In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.
Controversy has beset CA-10 candidate Ted Howze after POLITICO reported on bigoted, conspiratorial and inflammatory social media posts from his accounts. While Howze issued another denial yesterday, comparing his treatment to that of Brett Kavanaugh, Republican Party figures have publicly reproached the posts and begun backing away from a candidate who’s suddenly smelling toxic.
Last night the big blow fell: the California Republican Party unanimously yanked its endorsement, with Chair Jessica Millan Patterson underscoring a zero-tolerance policy for posts that she called "disgraceful, disgusting" and contradictory to "the values we hold or the Party we are building." Tasked with rebuilding a party that has struggled to expand beyond its base, Patterson could ill-afford to back a candidate with this kind of baggage, denials or no.
The escalating exodus further scrambles a November political map in which control of the House hinges partly on seven red-to-blue California seats. Democratic CA-10 Rep. Josh Harder had been seen as one of the more vulnerable first-term California Dems after his come-from-behind win against former Rep. Jeff Denham in 2018. But Howze's woes redound to Harder's advantage: even before the CAGOP disavowal, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball yesterday moved the district to "safe Democratic."
Before the excrement hit the vent, California Republicans were celebrating: new Rep. Mike Garcia had just wrested back CA-25, giving the party its first reclaimed seat in decades and strengthening its hand going into November. Where once the party was preparing to challenge Rep. Katie Hill, a popular rising star, now it had a Republican incumbent on the ballot whose comfortable win energized the base.
But now the picture is murkier. And that’s without getting into the pandemic X-factor. Assumptions of surging liberal turnout have given way to the utter uncertainty of constrained campaigning with all-mail balloting — not to mention how a devastated economy affects voter perceptions.
Both CA-25 and CA-10 are filtering into other California races: Yesterday we saw one Democrat raising funds off of the need to defeat the “extreme, far-right, xenophobic” Howze; vulnerable Democratic freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros exhorted supporters that the CA-25 defeat “reminded us just how competitive Gil’s reelection is going to be in November.”