Democrats Aim to Flip GOP-Held House Seats in California on Election Day

Congressman Adam Schiff campaigns in Buena Park for Democratic Party candidate Gil Cisneros in his bid to represent California's 39th congressional district during the 2018 election, Nov. 5, 2018.(Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)

Congressman Adam Schiff campaigns in Buena Park for Democratic Party candidate Gil Cisneros in his bid to represent California's 39th congressional district during the 2018 election, Nov. 5, 2018.(Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)

Thousands of volunteers knocked on doors and dialed phones Monday while candidates across California made their final arguments to voters in an election where Democrats look to keep their stranglehold on state offices and add to their advantage in the 53-seat congressional delegation.

Polls will be open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, and early voters must have their ballots postmarked by Tuesday to have them counted. The secretary of state’s office says 19.7 million people are registered to vote.

Democrats have chased Republicans from many California offices and are poised to hold that ground and perhaps gain more.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is the strong favorite over Republican businessman John Cox to succeed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. For the second consecutive general election, there isn’t even a Republican on the ballot for U.S. Senate. This time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has coasted against Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon.

In the Legislature, the question isn’t whether Democrats will control the Assembly and Senate again — no one doubts that. It’s whether Democrats get a veto-proof supermajority in the state Senate to add to their supermajority in the Assembly.

The status would allow them to raise taxes, suspend legislative rules and override vetoes without needing GOP votes.

Republicans hold just 14 congressional seats statewide, but seven of those districts were carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and are battlegrounds this time around. Democrats don’t appear in danger in any of the 39 districts they hold.

The trajectory of the election appears headed toward “the era of being a one-party state and the interesting internal conflicts that come with that,” University of California, San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser said Monday.

He pointed out that the drama in the governor’s race this year was during the primary between Newsom and fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, with Cox seen as a longshot from the start.

“What happens when you have one-party states? What you see is these fights within parties,” Kousser said.

In San Francisco, Feinstein dropped off her ballot at City Hall, where the 85-year-old Democrat urged residents to vote.

“Of course, I hope more Democrats vote than Republicans, but in any event, everyone should vote,” she said.

Democrats hold a 3.7 million edge in voter registrations, and Republicans are also outnumbered by independents, who in California tend to vote like Democrats.

Of 1.4 million new registrations this year, only 187,000 signed up as Republicans, or roughly 14 percent, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan research firm Political Data Inc. The largest group of new voters signed up as independents.

Just a generation ago, California was a reliably Republican state in presidential contests. But a surge in immigrants transformed the state and its voting patterns. The number of Hispanics, blacks and Asians combined has outnumbered whites in the state since 1998.

New voters, largely Latinos and Asians, lean Democratic.

Steve Poizner’s candidacy sums up the state of the California GOP. He was a Republican but decided to run as an independent to regain his old job as insurance commissioner. If he wins, he’ll be the first independent elected to statewide office.

President Donald Trump endorsed Cox, helping elevate him to second place in the June primary and a slot on the November ballot in the state that Trump lost to Clinton by over 4 million votes in 2016.

The president has kept up a steady campaign schedule in Republican-friendly states, but his absence in California this fall suggests he would do more harm than good for GOP candidates in tight races.

For months, Trump has been a leading character in Democratic ads that seek to link Republican candidates to his agenda.

That’s especially the case in the seven U.S. House contests where Democrats are trying to flip seats as they seek to win 23 districts nationwide and regain control of the House.

Four of those seven California battlegrounds are in Orange County, once considered Republican heartland but where much has changed due to demographic shifts over the past two decades. Clinton was the first Democrat to win the county since the Depression era.

Among the Republicans looking to hold off tough challenges are Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Mimi Walters, both closely tied to Trump. Rohrabacher is being challenged by Harley Rouda, a Republican-turned-Democrat businessman, while Walters faces law professor Katie Porter.

At a Democratic rally Saturday in Irvine, Assembly candidate Cottie Petrie-Norris summed up the party’s optimism: “We have changed the face of Orange County,” she said.

Among other prominent issues on the ballot, Californians are considering whether to repeal increased gas taxes and vehicle fees that Brown and the Legislature approved last year to fund transportation projects.

Brown, apparently headed for retirement after a lifetime in politics, made a rare campaign appearance last week to oppose Proposition 6. He called the proposal “a scheme and a scam.”

Republicans have pushed the repeal as a way to motivate voters. They say the tax hikes are another burden on working families in a state that has some of the nation’s highest taxes.

Other ballot issues generating attention would cap profits for dialysis clinics, expand rent control and require more space for farm animals.