In California congressional campaign news this week: new polls, a sexual harassment allegation is chalked up to a misunderstanding, and Devin Nunes buzzes the Fresno Bee. Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week across California’s 53 congressional districts:
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A raft of new polls buoy Democratic hopes for a blue wave. A sexual harassment allegation gets revoked, but not everyone is buying the change of heart. A Republican congressman releases the season’s biggest and weirdest attack ad—and his opponent isn’t even the prime target. Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week across California’s 53 congressional districts:
1. Leaning Blue
In half a dozen of the state’s most competitive congressional districts, a new poll shows Democrats may have the edge.
Across Orange County and up through the Central Valley, likely voters favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican in five GOP-held districts. The two candidates are tied in a sixth.
What’s shifting these red districts blue? No surprise there, according to the director of the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, which conducted the survey by email.
“Trump appears to be the main motivator for voters in these districts,” Mark DiCamillo told the Los Angeles Times.
Of the eight, there are two districts where approval of the president is above 50 percent, and in those Republican candidates are outpolling Democrats. But unfortunately for the GOP, Trump isn’t popular in the remaining competitive districts.
2. Propaganda Machine
Last week, Tulare Republican Rep. Devin Nunes’s re-election campaign put out a glossy, 40-page mailer attacking one of his biggest perceived enemies.
No, that wouldn’t be his Democratic challenger, the prosecutor Andrew Janz, but the Fresno Bee.
As KVPR reports, the novella-sized campaign ad contains clips from Nunes-friendly news articles, a few digs at Janz, and what is likely the best drawing of a Kool-Aid guzzling bumble bee aboard a sinking ship ever to make it into a political mailer. But Team Nunes dedicated the bulk of the effort to denouncing his hometown paper as a “propaganda machine.”
The Bee’s alleged offenses include sending reporters to learn more about Nunes by reaching out to his family and neighbors, reporting on anti-Nunes protests, running opinion pieces critical of Nunes and his businesses, and allowing their work to be shared online by potty-mouthed Twitter users.
3. MeToo Reversal
Last May, a Democratic candidate for Assembly publicly accused Gil Cisneros, a millionaire congressional candidate running to replace GOP Rep. Ed Royce in north Orange County, of seeking sex in exchange for political and financial support.
Cisneros, a Democrat, denied the allegation, but it provided plenty of fodder for attack ads. Late last month, the GOP-affiliated Congressional Leadership Fund, which has been underwriting some of the sharpest attacks of the political season, released an ad asking why Cisneros is “trying to silence” the accuser, Melissa Fazli, “because she stands by her account.”
No longer. On Monday, Fazli tweeted that after sitting down with Cisneros, she’s willing to chalk the whole thing up to a “HUGE misunderstanding.”
— 🚨😷WEAR A MASK😷🚨 (@MelissaFazli) October 1, 2018
A spokesperson for the Congressional Leadership Fund questioned the reversal in a statement to Fox News: “Is this another example of a rich and powerful man using his power to intimidate a victim of sexual harassment?”
According to the Orange County Register, the attack ad will no longer be aired on TV, but it is still available online.
4. Prop. 6 backlash
Congressional candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren ally Katie Porter was the first Democrat to break ranks with her party and support Proposition 6, the gas tax reduction measure on this year’s ballot.
Given the political makeup of her district, currently represented by Republican Rep. Mimi Walters and where registered GOP voters outnumber Democrats by seven percentage points, it must have seemed a canny political move. Three other Democratic candidates in vulnerable seats have followed suit.
But the backlash has come. This week, as CALmatters’ Dan Morain reported, the Laborers’ International Union of North America pulled their endorsement.
5. Devin Nunes: Congressman…firebrand…Iowa Milk Farmer?
Political reporter Ryan Lizza set out to explain for Esquire why the family dairy owned by Rep. Devin Nunes’ family, which the congressman really touts as evidence of his agricultural roots, isn’t even in California.
What he found was a much larger story about American agriculture’s complicated relationship with immigration law.
6. Square off in San Diego
If nothing else, Republican Diane Harkey and Democrat Mike Levin provided voters of the California 49th with a very clear contrast in their first televised debate this week.
On taxes, trade, immigration, climate change, and foreign policy, Harkey praised President Trump. She called the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election “much ado about nothing” and warned that if elected, Levin would push for impeachment proceedings.
Levin disagreed on every front, insisted that he isn’t running on an impeachment platform, and said that the Republican-led House of Representatives is “not upholding its constitutional responsibility.”
7. Marijuana mercantilism
Why is the United States permitting the importation of Canadian cannabis, when there’s more than enough of the homegrown stuff to go around?
That was a question that 15 members of Congress put to the federal Department of Justice. At issue was the fact that the federal government had recently given Canadian cannabis cultivators the go-ahead to ship their product to researchers in the United States (for science only!), while delaying the approval of willing American producers.
Why are we importing #cannabis from Canada for research while the @DEAHQ isn’t acting on more than two dozen U.S. cannabis manufacturer applications? @RepMattGaetz and I are leading a bipartisan effort to find out. #BuyAmerican pic.twitter.com/lvR2LYyigY
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) October 1, 2018
The five Californians to sign the letter were Democrats Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Rep. Jimmy Penetta (CA-20), and Jared Huffman (CA-02), along with Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48).
8. Where’s TJ?
Critics of Democrat TJ Cox have been calling him a carpetbagger ever since he left Modesto and moved 100 miles or so down Highway 99 in order to launch his campaign against Republican David Valadao in the Hanford-based district.
Recent reporting from the Fresno Bee showing that Cox had listed a second family home in Maryland—some 2,700 miles away—as his principal residence on state property tax records isn’t likely to help matters. This week, the Cox campaign told the Bee that it was an “honest mistake.”
9. Boo Taxes, Yay Tax Revenue
California Republicans have made Proposition 6, a ballot measure that would repeal a recent increase in the gas tax, a cornerstone of their 2018 election strategy.
But critics of the proposal, like many business, labor, and local government groups, warn that passing Prop. 6 would take away a key source of funding needed to undertake thousands of transportation improvements projects across the state.
Projects like the I-5 Golden State Chokepoint Relief Program which, as Santa Clarita’s KHTS reported, received a $47 million federal grant this week. At the ceremony to hand off the novelty-sized check were U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, several local elected officials and Republican Rep. Steve Knight.
Knight, like the entire Republican California delegation, supports Prop. 6.
“I think the state government is trying to maybe push off their priorities by passing a gas tax and not saying that this is a priority,” Knight said, hoping to clear things up.