Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) shocked his constituents and the nation by announcing that he will not seek re-election to the House, but will be retiring after 25 years of civil service in the House, and 10 years before that in the California State Senate.
Here are five FAQs about Royce’s retirement and Congressional elections within California, all of which contribute to the biggest question going into 2018: Will the Democrats take the House?
1. Who will the GOP run in place of Royce?
The GOP has a strong list of candidates to choose from, but California’s top-two primary is less than 6 months away. The GOP really has to get moving, especially with the amount of fundraising necessary to win this race.
Former State Assemblywoman Young Kim is currently running for Orange County supervisor. However, Young Kim knows Royce’s district well because she spent many years working alongside him. It is possible she could seek to upgrade and run for Congress. Ling Ling Chang could also find herself in the mix. Current CA Assemblymen Phillip Chen could also announce, but he previously lost an election to Chang and should remain on the outskirts of discussion. Former State Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff should most definitely be in the discussion as well. OC Supervisor Shawn Nelson is set to term out in 2018 and could be another strong GOP candidate. Then there is Michelle Steele, Chairwoman of the OC board of supervisors and wife to Shawn Steele. Finally, Former Assemblyman Baugh and State Senator Janet Nguyen could be options from outside the 39th.
2. Who will Royce endorse?
Royce’s sharp foreign policy and servant's heart made him phenomenal at coalition-building within the district. Almost all of these GOP options were supported or endorsed by Royce at one point or another, and his endorsement will carry a lot of clout with voters within the district.
3. How are Democrats Positioned in CA’s 39th in 2018?
After Clinton won the 39th by 8.6%, the DNC opened an office in Royce’s district in 2017. Several Democrats were campaigning against Royce, but with almost $2 million cash on hand, Andy Thorburn of Villa Park seems to be the biggest threat to the red seat. After Royce’s retirement was announced, the race went from “lean Republican” to “lean Democrat,” according to Cook Political Report.
4. Who is most likely to win the California 39th general election?
I predict one of these GOP challengers. Didn’t Hillary Clinton win the 39th by 8.6%? Yes, but that was the first time Orange County voted Democrat since the Great Depression. I don’t anticipate a repeat in 2018.
In April 2017, the Democratic majority within the state legislature voted for large gas tax increases. As the swing vote, newly-elected State Senator Josh Newman broke his promise to Orange County and voted along partisan lines. Many credited the moderate Democrat's win over Ling Ling Chang to the unconventional rise of Trump, and his gas tax vote sparked recall movements across the county. California Democrats confirmed they were lying when they said they wanted to lower taxes on the middle class. This remains at the forefront of the issues in the district.
5. How does this affect Foreign Affairs?
Royce terms out at the end of 2018 as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he will be replaced with another anti-Iranian Deal, pro-Israel stalwart if the Republicans hold the House. However, day by day, that “if” becomes more and more questionable.
So, will the Democrats take the House?
In short, no. But it will be close. Here’s why:
Trump didn’t have coattails to begin with, but, traditionally, the president’s coattails start to wither away in the midterm. The party not in control of the White House has gained seats in the House in 8 out of the last 10 midterm elections, which dates back to 1978. That being said, Democrats are expected to pick up some seats, and another toss-up could increase that momentum.
In 2016, Clinton carried 23 districts currently held by Republicans in the House. Nearly a third of the 23 split-ticket districts are competitive districts in California: CA10th, CA 21st, CA 25th, CA 39th, CA 48th, CA 45th, CA 49th. But with a 24-seat majority, and Democrats on the defensive in 12 D-held districts that voted for Donald Trump (three from Minnesota, the 1st, 7th, 8th which Trump won by 14.7%, 30.6%, and 15.5% respectively), flipping Clinton-GOP districts won’t push Democrats to 218.
However, incumbency plays a large role in fundraising capabilities and rapport with constituents, and in 2018, 25 House Republicans will be retiring compared to 13 Democrats. While these retirements look like an opportunity for Democrats, the DNC has a huge liquidity problem.
In mid-December, DNC Chair Tom Perez announced the DNC raised $5.7 million in November, the lowest fundraising numbers since November of 2007’s $4.4 million. The national Democratic Party has brought in a little over $60 million in 2017, while it has $6.3 million cash on hand and is $2.6 million in debt. In a country where the candidate with the most money wins 93% of the time, the DNC’s poor fundraising numbers should raise serious concerns for progressives. The Republican Party, on the other hand, just recorded its eighth-consecutive record-breaking month by raking in $8.2 million, according to RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel.
The GOP's record in special elections has been impressive in 2017, despite the fact they’re holding Republican districts (of course, the unusual circumstances in Moore’s election makes it an outlier). What’s more, in only four of the past 10 midterm elections, the party out of power has picked up 24-plus seats. It would require that Democrats make their third-largest shift in a midterm since 1978, and I remain vehemently skeptical of their capability to capitalize on these opportunities. That being said, California voters should definitely expect a lot of toss-ups in California, and we must organize accordingly to ensure the GOP holds crucial seats.