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March 5, 2021
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California Focus

Thomas D. Elias
Capitol invasion threatens GOP California seats
February 12, 2021

Republicans made much ado last fall when they regained four of the seven congressional seats Democrats flipped away from them two years earlier, in 2018.

 They gloated in ways they could not over the last 25 years, since Democrats turned this state into a sea of blue.

 “We were the ones who wanted to get something done,” crowed Hanford’s David Valadao, who took back the 21st District seat he had lost by 900 votes to Democrat T.J. Cox two years earlier. 

But are they gloating too soon? Valadao’s margin of 1,522 votes out of about 170,000 that were cast only slightly topped Cox’s earlier edge. Fewer than 2,000 voters switching from one candidate to another, one party to another, made the difference.

This could portend a Democratic comeback in the district next year – but no one can be certain, because California is likely to lose a seat or two in the House when Census results are finalized, assuring that district lines will change. It’s even possible Valadao could find himself in a primary fight with neighboring GOP Rep. Devin Nunes if new districts feature overlap between their two current ones.

Even more threatening to some Republicans was their performance in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol, incited in part by Trump. 

His purpose: To disrupt the usually pro forma congressional certification of the Electoral College vote held on Dec. 14, which made Joe Biden president in accordance with the popular vote nationally and in individual states. Congress voted on possibly rejecting electors from Arizona based on unfounded fairy tales of fraud propounded by the defeated past president. A week later, it voted to impeach Trump a second time.

Only one of the four Republicans who recovered seats for the GOP actually voted for the objections from their party’s senators and House members. That was Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, a former Navy fighter pilot who won last fall by just 333 votes out of more than 340,000 cast in the district running from Lancaster and Rosamond in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County over to Simi Valley in Ventura County.

 As with other districts, no one knows quite what his will look like in 2022, the shape of districts to be determined by California’s bi-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission, whose members are yet unnamed.

Garcia’s is the only House seat even partly in 12-million-person Los Angeles County that’s now held by the GOP and Garcia won it by the barest of margins. It contains several of the few remaining Republican-dominated enclaves in the state, but Garcia won this time because about 800 swing voters changed their choices between 2018 and 2020.

With no evidence to back his assertion, Garcia explained his vote to cancel Arizona’s electors by asserting without offering any evidence that he “firmly believed” there were constitutional errors in some states’ votes. This despite numerous court decisions finding there were no such errors, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the incumbent’s own appointees joined the majority ruling against him.

 Immediately, there were calls in the district for Garcia to resign and make way for a special election to replace him, charging he gave aid and comfort to the Jan. 6 mob that invaded the Capitol.

Meanwhile, newly elected seat flippers Valadao, Young Kim and Michelle Steel of Orange County all found excuses not to vote on the Arizona objection. They may have avoided calls to resign, but they made no move to back constitutional democracy and so will be subject in 2022 to charges they implicitly backed the mob and the former incumbent. Like Garcia, three of them voted against impeachment. Valadao was one of just 10 Republicans to back it.

Chances are expansion of district sizes due to loss of a seat or two will increase the geographical reach of all their districts next year, throwing more Democrats into their constituencies.

This leaves the California GOP in significantly worse shape now than before the Capitol invasion, a boon for Democratic efforts to hold their slim House majority in an off-year election where the incumbent president’s party usually loses some seats.

 

 Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net