Five California House races could determine the future of Congress
At Cal State Fullerton, students seem more motivated than ever to go to the polls.
With President Donald Trump in the back of many of their minds, Tuesday’s election is an opportunity to elect Democrats who can be a check on the president.
“Given the intense political climate, I think a lot of people just want to have more of a say,” said Jonathan Chacon, a Latino student who plans to vote in Los Angeles. “Historically, we’ve had small voter turnout, so I think it’s Latinos and Asians will have a much larger representation at least with these upcoming elections.
Of the 26 UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton students interviewed in The Sacramento Bee’s latest “California Nation” podcast episode, only one admitted to being unregistered and uninterested in voting.
“I don’t believe in voting for the lesser of two evils,” said Albert Dang, a philosophy student at Fullerton who has never voted. “I think politicians don’t really present themselves accurately. … Voting participates in a game I just don’t like.”
Orange County is the epicenter of some of the country’s most heated congressional fights. California Republicans are in danger of losing several seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and young voters could be a huge factor in determining who wins in some of the most competitive races and ultimately, which party controls the House.
Many of the Republicans are embracing Trump, portraying the upcoming election as a referendum on his policies on immigration and urging supporters to turn out so the party can build upon his agenda. All of them have latched on to the effort to repeal the state’s latest gasoline tax increase, appearing at rallies with organizers of Proposition 6.
Democrats, meanwhile, are largely campaigning against Trump and talking to young voters and Latinos about health care and affordability.
These are five congressional races to watch:
KATIE HILL (D) V. REP. STEVE KNIGHT (R)
District 25 — Parts of Ventura County and the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County
Money: As of Oct. 17, Hill raised $6.1 million in individual contributions, compared to just $837,000 for Knight. Hill has
refused to accept money from political action committees, but outside groups are strengthening their efforts this month to get her elected. Through his Independence USA super PAC, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending $4.5 million on ads supporting Hill’s campaign.
Status: Despite the historic Republican advantage, credible public opinion polling from UC Berkeley and Siena College/New York Times largely shows the race as a statistical tie. Experts, including the Cook Political Report, consider the seat a toss-up.
Fun fact: Hill said her dad is a lifelong Republican who never voted for a Democrat until he supported her earlier this year in the June primary.
Analysis: Hill has her work cut out for her. The Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys have been reliably Republican, but Hillary Clinton won the district in 2016. Knight is seeking a third consecutive term.
Hill said outside groups from both political parties are seeking to influence the outcome of the election. She said her goal is to center her campaign around local issues, with health care costs and housing affordability at the top of her priority list.
Knight’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. has to go out and vote. I could lose by one vote, but I could win by one vote. Every vote counts.”
Kim added that her Korean background and bid to become the first Asian-American Republican woman in the House excites the Asian voters in the area.
While Republicans may have performed well in this district in the past, Democrats now have less than one percentage point voter registration advantage, Orange County GOP Chair Fred Whitaker said there are still reasons for the party to be concerned.
“Certainly, demographics can be a challenge,” Whitaker said. “But I think if you look at Congressional District 39, the Republican Party’s meeting the challenge well. That district, in 2012, was a predominantly-Anglo district. Now, it’s 34 percent Latino, 32 percent Asian and 28 percent Anglo.”
Cisneros will need a strong showing from young voters and Latinos. He insists he has a wide spectrum of support.
“It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to,” he said. “Whether I’m talking to Latinos or I’m talking to Asians or I’m talking to Anglos, for me, it’s all the same. It’s about education… healthcare… protecting social security and Medicare.”
California state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento in 2014.
State Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento in 2012. Walters is running for a U.S. House seat.
Young Kim, who’s running for a House seat in the 39th District, smiles outside her office in Yorba Linda, Oct. 6.