Campaign 2016

By Sarah D. Wire
September 5, 2016

With just over a month left before California starts sending out vote by mail ballots, congressional races are starting to heat up.

Voters in all of California’s 53 House districts will weigh congressional candidates this fall, but with a host of powerful incumbents, and districts shaped to benefit people in power, only a handful of those races are thought to be competitive or up in the air.

The state is currently represented in the House by 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Democrats are hoping to hold the four seats left open by retirements and perhaps flip one or two more to their column.

Most of the other races have been off of the average voter’s radar, as has the U.S. Senate race between Democrats Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Thirty of California’s 49 House incumbents secured more than 60% of the vote in the June primary. All were Democrats, except for Republican Reps. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, Ed Royce of Fullerton, and Devin Nunes of Tulare.

Nonetheless, the nonpartisan analysts at Cook Political Report consider seven California House Districts as having the potential to change parties — and just one of them a likely turnover.

Here’s a look at some of the races we’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on from now until election day.
Porter Ranch tossup

Democrats have targeted Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), who faces Democratic attorney Bryan Caforio in the 25th Congressional District that includes parts of north Los Angeles County and Simi Valley.

It’s the only California seat the Cook Political Report has deemed a “toss-up” that could be won by either candidate.

Still, Knight heads into the general election with the advantages of incumbency and being from a political family, said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report newsletter, which rates the race Republican favored. Knight, and his father, the late William J. “Pete” Knight, both served the area in the state Senate.

Caforio moved to the district last year and registered to vote there less than a year ago.

Gonzales said because it’s “an expensive place to get known,” Democrats are going to have to spend a lot of money to raise Caforio’s profile. His first ad began running on cable and online last week.

Tough fight for an incumbent in Silicon Valley

In the 17th Congressional District, Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) faces a tough re-election fight against fellow Democrat and former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, who finished 1.7% ahead of the eight-term congressman in the primary.

With 37.4% of the vote, Honda had the worst primary showing of any California incumbent.

The two clashed for the Silicon Valley seat in 2014, with Honda squeezing out a win by 3.6 percentage points. This time Honda has a year-old ethics investigation over his head and Khanna has poached some of his endorsements. Gonzales said Honda is “in a really vulnerable position,” adding, “The race is not moving in the Congressman’s direction.”

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