Five Cal­i­for­nia House races could de­ter­mine the fu­ture of Congress

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Insight - BY BRYAN AN­DER­SON ban­der­son@sacbee.com

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.”

RICH PEDRONCELLI AP

Cal­i­for­nia state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palm­dale, speaks at the Capi­tol in Sacra­mento in 2014.

RICH PEDRONCELLI AP

State Sen. Mimi Wal­ters, R-Lake For­est, speaks at the Capi­tol in Sacra­mento in 2012. Wal­ters is run­ning for a U.S. House seat.

CHRIS CARL­SON AP

Young Kim, who’s run­ning for a House seat in the 39th District, smiles out­side her of­fice in Yorba Linda, Oct. 6.

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