The Obama Eight: CA-25

Cross posted @ DailyKos.
Updated: July 14

Moving along...

GOP incumbent: Buck McKeon

Dem : 38%
GOP : 39%
DTS : 18%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+1.1% / 49.5%

2008 results
Jackie Conaway : 42.2%
McKeon : 57.8%

The Congressman:
I can't really freak out about Buck McKeon. He doesn't jump to mind when I think of GOP Congressmen who give me the willies. Nonetheless, he is staunchly conservative. He's a member of the Republican Study Committee, he's LDS, and he stands by the obnoxious drilling-for-more-oil-is-an-alternative energy policy. That last one's especially curious since the district he represents has some of the country's best solar and wind resources, but zero oil and natural gas.

Oh well. I'm sure he has his reasons.

CA-25 is one of California's big weird districts where a conservative suburban area is attached to a vast rural region. Rural voters are all conservative, right? Whatever, I'm not driving all the way to Bridgeport to find out. But for CA-25 that grueling six hour excursion could make the difference.

View Larger Map

Unlike the other Obama Eight districts, CA-25 is not a red district. The registration margin has halved since just last November (Swing State Project has the raw numbers). The GOP's advantage is now only a little more than one percent, so let me repeat myself:

CA-25 is not a red district.

In CA-25, the northernmost edge of the SoCal megalopolis is combined with its winter hinterland, Mammoth Lakes. Obama's mediocre showing and McKeon's strong win make this look like a safe seat. Obama did okay in the Santa Clarita Valley, or SCV, and only narrowly lost in the High Desert, but he took a 10 pt. thumping in Inyo County, pulling down his margin. When the Dem registration actually catches up next summer, however, that will be the local meme. Every time Buck McKeon or his prospective challengers get mentioned in the news, it will be along side some boilerplate about how the district recently became purple.

The Dems:

This is where it gets heavy. Bob and Jackie Conaway are a husband and wife team from Barstow who have been going after Buck McKeon for over a decade. In 2008, it was Jackie's turn to take a shot and she raised $5,800 for her campaign. The online record of her effort is basically non-existent. At this time no one, not even the Conaways, have declared for 2010.

The bright spot is that there seems to be a good base of Democratic organization all across the district. That organization was working hard to get Obama elected and I suppose they deserve credit for making CA-25 one of the Obama Eight. There are several groups in the SCV and CSU Northridge is in the next district over. The Mojave Desert Dems in Barstow have recently gotten onto Facebook – good for them.

And up Highway 395 is the Owens River Democratic Club. They are a consolidation of the Inyo and Mono Counties' Dem communities, and their website is well put together. I recommend their blog, which will give you a good sense of the rebellious temperament of liberal mountain folk. For example, there's this prescient post from way back in October:
Dems Badly Misreading Public Mood on Bailout

The Democratic leadership, Obama, Reid, and Pelosi, are badly misreading the public mood on the bailout. Never have I seen the American people so united in outrage over a proposal. This is sadly reminiscent of the vote on the Iraq war and Kerry's spineless defense that he would have done "everything differently".

This is a phenomenal opportunity to show real leadership, limit the power of investment banks and put forward a real progressive agenda. Obama is playing not to lose and has left a huge opening for the republicans to put forward a populist bill.

Those who love wildlife will note that the Full-Throated Eastern Sierra Democrat shares its territory with the bighorn sheep, and like the bighorn, it is a stubborn, unique specimen.

The Outlook:
The situation in CA-25 is curious and frustrating. It's only 2,000 Democrats away from being a purple, 36% Hispanic district represented by an arch-conservative. How is that not a recipe for victory? I'm tempted to berate the Dems of L.A. County and for not sending assistance up I-5, but in this case, the locals need to do it themselves. It seems that they know each other and they hold regular meetings but they need to move on from the Obamamania. Coordination across such a vast district is tough so candidate recruitment is likely tepid if it exists at all. A smart web presence can fix that. Still, from the outside looking in, it's hard to determine what's going on.

Oh, and $5,800 dollars is barely more than two max donations for a Congressional campaign. Just two! That is not acceptable.

Some mix of Dem registration drives, party apparatus development, and improved performance in the suburban areas could put a candidate over the top. David Dayen sums up the challenge:
There is certainly a profile of a Democratic candidate that could attract serious votes out here. But that person does not yet exist.

Remember, this is an on-going project, so leave a comment or email with any suggestions or tips!

I don't want to harp on the earmarks thing but, like Gallegly, Buck McKeon is a conservative Republican who ♥ earmarks. Why isn't this being used more? This is the perfect wedge issue; they made it. It's like a murder mystery where the victim is a swordsmith killed by his own masterpiece.


Anonymous said...

I posted on dailykos already, but why can't we ship someone in a la Garamendi? McClintock was from Ventura County yet is now Representative for CA-04 in Northern California. Surely there's someone out there in CA that is qualified and willing to become a United States Congressperson???

Packherd said...

That is an excellent question, Anonymous, and I wish he would!

Garamendi and Angelides were both recruited for CA-3. Angelides has said he's not interested. Garamendi pulled out of the race for the Dem gubernatorial nomination to run for CA-10, the seat that will be vacated by Ellen Tauscher once she's confirmed.

Bascially, neither of them felt like taking on Dan Lungren and I doubt they'd be interested in taking on Buck McKeon either. In such a gerrymandered state, there's little incentive for big-name players to risk their reputations on tough races.

That, I believe, was the main problem for these eight races in 2008. Establishment CA Dems won't go after establishment CA GOPers, so it's left to ambitious outsiders, like Charlie Brown.