November 16, 2019 at 8:01 am PST | by Karen Ocamb
Are California Democrats battling Trump fatigue?


While politicos nationwide watch the historic House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, led by the focused and unflappable Democratic Chair Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrats back in the blue state are still squirming over which presidential candidate could best beat Trump in 2020 and how far to go to get there.

Fans of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren were disappointed when the two frontrunners decided to skip the California Democratic Convention Nov. 15-17 in Long Beach, with California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks issuing a stern finger-wagging.

“Your decision is a blatant disregard and disrespect to California’s grassroots leaders who make the phone calls, knock the doors, and give the money… in swing districts and swing states alike… year after year after year,” Hicks posted Nov. 5 on his Facebook page. “It’s clear you don’t think you need us to win the Primary. But, you *just might* need us in the General. Just sayin.”

Well, maybe not in California. An Oct. 1 report released by California Sec. of State Alex Padilla indicates that Democrats have either increased their lead in voter registration or narrowed the gap with Republicans. The 154-Day Report of Registration before the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election indicates that registered Democratic voters increased from 43.1% to 44.1% while Republican Party voters decreased from 27.6% to 23.6%.

This is especially important in terms of holding the seven flipped House seats, which would keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Democrats in the House majority to retain oversite of the Trump presidency, as much as possible.

Fortuitously, Reps. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) and Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) have seen Republican control diminish. “None are more notable than Porter’s Orange County district, where Republicans had a 14.2-percentage point advantage in 2016 and now have seen that gap shrink to less than 4 percentage points,” writes LA Times political reporter John Myers.

Interestingly, even without evidence of Democratic improvement in their districts, Porter, Rouda and Levin bravely came out in favor of an impeachment inquiry when the Mueller Report was looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election to benefit Trump.

Additionally, Democrats dominant in the four other flipped districts held by Reps. Josh Harder (D-Turlock), T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) and Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) — and the 25th Congressional District represented by Katie Hill until her difficult, abrupt recent resignation.

Myers thinks “so-called independent voters could be a key factor in the race to succeed Hill,” a proud bisexual whose defeat of longtime anti-LGBTQ Steve Knight was sweet political revenge for the agony Kight and his father Pete Knight put the LGBTQ community through for decades.  On Nov. 10, Knight announced he’s jumping in the race to regain his old seat. He joins a crowded Republican field that includes former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos.

That 25th CD includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and a part of Lancaster – long considered one of the most conservative and blatantly anti-LGBTQ stretches of northern Los Angeles County. But locally, the district is represented by pro-equality Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who is miles more progressive than her former boss and predecessor, Mike Antonovich. Hill won the congressional seat by nine points over Knight, a sign of the changing demographics in the area.

Enter Katie Hill’s friend Christy Smith, who was elected to the California Assembly in November 2018 representing an area that overlaps the congressional district, including Simi Valley.

Democrats have cleared the field for Smith — Alex Padilla’s name had briefly been mentioned but was quickly squashed. “My goal as chairman of the party is to make sure that we don’t have a Dem-on-Dem fight where we split the vote and let Steve Knight take back his old seat,” out LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez told the LA Daily News.

However, Smith is largely unknown in the SoCal LGBTQ community. Jane Wishon, Chair at Westside Democratic Headquarters and Political Vice President at Stonewall Democratic Club, is trying to remedy that with a fundraiser and meet and greet for Smith on Monday, Nov. 18 (7-10PM) at Senator Jones, 2020 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica (See Wishon’s Facebook page.)

As the Los Angeles Blade goes to press, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet called for a special election to fill Hill’s vacant seat. But it will take a lot of money and boots on the ground to keep that seat out of hungry Republican hands.

Democrats also want to win the 50th congressional seat, long held by indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter. Pundits have him up by five points over a crowded field that includes gay talk show host Carl DeMaio and former Rep. Darrell Issa, both of whom live outside the district. Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is running again in the “top-two” primary, having lost by only 3.4% points in 2018 to Hunter in a district won by Trump by 15 points in 2016.

But there’s an odd miasma clouding the Democratic Party. Perhaps it’s weariness with all-things Trump or the ongoing whispered confusion over which presidential candidate Democrats should embrace. But for some reason, at least in Los Angeles, there is a dearth of authentic enthusiasm as the campaigns head into the holidays, even though early Feb. 3 voting by mail is just around the corner.

Democrats may have a voter registration advantage – but it won’t mean much if voters stay home and don’t actually vote in the March 3 Primary and Nov. 3 General Election next year.

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