David Harmer is trying to do in California what Doug Hoffman is trying to do in New York: win a seat in the House of Representatives which otherwise would be won by a liberal in a special election. Ellen Tauscher, who represented the 10th Congressional District of California since 1996, has resigned her seat in Congress to be an undersecretary in the Obama Administration. The special election on November 3, 2009 will determine who replaces her.
The establishment bureaucrats of the Republican Party are spending money to help elect the very liberal Dede Scozzafava in the New York 23rd Congressional District, even to the point of using the dollars we have sent them to run ads against the true conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman. What makes this all the more galling is that David Harmer has at least as good a chance of winning in California as Scozzafava does in New York. Harmer is running more or less head-to-head against the Democrat candidate, Lieutenant Governor Garamendi, while Scozzafava has proven so unpalatable to conservatives that she is running in a tight three-way race, with major Republican leaders deserting her for Hoffman in droves.
Can a Republican win in the California 10th District? When Tauscher was first elected in 1996, she barely won her race with only 48% of the vote. In 1998, a Democrat year, incumbent Tauscher was re-elected with 54%. Two years later, her winning percentage dipped down to only 52%, not good at all for a four-year incumbent.
After the 2000 election, the California 10th District was gerrymandered to make it easier for Tauscher to win. In 2002, she received 74% of the vote, the highest percentage she would ever get. In the next three elections, Tauscher actually saw her winning percentage drop to the 65%-percent range. That included her last two victories, which coincided with strong Democrat electoral victories nationally. When a five-term Democrat in a strongly Democrat year only gets 65% of the vote, her district is not quite a lock for her party.
The California 10th Congressional District is left-leaning, but it is hardly unwinnable for Republicans under the right circumstances. So are the circumstances right for David Harmer in 2009? What is the mood of California voters right now? Well, five months ago, Californians gave all establishment politicians a dramatic, almost unprecedented thumping. Six different ballot measures were put before the people. Five of the six were supported by the Democrat establishment in Sacramento, and the sixth was supported by the people of California.
What happened? Each measure supported by state Democrat leaders like Lieutenant Governor Garamendi suffered a crushing defeat. Constituents in California Congressional District 10 joined with other Californians in overwhelmingly rejecting what Democrats like Garamendi were selling. The one measure which the people wanted -- limiting the salaries of state-elected officials like Garamendi in those years in which the state budget was not balanced -- won by a landslide statewide. This populist measure did particularly well in California Congressional District 10.
The elites were not pleased. Two weeks ago, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court claimed in a speech in Cambridge, Massachusetts that ordinary Californians had put elected state officials in a "straitjacket" and that the system of allowing voters to actually vote on measures was "dysfunctional." That sort of statement shows just how arrogant elected officials like the Chief Justice and the Lieutenant Governor have become in California. Someone with a keen political nose might sense that voters in District 10 were ready for some real change, like electing a strong fiscal conservative. Polling data, which shows the race in District 10 as close with lots of undecided voters, supports that theory. Throw into this scenario the generally-accepted fact that conservative voters are much more motivated than liberal voters now, and it sure looks like David Harmer could win.
What would a Harmer victory do? Victory in Nancy Pelosi's backyard by a conservative Republican strongly opposed to Obamacare in a district held for a long time by liberal Democrats would almost certainly give dozens of House Democrats a case of cold feet on Obamacare. How could Pelosi convince congressmen in Virginia, Colorado, and Texas to support Obamacare when even her neighboring congressional districts in northern California are against it?
The impact of a Harmer victory would ripple through California state government as well. When the Lieutenant Governor cannot win a special election in a Democrat-gerrymandered district, then Democrats statewide begin to look very vulnerable when confronted with genuine ideological opposition. The RNC, then, has an opportunity to help Republicans in Congress and also Republicans trying to gain more control of California state government. If Harmer wins, it is a body blow to the Democrat Party nationally and in the country's biggest state. He ought to be getting every spare nickel Republican organizations can spare. A Harmer victory would be huge.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.