Central Valley California Fight--Democrat Josh Harder v GOP Congressman Jeff Denham
October 18, 2018
Democrat Josh Harder—He’s Planning to Send Trump Loyalist Congressman Jeff Denham his Walking Papers !0/18/2018
A “political” Gold Rush looks quite possible in California. GOP Speaker Paul Ryan’s political action committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund, is cutting off its heavy financial support to Irvine’s GOP Cong. Mimi Walters, CA 45th CD, and Huntington Beach GOP Cong. Dana Rohrabacher, CA 48th CD, aka Russian Putin’s buddy (see latimes.com, Finnegan & Barabak, 10/12/18). Democratic prospectors are not only panning for “gold” in Southern California. One of the key districts also in play is CA’s 10th Congressional District. In that district, Democrat Josh Harder is challenging GOP Congressman Jeff Denham. It’s time to head north to view this race.
Fourth-term GOP Congressman Jeff Denham (51) represents CA’s 10th Congressional District (CD). The current 10th CA CD lies in the heart of the Golden State’s Central Valley, containing some of the nation’s richest farmland. Agriculture, food processing, and food distribution dominate the 10th. The 10th covers all of Stanislaus County and the southern third of San Joaquin County. The cities of Modesto, Tracy, and Turlock are included in the 10th, as well as Ripon and Manteca. Stanislaus County is one of the largest producers of milk, almonds, and walnuts and home to several Del Monte facilities. Foster Farms headquarters are in Modesto, and Gallo Winery has over 10,000 acres of vineyards. The 10th has also seen an increase in rapidly growing suburbs. Many people work in the San Francisco area but commute to residences with cheaper home prices in the 10th (CQ & Barone 14 Political Almanacs). The 10th CD is 43.2% Hispanic and 42.8% white. (CNBC, Census). The white population was initially Democratic. However, the area has become more culturally conservative. The 10th has a nearly even number of registered Democrats and Republicans, 127, 878 Dems. v. 117, 900 GOPers (CA Sec. of State, 5/21/18). Elections are often close. The latest Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the 10th an EVEN score, a true swing area (CQ & Barone14, cookpolitical.com, 4/07/17, latimes.com, Lauter, 10/04/18). Obama won this district twice and Hillary defeated Donald here by 3 points (CQ14, LA Times, Mai-Duc, 1/30/17, CA statewide Election Results).
As a teenager, Hawthorne, CA native Jeff Denham enlisted in the Air Force. He served both in Iraq and Somalia and was a member of the Air Force Reserve until 2000. He attended community college and then transferred to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he was active in the College Republicans. He graduated in 1991. Denham worked as a manager of a packaged salad company and founded his own business in 1998, an agricultural container supply firm (Barone 14). In 2002, Denham eked out a victory in a CA State Senate race where Democrats had a 12-point registration edge. His Sacramento roommate for several years was Kevin McCarthy, now a Congressman from Bakersfield and House Majority Leader (Barone 14, 115th Cong. At Your Fingertips). In 2010, Denham, with strong support from the retiring 19th CD GOP Congressman, won the GOP primary and trounced his Democratic opponent in that Tea Party year (Barone 14).
After the 2010 redistricting, the old 19th CD was dismantled. In 2012, Denham ran in the evenly balanced 10th CD. Democrat Jose Hernandez, a former NASA astronaut, was considered a top candidate to defeat Denham. Denham, however, won this race by more than a 5% margin even while Obama carried the 10th (CQ14). In bad Democratic year 2014, Denham defeated his Democratic rival, beekeeper and almond grower Michael Eggman, by a 12% margin. In a 2016 rematch, while Hillary won the 10th , Denham defeated Eggman by just 4% of the vote (CQ 14, CA Sec. of State, 11/04/14, 2016 nytimes.com/election).
Cong. Denham frequently parades around as a “moderate.” He has been called “bipartisan” because he attracts Democratic co-sponsors on some of his bills (Lugar Center, 3/07/16). Here’s the real record. In the present 115th Congress, Denham has voted in line with Demagogue Donald 98.3% of the time and has voted with his hard- right party 90.5% of the time (Bycoffe, 1/09/18, projects.fivethirtyeight.com, Willis, “ProPublica”).
Cong. Denham stated he did not favor an initial House GOP repeal Obamacare bill unless it kept coverage for pre-existing conditions. However, when “moderate” (LOL) NJ GOPer Cong. Tom MacArthur authored a bill which allowed insurance companies to charge higher premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions, Denham flipped. He then voted to back this MacArthur/Trumpcare bill and brought others along with him, helping this awful legislation to narrowly pass the House (See Huffington Post, Fuller,5/04/17). Fortunately, Obamacare care repeal was narrowly defeated in the Senate in 7/2017, with the help of dying GOP Sen. John McCain. House Democratic Leader, Californian Nancy Pelosi told the GOPers, after the passage of the MacArthur/Trumpcare bill, that she would “tattoo” them with this terrible vote. Cong. Denham also received a second political “SHAME” tattoo when he voted in 12/2017 for the top 1% tax-cut bill, signed by Donald. This legislation will hurt the middle-class. This law will also raise taxes on Denham’s fellow Californians who are now unable to use state and local tax breaks. This tax cut travesty additionally repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate and will hurt many CA districts with a lot of Obamacare enrollees. In Denham’s own 10th CD, non-partisan estimates calculate that 100,000 people can be hurt by Denham’s vote (See latimes.com, 11/16/17).
Denham opposes abortion. He opposes federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions (Project Vote Smart). In 2013, he voted against raising the debt ceiling which led to a 16-day government shutdown, and voted against reopening the government (mcclatchydc.com). Denham opposes same-sex marriage (Project Vote Smart). He has a 6% lifetime score from the environmental League of Conservation Voters (scorecard.lcv.org). Denham tows the right-wing Koch Brothers anti-environmental line and the rest of their reactionary agenda. In 2010, Koch gave Denham $5,000. Denham received at least $7,500 in 2014 from Koch and $10,000 from them in 2016. For mid-term Campaign 2018, Koch has already given ally Denham $10,000 (opensecrets.org, prwatch.org). Denham, IMHO, is a MINO, “Moderate in Name Only.”
Josh Harder is Cong. Denham’s 2018 Democratic opponent. Harder (32), a Modesto High School graduate, received his B.A. from Stanford and an M.B.A. from Harvard. He worked in the tech investment firm Bessemer Venture Partners and the Boston Consulting Group. He has also worked with the Gates Foundation, other non-profit organizations, and has been affiliated with Modesto Junior College (Harder bio, ballotpedia,1/23/18).
Harder decided to get involved in politics after Denham’s vote to repeal Obamacare. For Harder, Denham’s health care repeal act was personal. Harder has a younger brother who was born 10 weeks prematurely. Harder’s brother has a pre-existing condition that could be lost without protections under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare (cnbc.com, Daniels, J., 9/27/18). Harder was shocked by Trump’s surprise 2016 win. He was upset at seeing Cong. Denham vote against every issue that he cares about and misrepresenting the real views of the 10th CD (see cnbc.com, 9/27/18).
The 10th is a district where unemployment runs historically higher than the state’s average. Harder has attacked almond farmer Denham in this “economically challenged” district for Trump’s trade war policies. Almonds, walnuts, fruit, and wine produced in the 10th have been hit hard by Chinese tariffs on these exports because of Trump’s economic attacks on China. Harder says that Trump and Denham’s behavior has put thousands of 10th district jobs in jeopardy in this Central Valley area and billions of dollars have been lost (cnbc.com, Daniels, 9/27/18). In addition to Denham’s health care and tax cut votes that hurt the 10th CD, Harder has attacked Denham for not getting a single federal dollar for water infrastructure during his eight years in Congress, another key issue in the 10th (cnbc.com, 9/27/18).
Stephen Routh, a political science professor at Cal State University-Stanislaus, called the contest in the CA 10th a “close race.” Routh stated that, “He’s (Harder) running a good, effective campaign against a well-entrenched incumbent (cnbc.com, Daniels, 9/27/18).” In the Berkeley IGS Poll done for the LA Times, from 9/16-9/23/2018, Harder is leading Denham 50%-45%. However, Harder’s lead is within the 4-6 % margin of error for that poll’s likely voter sample (latimes.com, Lauter, 10/04/18), so that this race is still too close to call. Harder has the support of 2/3 of the Latinos, while whites are for Denham by a 9% margin, 52%-43%. Fifty-seven percent of the 10th’s voters disapprove of Donald (latimes.com, Lauter). Former President Obama, who carried the 10th in 2012 by 4 points, has endorsed Harder (CQ 14, cnbc.com,9/27/18).
In the last quarter, challenger Harder raised more than the previous candidate in that district had done through an entire campaign, more than $3.5 million. Most of it has come in modest amounts. Harder has more than 128,000 donors (latimes.com, Halper, 10/10/18). Harder stated that the vast majority of the campaign’s contributions have been locally raised and he his steering away PAC money. Harder charged that unlike him, 70% of the money Cong. Denham raised has come from “corporate PACs and special interests which he (Denham) is working for (cnbc.com, 9/27/18).”
Although Harder has raised much money via the grass roots, Cong. Denham has heavy backing from the national GOP and GOP-leaning groups like Koch. According to FEC (Federal Election Commission) filings, Harder has $1,522,892 cash on hand for the campaign’s final weeks while Cong. Denham has a sum of $1,936,144 (latimes.com, Mai-Duc, 10/16/18). The small donors to Harder’s campaign will have to keep contributing to him and Harder will need more of them to keep the playing field level against Ryan’s PAC, Koch, and all the other GOP mega-donors still throwing cash at Denham. Cong. Denham is the incumbent, which makes him better known and gives him a built-in advantage in getting out his message. True, Hispanics are heavily in Harder’s corner. However, Hispanic turnout, especially in rural districts such as the 10th , has not been very strong in the past. Harder’s campaign, local Democratic organizations, and national ones such as the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) must make sure that Hispanic voters and other Democratic leaners turn out in droves in this district to counter the diehard GOP group of voters that always show up for Denham. Harder must also have a strong early voting effort in place. Yes, the 10th can be flipped “Blue.” However, it will be no “slam dunk” to mine the 10th’s “Blue Gold.” Flipping the 10th and the other net 22 districts needed to recapture the House to check Demagogue Donald is no “done deal.” We must all work very hard until the polls close on 11/06/2018 to ensure victory.
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