Donations amounting to several thousand dollars tipped into candidate Harley Rouda’s campaign treasury in the past few days following the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s decision to back him in the hotly contested June 5 primary election in the 48thcongressional district.
The signal last week serves as a green light to national donors “that we’re running a viable campaign,” said Rouda campaign manager Michael McLaughlin.
A DCCC poll shows a three-way, dead-heat for second place against the Republican incumbent, Dana Rohrabacher, of Costa Mesa.
Rohrabacher leads the poll with 30 percent of those surveyed, while Rouda is tied with fellow Democrat Hans Keirstead and GOP candidate Scott Baughwith 13 percent each. Another 18 percent of those sampled were undecided, shows the poll by Tulchin Research, based in San Francisco, which surveyed 400 people by phone May 1-5. The poll has a sampling error of 4.9 percent.
The midterm election in District 48, which voted for Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, is considered a toss up by the Cook Political Reportand Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ballat the University of Virginia Center for Politics. It’s attracted outside interestswho hope to flip the traditionally reliable Republican district.
GOP voter registration in the district has dropped from 51 percent in 2004 to 40.7 percent currently and exceeds that of Democrats by more than 10 percentage points. The county registrar sets no-party preference figures in CA-48 at 22.4 percent.
The DCCC interest in CA-48 reveals intraparty disagreement among Democrats.
Earlier this year, the state Democratic Party endorsed Keirstead, a stem cell scientist also from Laguna Beach. The first-time candidate was recruited early on by the DCCC and 314 Action, which supports science-oriented candidates, spokesman Ted Bordelon said.
Fran Sdao, chair of the county Democratic Party, called the DCCC decision “disappointing,” but she aims to make lemonade out of lemons. “The upside is there is so much attention to the campaign,” said Sdao, hoping that the influx of outside interest in the congressional race raises turnout and helps other party candidates.
Keirstead, too, shrugged off the DCCC’s slight. “Any time we get preoccupied with politics we lose our sight of the goal to put Orange County residents and the policies that support them first,” said Keirstead, who believes his intent to use science and facts to stand up to Donald Trump resonates with voters.
While the DCCC generally stays out of primary contests, that stance shifted at the prospect of a Democrat getting locked out of some of the 10 House races in California where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to the general election.
Just three Democrats among scores running in the California races have received the DCCC’s seal of approval.
In a statement, DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, of New Mexico, said Rouda earned a spot in its Red to Blue program because his campaign surpassed goals for grassroots engagement, fundraising and wooing high-profile endorsements from elected officials, environmentalists and the LGBT community.
He also received the support of former candidates Laura Oatman and Michael Kotick, who quit the race, and Indivisible OC 48, a grassroots group that held several well-attended forums in recent months where top Democrats in the race debated anarray of topics.
For Rouda, DCCC support will translate into campaign assistance and likely draw support from donors and PACs on the sidelines.
Keirstead mailers also tout a slew of endorsements from elected officials and unions and emphasize the candidate’s platform using science to determine legislative solutions.
His campaign also released a poll showing results that differed from DCCC pollsters. In it, Keirstead comes in second among likely voters behind the incumbent, squeezing out the two other strongest contenders, Baugh and Rouda, respectively.
His pollster, Change Research, based in Palo Alto, sampled 590 likely voters and uses software that corrects for bias, said Bordelon, whose 314 Action group funded the poll.
A different set of polling data comes from Baugh, the former chair of the OC Republican Party from Huntington Beach. He said his campaign research indicates that Rohrabacher’s support is slipping. Though he declined to release his poll information, Baugh attributes some of the decline in the incumbent’s support to voters turned off by nine “hit pieces” issued by the Rohrabacher campaign in recent weeks that slam the GOP challenger as “the lobbyist money can buy.”
Baugh said he did work as a consultant in 2007 for a sober-living facility in Newport Beach and more recently for a Los Angeles developer.
Rohrabacher last week said he intended to introduce legislation to give cities the ability to ban sober-living homes. In an interview with the Daily Pilot, Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley dismissed the bill as “dead on arrival” and said it “violates federal U.S. Supreme Court case law.”