race. In the weeks after the arrest, Harley Rouda, the district’s former Democratic representative, lined up with Weiss and called on Min to drop out. Other Democrats announced their support for Weiss soon afterward, including Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley and Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, who won hard-fought elections in the area. So did EMILY’S List, the national fundraising juggernaut that backs women candidates who favor abortion rights.

“We need to make sure we’re sending the strongest candidate into the general,” Weiss said. “It’s concerning that anyone would drive under the influence and endanger other drivers — especially a state senator, driving a state-owned vehicle, who exercised poor judgment of character. I think our community agrees with that.”

While some national Democrats initially expressed concern about Min’s prospects, party leaders in Washington have yet to back either campaign. The House Democrats’ campaign arm has kept its focus on Baugh, teeing up attacks on his views of abortion or his past campaign legal troubles that resulted in $47,000 in fines.

Both campaigns have publicly and privately been making their case to party leaders and activists about whether or not the DUI is disqualifying. Weiss’ supporters say it is especially damaging because there is video footage of Min’s arrest.

Min’s camp released a polling memo asserting that such attacks on Min fall flat with voters. The poll questions omitted some details that would likely make fodder for attack ads, such as the fact he was driving a state-owned car, according to screenshots reviewed by POLITICO.

There was no major exodus of endorsements from Min’s campaign and he has since picked up additional support from law enforcement such as the unions representing Los Angeles police and deputy sheriffs. He also consolidated most of the support from local Democratic clubs and is poised to get the state Democratic Party endorsement at its convention this weekend.

“If it’s about viability, that’s not something we’ve found to be a hit,” Min said. “Other candidates are making this all about my DUI but will not articulate their own rationale or arguments of how they could win — or present evidence.”

Meanwhile, Min’s allies are pointing to potential drags on Weiss’ candidacy in the general election, such as her living roughly ten miles outside the district boundaries (members of Congress are not required to live in their districts). And they have gone after Weiss for loaning nearly a quarter million dollars to her campaign, arguing the bid is being financed by her work — and her husband’s — as corporate litigators representing companies accused of harming workers.

A chippy primary in March could be water under the bridge in November; plenty of candidates, including Porter herself in 2018, were able to bring together a fractured party and win in the general election.

Porter’s campaign projected optimism that Democrats remain well-positioned for the seat, even as she seeks higher office. Her campaign spokesperson Mila Myles said that “whichever Democrat emerges” will benefit from the grassroots organizing she built in the district.

Still, Baugh, the Republican who is running again this cycle, can barely hide his giddiness about what he calls a “dramatically different” landscape compared to 2022, when Porter spent nine times more than he did. This time, he has already raised more than $1.5 million, roughly a quarter million more than Min and Weiss. He is seen as the prohibitive favorite among Orange County Republicans, though he does face a challenge to his right from businessperson Max Ukropina.

Click here to read the full article in Politico