Lack of Competition From Republicans Hurting California Democrats

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Commentary

The Super Bowl is coming up. Two teams will go head-to-head for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. They’ve competed against the best and are getting ready for one final competition against each other to decide who stands on top.

Contrast that with California’s statewide political races: Democrats win automatically. Republicans are lucky if they can get 40 percent of the vote for U.S. senator, governor, or the other statewide positions. Two times recently, in 2016 and 2018 for U.S. senator, both finalists in the general election were Democrats with nearly identical views.

This year, the only statewide race, except for the presidency, is for U.S. senator. The two finalists will be decided in the March 5 primary election. Because of the undemocratic Top Two system, the contest is among those of any party, or no party, a system that produced the lack of choice in 2016 and 2018. This time, that seems unlikely to happen, as the polls are showing the victors probably will be Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff and former Los Angeles Dodgers baseball star Steve Garvey, a Republican.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers player Steve Garvey attends Time Warner Cable MLB All Star Week in New York City on July 15, 2013. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Time Warner Cable)
Former Los Angeles Dodgers player Steve Garvey attends Time Warner Cable MLB All Star Week in New York City on July 15, 2013. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Time Warner Cable)
But Mr. Garvey is unlikely to get more than 40 percent. As I noted in my Jan. 25 Epoch Times article, “Steve Garvey Whiffs Senate Debate,” he’s been hesitant on abortion and other issues, and refused to take a position on supporting or not supporting former President Trump for his party’s nominee for the White House. I don’t see much enthusiasm for him. This is a vanity campaign to pad the checkbooks of the consultants.

Back to the Democrats. The other two Democrats gaining at least some traction in the polls are Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Their positions are almost exactly the same as those by Mr. Schiff, with the only nuance being Mr. Schiff is against a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, while the others favor it—although all three strongly back Israel.

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The problem for Democrats is this state used to regularly produce presidential contenders in both parties. For Republicans, two presidents hailed from here, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Gov. Earl Warren, later chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was his party’s candidate for vice president in 1948. In 1996, Gov. Pete Wilson started a campaign for the top job, but a whistling sound in his voice needing medical correction and other problems derailed him.

For Democrats, Gov. Jerry Brown ran for the highest office in 1980; then again in 1992 when he was out of office. The late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose senate seat is the one up for contention this year, in 1996, 2000, and 2004 was talked about as a vice-presidential contender. Gov Gray Davis was looking at a run when he was recalled in 2003.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 3, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 3, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Newsom Flames Out

Currently, Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom obviously is looking at a run in 2028. But as I pointed out in my Jan. 9 article, “California Gov. Newsom’s 2024 Presidential Hopes Fade,” his brief tenure as the top replacement for his party’s nomination, should President Biden falter, has petered out. He is burdened with the state’s problems, especially a budget deficit of up to $58 billion, rising crime and homelessness, low-performing schools, and low housing affordability.

Mr. Newsom proves my point. Here are his election percentages:

  • 2018: 62 percent
  • 2021 recall: 62 percent
  • 2022: 59 percent

In the 2022 election, which included all statewide offices, the only Republican to get near victory was Lanhee Chen for controller, at 45 percent. Voters still look more favorably on Republicans for financial positions. Indeed, other that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger winning reelection in 2006, the last Republican to win statewide office was businessman Steve Poizner for treasurer in that same year, 51 percent to 38 percent against Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. But that was before the Top Two system, which if in effect then might have thrown it to Mr. Bustamante.

Kamala Harris Not Ready for Prime Time

Republicans were so out of it in 2016, the U.S. senate race pitted two Democrats against one another, Attorney General Kamala Harris, who won 62 percent to 38 percent, against Rep. Loretta Sanchez. At the Orange County Register, we interviewed Ms. Harris, who at least talked to us, which many Democrats refused to do. She spoke to us via a speaker phone. She was hesitant on all the answers.

At the time I thought she might have been looking up the answers in a briefing book. Or perhaps she was reading a computer screen, with a campaign aide typing answers on it from another room. But since then, we’ve all seen her perform the same way as a presidential candidate in 2000, and since as vice president, leading to her low performance in the opinion polls. As of Jan. 19, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregation, she suffers just 37.5 percent approval, to 53.5 percent disapproval.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to hospitality workers of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 at the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 3, 2024. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to hospitality workers of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 at the Culinary Workers Union Hall Local 226 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 3, 2024. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

If Ms. Harris had faced a strong Republican opponent in 2016, she might not have been promoted to her current position. Better yet, Democratic party honchos might not have pushed her to run in the first place, favoring a stronger candidate.

In this state, Mr. Newsom and the other Democrats don’t moderate their positions, because they don’t have to. Rather, they must always push to the left to defeat other Democrats on the way up the election ziggurat.

The problem is the rest of the country is not like California. Many Americans ridicule the Golden State as tarnished beyond redemption. It’s considered La La Land, inhabited by decadent Hollywood celebrities and eccentric Silicon Valley billionaires.

Whether Mr. Schiff, Ms. Porter, or Ms. Lee is elected in November, the victor will have no chance of running for president, reducing the state’s potential clout in Washington. These and the other candidates mentioned refuse to moderate on such issues as abortion, gun control, Supreme Court nominees, taxes, spending, school choice, and draconian climate regulations.

Mr. Newsom possibly could recover from “California-itis,” and make a run in 2028. But a run for president in the next decade is unlikely for his potential successors, the Democrats already lining up to challenge one another in 2026: Lt. Gov. Elena Kounalakis, Senate President pro tem Toni Atkins of San Diego, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. All are on the far left of the party.
None would “play in Peoria,” Illinois, as the old saying has it, meaning the midwestern “swing states” in general—any more than this year’s U.S. Senate candidates. The party, because it lacks competition from Republicans, has radicalized itself outside the box of acceptable positions in America’s national political discourse.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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