The Obama Eight: CA-24

Updated July 11

Alright, 'nuff stalling. Let's git this sucker started!

Introducing the first of the "Obama Eight" series, California's 24th.

GOP incumbent: Elton Gallegly


Dem : 36%
GOP : 42%

DTS : 18%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+2.8% / 50.5%

2008 results
Marta Jorgensen : 41.8%
Gallegly : 58.2%

The Congressman:

Elton Gallegly's been in Congress for over two decades and, if you're like me, you probably wouldn't know him from Adam. He's solidly conservative, to the point that he's actively sought to thwart California's medicinal marijuana laws. He does support earmarks, however, as he's got a button on the front of his official page for "appropriations requests." He also tried to retire in 2006, but was apparently coaxed back.

The 24th, of course, is pretty dang red. The district covers the interiors of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, making it the gerrymandered sister district to the 23rd, which covers the more liberal coastal areas. CA-24 has been inching ever closer to even since it was drawn. The population centers on the urban area around Oxnard.

Gallegly's a successful incumbent because for most of his career he was bringing home nearly two thirds of the electorate, including 2006. (He's also got a really cute dog.) That changed in 2008 when Obama got a clean win on Gallegly's turf, just barely breaking the fifty percent barrier. Gallegly's performance slipped accordingly. Fifty-eight percent of the vote, however, under any other circumstances would be called a commanding victory.

The Dems:
Marta Jorgensen, the 2008 Dem nominee, is a perennial candidate in the 24th, but she raised barely more $10,000. Observers therefore consider her 42% a "floor" for future Dems. With proper funding and organization, how much higher could that have gone?

A little bit, but probably not by eight points. You would basically have to contact every single voter in the district at a cost of $3 million plus. Nonetheless, DCCC saw enough potential to drop some radio ads this year, so it's being watched.

2010's Dem primary will feature one new face, Shawn Stern. He's a younger guy and an environmental consultant by day. His company's website, Green Footprint, LLC, features a Union of Concerned Scientists warning letter regarding environmental issues. It's safe to say that green activism will be a big plank in Stern's platform. The question is whether it is his starting block or his finish line.

Marie Panec, an educator in the area, and Tim Allison, a Realtor, are other names mentioned.


Scenario AIf Gallegly drops out, this open seat could be very competitive. If a Dem looks to be pushing on $100,000 per quarter in fundraising, it deserves serious attention from the CDP and DCCC.
Scenario BIf Gallegly sticks it out and doesn't go totally broke in his own primary, then this probably becomes a four-year race for the Dem. If the Dem can improve considerably on the so-called floor of 42%, (let's say, narrowing the margin to single digits, a >3% improvement) then he or she could make up the difference on the 2012 Obama Express. That justifies creating a competitive district for the region.

And in either case, I'd advise the Dem to very seriously consider a No Earmarks pledge or something like that. Going out on a limb, I'll suggest that the 24th's DTSers did not leave the GOP because of their bellicose rhetoric on spending, but in spite of it. A socially liberal, fiscally conservative Dem can win CA-24.

Important links

Jorgensen for Congress
Shawn Stern for Congress

Brian Dennert, Ventury County Star

Ventura Co. Dems
There are a few Dem Clubs around the area, including in Lompoc, but the Santa Barbara Co. Dems' website was down at the time of this posting.


This is an on-going process, so if you have tips, corrections, or grievances to share, please leave 'em in the comments section or shoot me an email.

Metanote & Shameless Self-Promotion: Last month, David Dayen at Calitics also expressed his pessimism about the Obama Eight, despite the DCCC's commitment, and for basically the same reasons as me. As he put it,
"Some would argue that, properly resourced, these seats would suddenly become very winnable. I give you CA-50, [however,] where Nick Leibham consistently beat Brian Bilbray in fundraising and maxed out at the 45% ceiling on Democrats in that district."
Although Dayen's looking at this from a different ideological perspective than I am I think our pessimism is not political but institutional. Regardless where you sit, the Democratic establishment does not seem ready to take on this challenge.

I hope DCCC proves us wrong.


fnpople said...

Shawn Stern could be the right guy, but I'd really like to see his fundraising. Its an anemic time for everyone right now, but if he can pull relatively impressive numbers (ie, more than Marta's 2008 race in one quarter would be nice to see), then he could actually be considered a solid contender.

I like his website, I like his positions being clearly stated and detailed enough without boring the reader. If he's serious, I honestly think he can pull it off. Of course he'd have to overcome the whole "young" thing.

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