The Obama Eight: CA-3

Crossposted @ Calitics & DailyKos

GOP incumbent: Dan Lungren

Dem : 38%
GOP : 40%
DTS : 18%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+0.5% / 49.3%

2008 results
Bill Durston : 44.0%
Lungren : 49.5%
Arthur Tuma : 2.3%
Dina Padilla : 4.2%

Do you hella like gerrymandering? Well then have I got the Congressional District for you: CA-3, in the heartland of NorCal! Below is a map for you to play with. The markers are major communities in the district, with their party registration noted.

First, let me state for the record that I grew up in what is now the 3rd District in Elk Grove. My hometown today is one of the largest cities in California, a bedroom community in the larger Sacramento metropolitan region. It’s grown a lot since I was a kid and it may be the linchpin in the effort to oust one of the more onerous Obama Eight.

The Incumbent:
Dan Lungren’s a former AG of California, and before that he was a Congressman for Long Beach in the ‘80s. In 2004, he jumped on the 3rd District after getting creamed in his bid to be Governor – by Gray Davis. He remains unashamed of his anti-government positions, despite working for the government his whole life. He is sometimes uncertain which he dislikes more: taxes or Commies. He tried to unseat John Boehner from his leadership position for not being conservative enough. Oh, and if you're a Poizner fan, he endorsed Meg Whitman.

The 3rd District, stretching from the Milk Farm to Kirkwood, is a cross-section of Northern California and its demographics have changed since it was created. Once upon a time, the district encompassed all the solidly red parts of Sacramento’s suburbs, leaving the juicy blue bits to the Matsui Family. Between I-5 and Highway 99, however, Laguna Creek has sprung from nothing and become populated by families, many African American, who left the blight of South Sac for a big suburban home of their own. They brought their Democratic voter registration with them.

Although the 3rd may have a lot more Dems than it once did, like in CA-25 Obama’s performance was still not stellar. Citrus Heights, Folsom, and the foothills remain Republican strongholds. One of Dick Cheney's last campaign stops of 2004 was Wilton. The 3rd District is a conservative place. Laguna may tip the scales overall, but it hasn't changed the character of the rest of the district, which remains white and old.

The Dems:
For the last two cycles, Dr. Bill Durston was Lungren’s gadfly. His supporters tried to put him in the same category with Charlie Brown and Jerry McNerney, but he never performed as well as his co-partisans to the north and south. He did got a lot of support from activists around the region who wanted a true progressive to dethrone Lungren. It just wasn’t meant to be. Despite promising a third run immediately after his last defeat, Durston demurred, inviting a host of aspirants to try their luck in his stead.

Dr. Ami Bera is probably the heir apparent to Dr. Durston’s legacy as a candidate. Bera’s also a surgeon and committed to universal health care. He’ll probably also get the attention and adoration of the left. Oh yeah, he also raised $288,000 in the first quarter. If he keeps that up, he'll have plenty of money to shout his progressive credentials from the mountaintops.

The other Dem to have made a splash is Elk Grove Councilman Gary Davis. He’s committed to the hard work, although he has made occasional appearances on local comment-sections which is a no-no. His homoglyph was the last person to wallop Dan, so maybe that’s a good sign. Unfortunately, his first quarter receipts were dismal, coming in at less than $34,000. There is hope, of course, but that's a big hole to have to dig oneself out of.

And Davis' challenge is only made harder by the presence of Bill Slaton, a SMUD Board Member. He's well connected with the local Dem leadership and a source tells me not only that he'll post $227,000 for the first quarter but that he raised that amount in just three weeks with nothing but a phone and a rolodex.

This is shaping up to be the premier race of 2010. DCCC is watching hungrily, and they've already dropped ads and robo calls on Lungren. The Dem, however, who comes out ahead will need to plug into the establishment better than Durston did. Go to those fundraisers, shake every hand in the room, don't leave until you've burned your name into Steny Hoyer's subconscious!

And if you're wondering, Lungren lost Amador County...

The Outlook:

(If you really wanna know all the gory details of my strategy for the 3rd, email me.)

Dan Lungren will be tough to beat. Although I think Dr. Durston made many errors in his approach, his successors will be every bit as hindered by the nature of the district as was he. Unlike other Obama Eight districts, though, I don’t think the 3rd necessarily requires a moderate Democrat. It will require a crafty Democrat.

Agenda Item #1: Laguna Creek and the foothills. The voters of Laguna Creek plain didn't exist when the district was drawn and they're mostly blue so every vote here is a freebie. Because the African American population may need to be coaxed back to the ballot box, a thorough catalog of everything Lungren's done to stymie President Obama's agenda would be a good thing to have on hand.

Although no Dem is going to win Amador and Calaveras Counties, there really are pockets of supporters and, more important, Dem-sympathizers in the region. Since Lungren will need a landslide here to guarantee success, every win, no matter how small, will be a dent in his message and a blow to his confidence.

Agenda Item #2: A top-shelf media strategy. In my experience, the local outlets are tepid about covering politics, at least until after the election anyway. The district is big, but every part of it is in the Sacramento media market. Even radio covers almost every voter, and Sacramentans have long commutes. It's is a large, expensive market, so dedicated, disciplined communications personnel will be essential.

Agenda Item #3: Don't wait for the cavalry to come. DCCC is keeping a close eye on this race, but so is the NRCC. DCCC will be on defense as much as offense in 2010, so their support is not inevitable. Besides, they just provide the tender. The candidate has to bring the locomotive. The best defense against the national right-wing apparatus is good fundraising. Two of the three candidates seem, at this time, to be on the right track. Can they keep it up?

There are many reasons to be pessimistic about 2010, but there are just as many reasons to be bullish about CA-3. Stay tuned…

Important Links Candidates:
Ami Bera
Gary Davis
Bill Slaton


There will probably be many, many more local outlets soon enough for district-specific details, but national and statewide outlets like Calitics will also likely have lots of coverage going forward.

Elk Grove Online
Elk Grove
California Notes
(This was the premier website for the GOP's effort in CA-4. I'm sure they'll rally to Lungren's defense, too.)

Amador County Dems
Calaveras County Dems
Rio Vista Dem Club

Sacramento County Dems

(Their website looks recently re-launched, but there are numerous clubs covering the area.
The "neighborhood leaders" position sounds promising.)


And of course, email me any hot tips or vicious ad hominem attacks you'd like to share. This one is just too damn important so don't be shy about it!


fnpople said...

Really well-written coverage! I'd of course like to know more about all three of these candidates' positions... that's my only complaint so far.

Packherd said...

Right now, their only position is that Dan Lungren's a crummy Congressman.

Considering Obama only won this district by 0.5%, I'd like to hear some of their views vis-a-vis his agenda. Health care reform, scientific integrity, earmarking, and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Anonymous said...

38 D, 40 R, 18 DTS? These numbers seem to be the most appealing of the "Obama 8," and a good reg effort can and should continue to move these in the right direction for a 2010 pickup.

The candidates can shake hands and raise all the money they want. A number of commentators have said that Dr. Durston was poorly positioned for the district (too left leaning), and yet still came in at a fairly impressive 44 and held Lungren to 49.

fnpople said...

I'm still waiting for issues. I don't want to support one candidate or the other unless I know where they stand. So I guess that's pretty impressive fundraising for no one even knowing what platforms these guys are running on!