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Blog Home Page --> House -- California -- 04

Brown Concedes Race

Democrat Charlie Brown, running in California's 4th District, conceded the race to Republican Tom McClintock yesterday. After weeks of ballots continuing to trickle in, Brown ultimately trailed McClintock by 1,576 votes out of more than 367,000 votes cast. Brown chose not to ask for a recount, ensuring McClintock's place in the 111th Congress.

This was Brown's second run at the district. In 2006, he came within 3 points of defeating Rep. John Doolittle, whose ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff made him a vulnerable incumbent, even in this conservative, Northeastern California district. Doolittle's retirement in January was actually a detriment to Brown's chances at winning on his second try.

McClintock, a conservative state senator, took a 15-point victory in the June Republican primary over former Rep. Doug Ose, who represented California's 3rd District from 1998-2004. Through mid-October, McClintock had spent some $900,000 more than Brown, but by the end of the campaign he was low on cash and had no TV advertising for weeks.

Four House races now remain undecided: Ohio-15, Virginia-5, and Louisiana's 2nd and 4th districts. Louisiana's primaries were pushed back due to Hurricane Ike and the general elections were moved to this Saturday, Dec. 6.

CA 04: Brown (D) +6

After holding the ethically-challenged GOP Rep. John Doolittle to a 3-point win in 2006, retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown looks poised to win this district located in the Northeast corner of California. A Research 2000/DailyKos poll surveyed 400 likely voters from 10/20-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Brown and State Senator Tom McClintock were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Brown (D)....48 / 88 / 14 / 51 / 44 / 52 (+2 from last, 9/25)
McClintock (R)...42 / 7 / 74 / 34 / 47 / 37 (+1)

McClintock has been off television for a few weeks now, fueling speculation that his campaign is simply out of money and giving Brown an opportunity at a very Republican seat. The latest FEC reports show Brown with close to a four-to-one advantage in cash-on-hand.

McClintock Fires Back

Don't count out State Senator Tom McClintock just yet. The California Republican is leading his race to replace Rep. John Doolittle after all, according to a new poll conducted for his campaign.

The poll, conducted by Cal State-Sacramento Professor Val Smith for McClintock's campaign, surveyed 400 likely voters between 9/22-24 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. McClintock and retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
McClintock.......47 / 37
Brown............39 / 48

The results, according to the polling memo, also show both candidates attracting 72% of their party base. Those numbers are consistent with the most recent public poll in the race, conducted at approximately the same time, by Research 2000, though Brown attracts a little more Democratic support than McClintock attracts Republican support in that poll.

In the Research 2000 poll, Brown also has a healthy 49%-33% lead among independent voters. But the survey for McClintock has the Republican leading, thanks in most part to the overwhelming number of Republicans in the district. Democrats may question whether McClintock's poll oversampled GOP voters in the district.

CA 04: Brown (D) +5

Retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown (D) will like this poll -- showing him leading by 5 points -- even more than the one his campaign released a few weeks ago, which had him up by just 2 points. Seeking to replace the ethically-challenged Republican John Doolittle, Brown's 16-point lead among independents played helped give him the edge over State Senator Tom McClintock.

The Daily Kos survey, conducted by Research2000, polled 400 likely voters between 9/23-25 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Brown and McClintock were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Men / Wom / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Brown .........46 / 42 / 50 / 86 / 13 / 49
McClintock....41 / 46 / 36 / 7 / 72 / 33

According to the poll, John McCain currently leads Barack Obama in the district by a 51%-39% margin. The results suggest Brown can cut across the Republican leaning of the district, and his big lead among independents could help Democrats steal a seat.

CA 04: Brown (D) +2

Brown Ahead In Race For Doolittle Seat

Two years ago, retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown came within three points of beating ethically embattled Republican Rep. John Doolittle in a northern California district. With Doolittle retiring, a poll for Brown's campaign shows the Democrat leading this time around.

The poll, conducted by Benensen Strategy Group, surveyed 500 likely voters between 8/21-24 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Brown and state Senator Tom McClintock, the Republican nominee to replace Doolittle, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Brown...........43
McClintock......41

McClintock has inherent advantages in a district likely to go heavily for John McCain in November. President Bush won the district by 24 points in 2004, and McClintock is something of a known commodity in California political circles; in 2006, he was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, and he's become the rising star of the Golden State GOP's conservative wing.

But don't count Brown out. Brown's campaign notes that a Benensen poll at about this time in 2006 showed the Democrat trailing Doolittle by two points, and this year he's going to have a lot more institutional support. A member of the Red to Blue program, Brown will also benefit from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee advertisements, which will hit McClintock on everything from issue positions to the fact that his legal residence in Thousand Oaks is still some 400 miles away.

Boswell, McClintock Take Primaries

In two contested primary elections on Tuesday, both Democrats and Republicans got the stronger general election candidates in California and Iowa districts that have provided close vote totals in recent years. In Iowa, six-term Rep. Leonard Boswell won renomination, while in California, State Senator Tom McClintock bested two GOP rivals in the race to replace outgoing Rep. John Doolittle.

Iowa's Third District, centered around Des Moines, has proven increasingly competitive in recent cycles. After winning a narrow contest for an open seat in 1996 by a single point, Boswell faced tough Republican challengers in 2004 and 2006, winning last cycle by just six points.

This time, though, the challenge came from the left, as former State Rep. Ed Fallon, who placed third in the state's gubernatorial primary in 2006, urged Democratic voters to kick out the more centrist Boswell. Fallon, who endorsed Barack Obama in the state's January caucus, hoped to capitalize on the change message that gave the Illinois Senator a majority in the district. Boswell had backed Clinton in that race.

Boswell outraised and outspent his Democratic rival and ended up with a reasonably healthy 61%-39% win, and in time he turned Fallon's presidential endorsement argument around: Boswell made an issue of Fallon's 2000 endorsement of Ralph Nader over Al Gore, as the Des Moines Register reports today.

Boswell now heads to the general election against former congressional staffer and administrative law judge Kim Schmett. The Democrat has faced tougher competition in the past, and this year he looks like a safe bet for re-election.

In California's Fourth District, McClintock scored a 53%-39% victory over former Rep. Doug Ose, who spent nearly $3 million of his own money on the primary. McClintock, though, has become a conservative icon in California after narrowly losing the Lieutenant Governor's race in 2006. A third candidate won 2% of the vote.

McClintock will run against 2006 nominee Charlie Brown, a Democrat who came within three points of ousting the ethically troubled Doolittle that year. While Democrats were confident about their chances against the incumbent, running against McClintock will prove more troublesome. A recent poll for Brown showed him leading McClintock by two points, but both candidates scored only in the low 40s.

With a new nominee whose house has not been raided by federal agents, as Doolittle's was in 2007, Republicans have a much stronger chance of retaining what is ordinarily a heavily Republican seat. President Bush won the district, which encompasses the Sacramento suburbs, by wide margins in both his elections.

You're Ahead, Charlie Brown

As former Rep. Doug Ose and State Senator Tom McClintock battle it out for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Rep. John Doolittle today, a new survey for their soon-to-be Democratic rival shows what is likely to be a second difficult race for anyone campaigning in the suburban Sacramento district.

The poll, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group for former Air Force pilot Charlie Brown's campaign, was taken 5/14-15 and surveyed 400 likely general election voters for a margin of error of +/- 5%. Brown, Ose and McClintock were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Brown.............38 / 62 / 19 / 48
Ose.................34 / 12 / 51 / 28

Brown.............42 / 65 / 22 / 53
McClintock.......40 / 13 / 61 / 32

Generic Dem...43 / 78 / 17 / 50
Generic GOP...43 / 7 / 70 / 34

That Brown leads both is cause for Democratic celebration, but his slim overall advantages, especially given his big boosts among independent voters, exhibit the Republican nature of the seat. Even under an ethical cloud, Doolittle won his final term in 2006 by a small but decisive margin. Brown will need a lot of help and continued Republican stumbles to pull off a win in November.

Brown is viewed well by the district's electorate; 36% view him favorably while 18% see him unfavorably. McClintock is more popular, though his negatives are higher as well, at 39% to 29%. Ose, who represented a neighboring district and who has been hammered by the Club for Growth, which backs his GOP rival, s seen favorably by just 27% while 28% view him unfavorably.

GOP Hopes Up In IA, CA

News hasn't been good for national Republicans this year, but primaries tomorrow offer some hope that 2008 will not be a complete loss. In California, the party shed a tainted incumbent member of Congress, giving two high-profile candidates a better chance in November, while in Iowa Democrats have a chance to boot a long-time incumbent in a swing district in favor of a much more liberal challenger.

Retirements are not always welcome, but in Rep. John Doolittle's case, the GOP breathed a sigh of relief when he announced he wouldn't run again. Doolittle is the target of an ongoing federal investigation surrounding his relationship with several lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff; his Virginia home was raided by the FBI last year, and had he run again he likely would have been the underdog against repeat candidate Charlie Brown. Doolittle won his suburban Sacramento district with 49%, beating Brown by just 9,000 votes.

Running to replace the embattled incumbent, former Rep. Doug Ose and State Senator Tom McClintock have gotten feisty, but both would give Republicans a strong shot at retaining the seat. Ose represented the neighboring district in Congress, while McClintock, something of a conservative icon in the state, represents a Senate district several hundred miles south of Sacramento. Brown is on top of the DCCC's target list, but without Doolittle as an opponent his chances are slim.

In Iowa, Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell has faced several tough re-election battles, winning just 52% against a State Senator in 2006. Boswell's Des Moines-based district voted once for President Bush and once for John Kerry, though only a few hundred votes separated the winner and loser each time.

Still, once Barack Obama won the state in January, former State Rep. Ed Fallon, who ran as the most liberal candidate for governor in 2006, jumped in the race, arguing Boswell was too conservative for his Democratic electorate. Fallon, who finished third in the gubernatorial primary, would give Republicans a strong chance at picking up the seat in November.

But Fallon has raised and spent little money, and the only public poll shows Boswell with a huge lead before tomorrow's primary. If the incumbent keeps the Democratic nomination, his Republican opponent, former Congressional aide Kim Schmett, will be a serious underdog come November.

Two other races worth mentioning: In California's southern Fifty Second District, Iraq war veteran Duncan D. Hunter is running to replace his father, Duncan L. Hunter, in Congress. The younger Hunter's wife spent a significant time on the campaign trail in her husband's stead while he served in Iraq, and Hunter is likely to keep the seat in his family's possession. Santee City Councilman Brian Jones and San Diego County Board of Education President Bob Watkins are also running.

And in Iowa, while national Republicans had hinted that Democratic Senator Tom Harkin would be in trouble come November, the party failed to recruit any of its top-tier candidates, including Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham. Harkin has made a career out of beating GOP members of Congress, though this year he will face a far weaker opponent. Former State Rep. George Eichhorn and businessmen Steve Rathje and Chris Reed are running to face Harkin in the Fall.

GOP Bashing GOP For Being GOP

"I want to introduce myself to many of you because, frankly, you don't know who I am," former Rep. Doug Ose told audience members at a candidates' forum in Auburn, California yesterday, according to the Sacramento Bee. Ose, who is running for retiring Rep. John Doolittle's Fourth District seat along with State Senator Tom McClintock and attorney Suzanne Jones, all have a surprising element in common: None of them actually live in the district they hope to represent.

Ose used to represent a neighboring district before leaving Congress after the 2004 elections. Jones, once a resident of the district, was drawn into the next district during the 2002 redistricting. And McClintock has a real trek ahead of him: He represents a State Senate district based in Thousand Oaks, about 400 miles south of the Sacramento-based Congressional District.

The candidates' forum provided an opportunity not only for the three Republicans to introduce themselves, but also to preview attack lines against their opponents. One like McClintock used against Ose perfectly sums up the trouble Republicans face this year: The State Senator criticized the former member of Congress for being a part of the "Republican Congress that voted for the biggest entitlements since the Great Society."

Members of the GOP will have a tough time convincing voters that they remain good stewards of fiscal responsibility, especially after the last session Republicans controlled the House, when Reps. Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney went to prison for their roles in appropriations issues and tight relationships with lobbyists, and after two other California members, Rep. Jerry Lewis and Doolittle himself, are said to be under scrutiny from authorities over their roles in doling out earmarks.

Ose fired back that McClintock has accepted pay raises as a legislator in Sacramento, and that McClintock has accepted a per diem living expense, which McClintock says is not unusual.

But two Republicans duking it out over fiscal spending, and with a Republican-held Congress as the punchline for one of those attacks, is a serious commentary on the state of the party. If McClintock's attacks work, it could be a sign that even being a Republican minority in Congress will not excuse some members who secure their own pork from being labeled a free spender.

The winner of the state's June 3 primary will face 2006 nominee Charlie Brown, a Democrat who came close to knocking off Doolittle last year and actually lives in the district.

McClintock In, Oller Out In CA-4

Former State Senator Rico Oller announced today he is leaving the race for the Republican nomination in California's 4th District, and simultaneously endorsed State Senator Tom McClintock, who was set to officially enter the race at a morning press conference.

Rep. John Doolittle announced in January that he was stepping down at the end of the year. Doolittle is currently under investigation in a congressional lobbying scandal.

What appeared to be a three-person race for the GOP nomination has quickly dwindled to two. Besides Oller, the other GOP candidates included former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose and Air Force Reservist Eric Egland. The Sacramento Bee reported today that Egland would also be supporting McClintock, leaving Ose as the only other candidate in the race.

In a press release today, Oller explained his exit, stating that if he and McClintock both remain in the race, "we run the very great risk of delivering the seat to an unarguably liberal Republican, Doug Ose."

The winner of the GOP primary will take on Democrat Charlie Brown, who lost to Doolittle in 2006 by just 3 points and held the incumbent under 50 percent for the first time in nine elections. But the Republican nominee starts with a great advantage, as this northern California district gave President Bush 61 percent of the vote in 2004.

--Kyle Trygstad

Members' Legal Bills Pile

It is not a coincidence that Washington has more lawyers per capita than any other city: They're following the money. One reason ethically challenged members of Congress cling to their offices long after their times have passed is massive legal bills they owe. Those bills can be taken care of using campaign funds.

Despite assurances that he's running for re-election, longtime Alaska Republican Don Young may just be hanging on until he pays off those bills. FEC reports out this morning show Young dropped $590,000 last quarter, much of it on legal fees to two prominent Washington firms. He raised just $43,000, Swing State Project reports, and retains almost $950,000 on hand.

Others under legal scrutiny spent heavily from their campaign treasuries as well. West Virginia Democrat Alan Mollohan, who has been scrutinized for earmarks he's attracted to his district, dished out nearly $25,000 in fees last quarter, while retiring California Republican John Doolittle lists debts of about $120,000 to a northern Virginia law firm and Arizona Republican Rick Renzi owes $106,000 to Patton Boggs.

As long as troubled incumbents can raise money in Washington instead of reaching into their own pockets to satisfy legal debts, they will do so. As FEC reports this month show, it's good to have a campaign account to fall back on.

Doolittle Successors Emerge

California Congressman John Doolittle's retirement announcement two weeks ago invited rampant speculation over a slew of potential candidates for the GOP nod. That number has dwindled, and the Republican primary now looks likely to be a three-person race.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, State Senator Sam Aanestad, and Mike Holmes, who challenged Doolittle in the 2006 primary, have all recently taken their names out of contention, leaving only two candidate certain to be in the race: former State Senator Rico Oller and Air Force Reservist Eric Egland.

A third likely candidate is former Congressman Doug Ose, who reportedly is still weighing his options. Ose was elected to Congress from the 3rd District in 1998, and honored his pledge to serve just three terms. He briefly considered running for the Senate in 2004, but opted against it.

Before Ose's election in 1998, a Republican had never won the 3rd District since its creation in 1962. The 3rd shares its northern border with the expansive 4th District, and voters may be seeking someone with experience and a history of representing the area. With the current congressman under federal investigation for a lobbying scandal, a former congressman who kept his term-limit pledge and never ran afoul of the law may be an attractive successor.

Democrat Charlie Brown, who won 46% against Doolittle in 2006, may have a tougher time distinguishing himself against the moderate Ose, rather than Oller, a conservative in the state Senate. Oller previously ran for Congress in 2004, finishing a close second to Dan Lungren in the 3rd-district Republican primary to succeed Ose.

Despite Brown's good showing in 2006, whoever the Republican nominee is will be the favorite heading into the general election, as President Bush averaged 60% of the vote in 2000 and 2004. This likely would not have been the case had Doolittle decided to run again.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Three More Members Call It Quits

The retirement announcement today from California Republican John Doolittle is the latest in a series of retirements to strike both parties this year. Nineteen Republicans and four Democrats announced last year they would not run for reelection in the House of Representatives. Now, ten days into 2008, three more congressmen have already stated their intentions to retire.

Doolittle's decision to step down, under investigation for a congressional lobbying scandal, comes a week after Democrat Tom Lantos and Republican John Peterson announced their retirements. The latter two, however, were likely to win reelection had they decided to run again.

Doolittle on the other hand narrowly escaped defeat in the 2006 election, winning less than 50% of the vote in a district that gave President Bush 61% in 2004. Doolittle's close ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, along with his wife's questionable work as a fundraiser for his own campaign, allowed his Democratic opponent, Charlie Brown, to attack Doolittle's ethics.

Then in April 2007, Doolittle's Virginia home was raided by FBI agents investigating his wife's work for Abramoff. Doolittle stepped down from his Appropriations Committee seat at the urging of House GOP leadership, but announced he would not resign. With the legal investigation likely to continue through the next election and legal bills mounting, his reelection prospects were not bright.

Before Doolittle even got to the general, he would have faced a tough battle for the GOP nomination. Republicans now planning to run include Air Force reservist Eric Egland, Assemblyman Ted Gaines, State Senator Rico Oller and Mike Holmes, who won 33% in the 2006 primary against Doolittle.

In the Bay Area 12th Congressional District, Lantos announced his retirement after a recent diagnosis of cancer. His district, along with Peterson's, are not likely to be as competitive in the general election as Doolitte's seat. But interesting primary battles could surface.

Lantos, now in his 14th term and the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in Congress, has regularly won reelection in the 12th District with around 70% of the vote, usually against underfunded, token opposition. This ethnically-diverse district includes parts of San Francisco and has been Democratic territory since the late 1950s.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that two Democrats are already considering a run: State Senator Leland Yee and former State Senator Jackie Speier. Speier had gone as far as to begin raising money for a bid against Lantos; a poll conducted for her campaign in early November showed her leading the incumbent by a 30-point margin.

Yee, the only Chinese-American ever elected to the California Senate, succeeded Speier in the 8th Senate district after she ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, losing in the Democratic primary by 3 points. Speier, who represented the district for eight years, was once an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan, and accompanied him on the tragic 1978 fact-finding mission to the Jonestown cult compound of the Rev. Jim Jones. Ryan was killed, and Speier was shot five times.

These two well-known candidates should both put up competitive campaigns, and the person who wins the June 3 primary will likely also win in November.

In Pennsylvania, the vast 5th District has been Republican territory since the founding of the party. It encompasses about a quarter of the state geographically, including State College, home of Penn State University's main campus, and Punxsutawney, home of the most famous thing named Phil in the world. In 2006 Peterson won 60% of the vote against his first Democratic challenger since coming to Congress in 1996, when he easily won the open seat.

Peterson's retirement announcement caught many prospective Republican candidates by surprise, the Centre Daily Times wrote. The most likely to run is State Senator Jake Corman, a third-term legislator whose district shares two of the same counties as the 5th. One other Republican name to keep in mind is State Senator Joseph Scarnati, who has feuded over transportation issues with Peterson. However, Scarnati is up for reelection this year and may not want to give up his leadership position for the chance to run for Congress. If a competitive primary ensues, a Peterson endorsement could tip the scales.

A few Democrats will likely file for this seat, but the national party is unlikely to help much financially for a district with such a Republican tilt. The DCCC's money may be better spent on districts more likely to flip, and defending districts that flipped in 2006.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Doolittle Out?

It's rarely good news when an incumbent member of Congress announces his retirement, but in the case of Rep. John Doolittle, the Roseville Republican whose house was raided by the FBI in April, a retirement would be good news for the House GOP. Hank Shaw, who reports on politics in Sacramento, speculates today that State Sen. Rico Oller is set to run should Doolittle step down.

Doolittle, Shaw reports, is about to do just that, and will throw his support behind Oller. Other likely candidates include 2006 candidate Eric Egland and Assemblyman Ted Gaines. Last year's Democratic nominee, Charlie Brown, outraised Doolittle about four times over last quarter, and if Doolittle remains on the ballot, Brown would be the odds-on favorite to capture the seat.

The district, which covers some suburbs of Sacramento north to the Oregon border and population centers in Roseville and Rocklin, is the most rural seat in California. The ordinarily Republican seat gave President Bush 61% of the vote there in 2004.

Doolittle's withdrawal would be the political equivalent, for Democrats, of Lucy pulling out the football right before poor old Charlie Brown makes contact.