Democrat Mike Levin v. GOPer Diane (“Darrell Issa 2.0”) Harkey—Another Opportunity for a 2018 “Red”--”Blue” Flip June 18, 2018
It’s Political Math 101 time again. Democrats, remember, need to take back a net 23 seats to recapture the House in 11/2018. As part of their campaign strategy, Democrats are trying to win several GOP seats in CA, a state that went for Hillary in 2016 by 4, 269, 978 votes (NY Times, 8/01/17, CA Results). Several of the seats Democrats are eyeing as potential “Red”--”Blue” flips are in the O.C., Orange County. O.C., formerly the right- wing Goldwater/Reagan bastion, has been demographically transformed by heavy Hispanic and Asian immigration (Mai-Duc, LA Times, 6/06/18, Yee, NY Times, 6/03/18). In 2016, Hillary carried the O.C. by an 8.59% margin with 609, 961 votes to Donald’s 507,148 (latimes.com, Mai-Duc, nytimes.com, 8/01/17, sos.cagov, 12/16/16). Hillary won four O.C. congressional districts where GOP representatives were re-elected, the 39th, 45th , 48th, and 49th (Frere, abc7.com, 6/05/18). In one of those seats, the 49th Congressional District (CD), located partly in Orange County, 9th -term GOP Congressman Darrell Issa announced on 1/10/2018 that he would not run for a 10th term in 2018 (sandiegouniontribune.com, Stewart, 1/24/18). In 2016, Issa won re-election by just 1,621 votes, the closest re-election margin of any House member that year, while Hillary carried the 49th by an 8% margin, 51%-43%. For more than a year, Democratic activists, encouraged by Issa’s narrow win, held weekly rallies outside his office and spent months registering and reaching out to voters (KTLA 5, 6/07/18, Wasserman, cookpolitical.com, 6/08/18).
With Issa’s retirement, there was fierce competition by both parties for this open seat. Under CA’s “jungle primary,” enacted in 2010, the top two finishers, regardless of party, would run against each other in the Nov. general election. After an intensely fought 16-person 6/05/2018 primary contest that included 4 Democrats, 8 Republicans, and 4 third- party candidates, GOPer Diane Harkey and Democrat Mike Levin finished first and second respectively. Harkey received 25.4% of the vote while Levin garnered 17.5% (sos.ca.gov, 6/12/18). Let’s look at this race.
Democrat Mike Levin (39) and GOPer Diane Harkey (66) are now the nominees fighting to win CA’s 49th Congressional District (CD). The current CA 49th takes in southern Orange County and the coastal part of San Diego County. The post-2010 redrawn 49th includes O.C.’s Laguna Niguel and San Clemente, former home of Richard Nixon’s CA White House. Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano are in the 49th’s O.C. area. San Diego County’s section of the 49th contains North County Oceanside and Encinitas. Fallbrook, Carlsbad, and Del Mar are also in the 49th . The 49th additionally takes in the northern edge of the city of San Diego. The Marine Corps’ base at Camp Pendleton is the 49th ‘s largest single employer. Besides the military, the 49th has a strong manufacturing sector that includes biotechnology and communications. Health care is another economic mainstay (Barone &CQ 14 Political Almanacs).
About 26% of the 49th is Hispanic, but most of the district is white with many affluent communities. Although three-fourths of the 49th’s voters live in San Diego County, they have a very similar political history to those in its O.C. part. In 1964, both Orange and San Diego County went for Goldwater over LBJ. Nixon and Reagan had strong San Diego County as well as O.C. backers (See “ Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections”). However, the 49th CD now gives registered GOPers just a 6.7% edge over Democrats. The most recent Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives “Team Red” an anemic R+1 score in the 49th, swing district turf (See Cook, 4/07/17, sandiegouniontribune.com, Stewart, 1/24/18).
Democrat Mike Levin was raised in South Orange County. He received his undergraduate degree at Stanford University where he was student body president. After Stanford, Levin served in the Coro Fellows Program. Coro Fellows are selected for their future leadership qualities, and work in urban areas where they learn about business and political issues. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D- CA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are Coro Alumni (See corofellowship.org). Levin then obtained a law degree from Duke University. After law school, Levin served as Executive Director of the Orange County Democratic Party. As an attorney, Levin focused on environmental and energy regulatory compliance. Levin believes in clean energy. He has a decade of experience in that field. He has helped to speed the transition towards more sustainable power generation with clean energy options. Levin has served for several years on San Diego’s board of the Center for Sustainable Energy. He was a co-founder of Sustain Energy OC in Orange County. Levin wants to put the 49th CD at the head of clean energy economic growth and will champion these issues in Congress. He believes in the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is human driven. He opposes scandal-ridden/fossil fuel driven Trump EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) head Scott Pruitt. Levin will fight any efforts by Donald to undermine environmental safeguards. The Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters have endorsed him (mikelevin.org/about/priorities).
Levin is for putting country over party, not how the present GOP Congress and Trump “cult of personality” voters behave. He is for reversing the awful Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court cases that allow nearly unlimited financing of elections and keep states from enacting their own public finance laws. He is for presently strengthening and improving the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, but also supports Medicare for all Americans. In the 49th CD, 36, 400 residents, including 3,800 children, would have lost their coverage when Cong. Issa voted to repeal Obamacare along with his fellow GOPers. Levin will defend Medicare and Medicaid, prevent discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions, and ensure that veterans get swift care and their benefits. He supports a $15 minimum wage, affordable higher education, and will defend Social Security. Levin was one of the first candidates to be endorsed by the National Organization for Women. He is strongly pro-choice, will defend Planned Parenthood, and is for equal pay for equal work. He will stand up for LGBT rights. He is for an assault weapons ban and expanding the Brady background checks to all gun sales, including those made over the internet and at gun shows. The grandson of Mexican immigrants on his mother’s side, Levin advocates comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants. These undocumented immigrants must pay back taxes and study English. Levin is for strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border but not with Trump’s misguided “wall.” Levin, unlike Trump, supported Obama’s 2014 executive action to protect undocumented immigrants with strong ties to the community from deportation (mikelevin.org/about/priorities).
And here’s Levin’s opponent, GOPer Diane Markey. Frankly, all you need to know is that outgoing GOP Cong. Darrell Issa strongly endorsed Harkey to succeed him in the House and that Harkey was “extremely honored” to receive his endorsement (sandiegouniontribune.com, Stewart, 1/24/18). Harkey is “extremely honored” to be following in the footsteps of Democratic witch hunter Issa. Issa, remember, used his chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee to hound every Obama administration Democrat that he could with useless investigations. He ceaselessly attacked Bill and Hillary Clinton. In 2003, Issa, one of Congress’ wealthiest members, used his car alarm fortune to personally bankroll the successful effort to recall CA Dem. Gov. Gray Davis and give that state conservative GOP Gov. Aa h nold Schwarzenegger. Harkey will be “extremely honored,” to follow Issa’s general 98%-99% hard right voting pattern (See CQ & Barone 14 Almanacs). In the era of Trump, Issa has voted with Demagogue Donald 92% of the time, despite his district’s going for Hillary (fivethirghtyeight.com).
In his endorsement of Harkey, Issa praised her for being “well-trained” from her work in the State Assembly and Board of Equalization. Joliet, Il native Harkey, a UC Irvine graduate, first worked in the banking and finance industry for 30 years (alumni.saddleback.edu, 2/17/13). She served three two-year terms in the CA State Assembly (2008-2014), representing the 73rd District. After being term-limited, she joined the State Board of Equalization in 2014 (ocregister.com, vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/board-of-equalization).
Yes, Harkey is “well trained.” Translation: “well trained” to be a clone of Issa in Congress. The NRA gave her an “A” rating (votesmart.org). She has a 100% rating from the conservative CA Taxpayers Association. She earned an “A” grade from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association for her entire six years in the CA Assembly (hjta.org/legislation/report-cards). The League of Conservation Voters gave her a basement 12% lifetime score for her Assembly record. Harkey received a Zero score from Planned Parenthood, while getting a 100% rating from the CA Pro-Life Council (votesmart.org). She obtained a 100% score from the Chamber of Commerce, but an 11% lifetime rating from the Consumer Federation of CA (votesmart.org). In 2012 and 2013-2014, Harkey received Zero scores from the CA Clean Money Action Group This group wants to get excessive campaign spending out of political races and overturn Citizens United (votesmart.org).
And just how well did Harkey do in her last job, the Board of Equalization? Harkey brags that in that post, she helped simplify the state’s tax policy, and through seminars, helped accountants, business owners and others better understand the CA tax code. Here’s the real record. Harkey’s tax “seminars” have come under scrutiny. They were part of a scandal that prompted a 2017 overhaul of the tax board. An audit in the spring of 2017 found a series of problems with the Board of Equalization. There was an instance where 113 tax board employees who were working at a 2016 Escondido, CA conference were assigned to parking, registration, and other menial duties in violation of the Budget Act. The audit found that the conference which Harkey sponsored had 23 sessions in which only two dealt with taxes. The remaining time, the audit stated, was focused on seminar topics such as “Desk Yoga, Think Like a Negotiator, and No Limit Leadership.” In another scandal, $350 million in sales tax money was put into incorrect accounts. As a result of these scandals, CA Gov. Jerry Brown reduced the board’s staff from 4,800 to about 400. Workers were shifted to the new CA Department of Tax and Fee Administration. The new Office of Tax Appeals took over the board’s duty to hear appeals (sandiegouniontribune.com, Stewart, 1/24/18). What great “No Limit Leadership” by congressional GOP nominee Harkey.
In the 6/05/2018 CA primary, more Democrats voted in the 49th CD race than GOPers, 52%, a good sign for the 11/2018 election contest. The CA 49th CD race is considered by pundits as one of the top 10 races and Democrats are generally favored here (Wash.Post, Kos, “Good News,” Wasserman, cookpolticalreport.com, 6/08/18, Levin, mail.google.com, 6/08/18, Kos, 6/15/18, Centrist Dem). After Levin’s primary victory, the respected Cook Political Report put this race into the “Lean Democratic” column (Wasserman, 6/08/18). However, remember, elections are not won by armchair pundits. Harkey can’t be “misunderestimated” as a candidate. She, currently, has greater name recognition than newcomer Levin. In her previous political offices, she has represented much of the area included in the CA 49th (harkeyforcongress.com). In a phone interview with the alt-right Breitbart News, Harkey stated she expected this election to be “very tough and extremely nasty,” but that GOPers know the stakes here (breitbart.com, 6/06/18, Moons). Exactly. “Team Red” will fight hard and negatively here with oodles of GOP money and with help from Koch and their friends. Democrats must unite behind Levin. They must give him money to level the financial playing field. Levin must put on ads giving him more name recognition while attacking Harkey’s right-wing/scandal- plagued record. Most importantly, Democrats and their moderate allies must come out in droves on 11/06/2018 to flip the CA 49th as part of their effort to take back the House. Failure to vote is not an option.