GOP candidate undeterred
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/22/2010 05:54:25 PM PDT

Scott Folkens is a Republican, and a quite conservative one at that. He supports school vouchers, a tougher line on illegal immigration, and is an avid opponent of the health-care bill approved Sunday.

And for the second time, he’s running for Congress against Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, a liberal lawmaker who, given the outcomes of his five re-election campaigns, seems to have the overwhelming support of his constituents.

Folkens said he plans to make Baca’s support of the health-care plan a big part of his campaign, which he acknowledges is a long shot.

“I’ve always told my students you do what is right because it is right,” said Folkens, a teacher at Bloomington Christian School. “If he’d just been looking at the odds, Washington never would have crossed the Delaware. … America winning the Revolution was more of a crapshoot than me winning this election.”

But not much more.

Since taking office more than a decade ago, Baca has won has won re-election five times, getting an average of 65 percent of the district’s vote each time. He took 69.2 percent in 2008.

And he’s won those wide margins while supporting a fairly liberal agenda, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a public health-care option and the health-care bill that passed Sunday night.

“There are a lot of things Congress does that aren’t constitutional,” Folkens said, “but this health care is the grossest break of that trust that
we’ve seen in a long time.”

He said Baca’s vote will “definitely take top priority” in his campaign.

But Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, said the health-care bill likely won’t hurt Baca or most Democrats who voted for it.

“I doubt Baca’s going to lose any votes,” Pitney said. “In that district, the people who oppose the health bill are going to be Republican and they weren’t voting for Baca anyway.”

Baca’s district is heavily Democratic. As of Jan. 25, Democrats comprised 51.1 percent of registered voters, while Republicans comprised just 27.6 percent. More than 17 percent declined to state their party. The rest are a mixture of third parties.

That’s why Robert Rego, chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Party, said unseating Baca will be an uphill battle.

“His district is so Democratic,” he said. “They have a two-to-one registration advantage. The dynamics of that district still make it quite difficult for a Republican.”

The only Democrats who should worry about voting for the health-care bill, said Brian Janiskee, chairman of the political science department at Cal State San Bernardino, are those who come from districts that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004 or for presidential candidate Sen. John McCain in 2008.

“But those Democrats from safe Democratic districts” – like Baca’s – “will most likely not be affected,” Janiskee said.

All that said, Folkens said he knows how to win. All he has to do, he said, is try to sway some of Baca’s traditional supporters and then make sure Republicans in the district turn out to vote.

“Even if he outnumbers me two to one (in voter registration), he has trouble bringing out his base in off-year elections,” Folkens said. “He can only bring out voters when there’s a big Democrat at the top of the ticket.”

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