Los Angeles Times

Democrats aim to flip GOP House seats

The party thinks five of its candidates in California have good shots at beating their Republican rivals.

- By Seema Mehta

Democrats are on defense across the country in this year’s midterm elections but appear to believe some of their best chances for flipping Republican congressio­nal districts are in California.

Five of six candidates added to the “Red to Blue”

program on Monday are in California, according to an announceme­nt by the Democratic Congressio­nal Campaign Committee.

“The Democratic Party is stronger because of candidates like these who have joined the fight to represent their community,” committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said in a statement. “Unlike their extreme Republican opponents, these candidates will fight for their district, work to protect reproducti­ve freedom, battle to lower prices on groceries, gas and prescripti­on drug costs, and seek commonsens­e solutions to combat gun violence terrorizin­g communitie­s.”

Candidates must show viability by hitting donation goals and having robust campaigns and field operations in order to qualify for the committee’s Red to Blue program, which provides fundraisin­g, organizing and other support.

Many of the California Democrats in the program are running in districts that were made more favorable in the redrawing of congressio­nal maps after the U.S. census. Redistrict­ing, which is conducted by an independen­t panel in California, occurs once every decade and was especially fraught last year because the state lost a congressio­nal seat for the first time in its history.

Among the candidates added to the program Monday are two competing for open seats: Dr. Kermit Jones is running against GOP Assemblyma­n Kevin Kiley in a sprawling district that spans much of eastern California, and Assemblyma­n Adam Gray is vying with Republican nursery owner John Duarte in the Central Valley.

Also added to the Red to Blue program are former Assemblywo­man Christy Smith, who is challengin­g Republican Rep. Mike Garcia in northern Los Angeles County; Dr. Asif Mahmood, who is vying with Republican Rep. Young Kim in an Orange County-centric district; and former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, who hopes to defeat Rep. Ken Calvert — the longest-serving Republican member of California’s congressio­nal delegation — in Riverside County.

The sixth candidate added by the committee is Illinois meteorolog­ist Eric Sorensen, who is competing with Republican attorney Esther Joy King.

Before Monday’s announceme­nt, the only California­ns on the list were Navy Reserve intelligen­ce officer Jay Chen, who is trying to defeat GOP Rep. Michelle Steel in an Orange County-based district, and Assemblyma­n Rudy Salas, who is vying against Republican Rep. David Valadao in the Central Valley.

California­ns now account for more than one-fifth of the 33 candidates in the program.

Republican­s have a similar program for promising candidates who meet fundraisin­g and organizati­onal benchmarks.

California­ns Kiley and Duarte are part of the “Young Guns” program, as are San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti, who is running against Rep. Josh Harder in the Central Valley; former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh, who is vying with Rep. Katie Porter in Orange County; and former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott, who is challengin­g Rep. Mike Levin in a district that straddles Orange and San Diego counties.

Republican­s need a net gain of a handful of seats to take control of the House. Democrats are facing headwinds going into the November election, with the historic trend that a president’s party loses ground in the first midterm compounded by President Biden’s low approval ratings and economic challenges such as inflation and high gas prices.

But the party is hopeful that recent Supreme Court rulings, notably the overturnin­g of federal protection for abortion access, could help motivate voters, particular­ly suburban women in places like Orange County.

Some of the candidates Democrats are aiming to highlight, however, are behind in funding, according to disclosure­s filed Friday.

Smith is viewed as one of the party’s best chances of flipping a district — she lost her 2020 race against Garcia by 333 votes, and after the once-a-decade redrawing of congressio­nal maps, the district has grown more Democratic. But she ended June with $306,000 in the bank, compared with Garcia’s $1.7 million, according to fundraisin­g disclosure­s filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

Democrats have grown excited by Rollins’ prospects against Calvert, notably because the district has grown more liberal with the inclusion of Palm Springs. But Calvert had nearly $1.4 million in his campaign coffers at the end of June, compared with Rollins’ $479,000.

Gray, with $402,000 in cash on hand, had slightly more than Duarte.

In two districts that favor Republican­s, Democrats reported significan­t funds as they prepare for the fall. Jones had more than $595,000 in the bank at the end of June, more than three times as much as Kiley. And Mahmood had more than $1.2 million, a little shy of Kim, who had to spend millions of dollars to fight off a primary challenger.

 ?? ?? THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY added five California candidates to its “Red to Blue” program, offering funding and support: from left, Dr. Kermit Jones, Adam Gray, Christy Smith, Dr. Asif Mahmood and Will Rollins.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY added five California candidates to its “Red to Blue” program, offering funding and support: from left, Dr. Kermit Jones, Adam Gray, Christy Smith, Dr. Asif Mahmood and Will Rollins.

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