Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.) is kicking off recess with a West Coast trip to help Democratic candidates in a region crucial to the party’s hopes of winning the House majority.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman is on a whirlwind tour of Southern California Congressional districts, his fifth visit to the state this cycle and third this year. Israel is attending fundraisers for four candidates Sunday and today, while also holding meetings and events for the DCCC.
After a dearth of competition during the past decade, California is at the heart of the DCCC’s pursuit of netting 25 seats nationwide. Israel’s campaign swing is part of an effort to pick up at least one-fifth of that total from California alone, where recent generic ballot polling has offered the party even more optimism.
That’s a reachable goal thanks to a spike in Latino population growth and the state’s new independent redistricting process, which ended the practice of incumbent protection. However, Republicans are targeting half a dozen seats as well and believe they can keep Democratic gains to a minimum.
On Sunday, Israel was scheduled to attend a lunch at the Santa Barbara home of Rep. Lois Capps, the only incumbent receiving an official visit on this trip. On Sunday night, Israel was scheduled to attend a dinner in Los Angeles for physician Ami Bera, who is challenging Rep. Dan Lungren (R) in the Sacramento area for a second straight time.
Israel will attend a lunch for physician Raul Ruiz today at the Date Palm Country Club in Cathedral City. Ruiz is challenging Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R), whom Democrats have targeted for several cycles. Israel will then attend a cocktail reception at a private home for Mark Takano in the new Riverside-based 41st district, one of the party’s top pickup opportunities.
“California is key to Democrats winning the Majority because redistricting changed the landscape, California Republicans embraced the wrong priorities, and top tier Democratic candidates stepped forward to run,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in a statement.
Israel’s campaign swing comes just two days after California’s candidate filing deadline. With the candidates set, both parties can now more easily assess where to focus their attention for the June 5 primary and November general election.
Democrats got a last-minute candidate, Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong, on Friday to run in the new 21st district in the Central Valley, where the party’s top recruit had dropped out in December and Republicans have a strong candidate in Assemblyman David Valadao.
The new 26th district got more complicated when Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a registered Republican, filed to run as an Independent. With just one Republican and at least three Democrats in the race, there is a possibility that the Democratic vote splinters, allowing Parks and state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) to advance beyond the jungle primary.
Seven California incumbents are retiring or running for another office, and redistricting forced two Democratic Member-vs.-Member races, meaning at least two more incumbents won’t be back in 2013. It’s all part of a new competitive landscape in the state that has already made the 2012 cycle more interesting than the last five combined.