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Campaign To Flip The 49th Congressional District Off To An Early Start

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, is shown in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Rep. Darrell Issa
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, is shown in this undated photo.
Campaign To Flip The 49th Congressional District Off To An Early Start
Campaign To Flip The 49th Congressional District Off To An Early Start GUEST: Carl Luna, political science professor, San Diego Mesa College

San Diego Republican candidate Darrell ISIS' district has been considered to be one of the most dangerous seats in Congress. A play to flip the 49th district is underway. Every Tuesday morning the sidewalk outside his district office is filled with people chanting and carrying signs, --. Allen has led the rallies and she's amazed at how the passion has persisted.I thought it would evaporate like resist Trump Tuesdays. I thought it would evaporate when the summer hit. I thought it would evaporate once the holidays hit and I am not seeing anything evaporating.This bill of grassroots activation is unusual one whole year before the election but the head of the San Diego Republican Party is skeptical of the rallies.It makes people feel good but at the end of the day standing around yelling doesn't get the job done. You have a fair amount of protest. I would argue that people are being paid to show up. You have a lot of this Astroturf stuff going on. I don't really know how deep this stuff goes.Bill Reiner of American combat veterans of war is one of these that laughs at the idea that he is being paid to be here.I would take the money but I am not being paid. I am here on my own free time. This is called democracy, for those people that don't understand it.Dominick says the rallies have become a focal point for people with all kinds of agendas.There are advocates for climate change, advocates for choice, advocates for criminal justice reform as well as getting rid of the corporate interest in our government.She and the protesters are both unpaid according to the protester. But there is a Super PAC that has declared fundraising of over $400,000 so far, 40% of it raised locally. Instead of spending at all in TV ads they are investing in neighborhood organizing.Thank you all for being here on a lovely Saturday morning.This is a page community organizer and he is building an army of volunteers like this group that gathered recently in a Solana Beach parkMany people are asking, what is up at the 49th. What are we doing? We are a grassroots organization focused on talking about the issues, canvassing, talking to our neighbors and having phone banks all across the 49th.It's unusual to have this level of community organizing a whole year before the election. Republican super PACs are also gearing up. Jason Roach work source two national Super PAC, the American National -- action network, being one of them. He says they are shifting their focus.What is different from what you typically see with the super PACs that are mostly focused on television first and foremost and maybe digital advertising coming in second, and once in a while male, what you are seeing -- mail, what you are seeing now is grassroots.Reporter: He says he will caucus on new technology to reach the voters.What we used to do door to door, identifying voters, knocking on doors, talking to friends, you can now do this easier.This one is doing it the old-fashioned way, knocking on doors.The vast majority of people are willing and anxious to talk. They are frustrated with the way things are going, politically, and they are desperate to share their frustrations picks and that I have no doubt we will be able to do this for a year because the frustration is not going to go away.Darrell Issa is one of the most wealthy man man in Congress. They are counting on voter turnout. With all of the energy, campaigners on both sides think many more voters will get engage in this key congressional race in 2018. Joining me now's political science professor Carl Luna. Thank you for joining us.Good to be here.First of all let's talk about the money that the flip the 49th campaign has just raised. Where is that coming from?Blood and water attract sharks and money at the polls attracts this. There's a whole organization working toward this, money from the entertainment community such as Jane Fonda. There's only going to be a couple competitive races and that's going to track the real money.Is about $400,000 raised by this new Super PAC, how significant is that in the big picture?Almost one year out from the election, this is unusual.Darrell Issa is one of the richest in America, at least in the house, he's got the pockets. This is going to be possibly a double-digit million-dollar race.Remind me of the political makeup of the 49th going down to La Jolla. What is a like in terms of registered voters?Historically it has been a safe Republican district that as the North County has ballooned and the county has become more purple, it's in play. Remember Darrell Issa actually lost northern Center County to Donnie Appleby -- Applegate last year. There's a change. Maybe the Cal State University of Santa Barbara is affected. You've got a lot of things that are moving this district out of safely Republican hands and Darrell Issa is rated as the most vulnerable House Republican right now.So there are four Democrats that have jumped into challenging. Doug Applegate as well as Michael Leventhal and Sarah Jacobs. Are any of them do any of them have the advantageWithout a whole lot of name recognition he almost won the seat.He is the Marine Colonel.Yes, the Marine Colonel. I think he could steal some of that thunder. We will see how that plays out. Whatever Democrat emerges is going to have a very strong position, particularly if the presidential approval Raiders -- ratings are tanking and the tax overhaul doesn't generate a lot of money in people's pockets.I guess Mark Levin is an environmental attorney and he's in Orange County so that might be a more challenging part of the district to take on.If you can establish the state -- the street plan, people knocking on doors, he becomes viable. We will have to see how it sorts out. The fact that we are talking about this in December is a sign that this is a race that we have to keep an eye on.How much do you think Darrell Issa has changed his stripes since his narrow win last year.Voting against the tax cut is a good start. Housing and mortgage deductions and student loan deductions and things like that, he has had to try to choose his district. If you are going to blue yourself for this district, why not just go with the Democrat?Do you expect to see him break with his party more next year?The big question is, what does the president do over the next six months. What are the dividing issues. You have the immigration reform issue. Keeping the government open, and a vote next year on raising the debt ceiling. There's a lot of straight out red meat, if I dare say, issues on the table. Republicans are going to have to choose what they will do after the tax bill. Every time Darrell Issa associates himself more with the party, that could hurt him in his district.This shift that we heard about in the super PACs from spending money, not just on ads, because we have all been inundated by TV ads etc., but more on grassroots mobilizing; what do you think this is going to mean for the average voter?It's a Roy Moore effect. Apparently what worked in Alabama was a lot of people really angry going door to door and people showed up that don't usually show up at all for these elections. You are going to have a much stronger Democratic Disneyland if you have people knocking on doors all the way from La Jolla to Disneyland. Republicans have to be worried that they lost a couple that they shouldn't have nationally. Now this is going to come to roost in the most vulnerable House races.Traditionally it's the Democratic party that rallies the troops and gets people to turn out to vote. Is it a bit surprising that this new Super PAC now is engaging in grassroots organizing?Not surprising in that when you are funneling in national money, that's your structure to do it. I have to ask, the Democratic Party in San Diego, it should be poised for major victories that lost the mayoral race last time around. In preparing for this, I realize I cannot even name the Democratic chairman. I at least remembered Busby, although she lost a number of races. The question is, why do you have a party local at all is not making more waves to show it can recruit all of the candidates to run across the board from school board to Congress, and start being statewide contenders but to at least a great percentage of the money that they raised came from the district.That's good but the party is supposed to be for whatever else, a grooming ground for future candidates. If you look statewide, San Diego has been underrepresented picks to typically voters don't show up in high numbers in the midterm elections. Will they be able to keep this promoting -- momentum going? There's a lot going on on the one year anniversary of the Trump protests. Are they going to be able to sustain this for a whole year?I think the Democrats are going to have to if they want the needle to move in November. They are ready uniquely advantageous time where there's a national president it was so unpopular that Democrats are rallying around opposing him. Republicans have to be careful that if they rest on the Royals -- rest on their laurels, how do you triangulate local politics, national politics and presidential politics. That's what everyone is trying to figure out.We shall see what happens in 2018. [ Laughter ]Unfortunately, it has begun and auntie 20 starts sometime in January.You so much for kicking us off in the new political season.Thank you very much and happy new year.That's Carl Luna who was a political professor at Mesa College.

UPDATE: 7:15 A.M., Dec. 20, 2017

This week marks one year since protesters first staged rallies outside Rep. Darrell Issa’s 49th Congressional District office in Vista. The campaigns battling over this district are already reaching out to voters, a year before the 2018 elections.

The 49th has been named one of the most vulnerable Republican districts in the nation. It stretches from Dana Point in Orange County down the San Diego County coast to La Jolla.

Nowhere else in the nation have protesters shown up this consistently. Every Tuesday morning the sidewalk outside Issa’s district office is filled with people chanting and carrying signs, calling for Issa to be ousted and President Trump to be impeached.

RELATED: Tom Steyer Brings Impeachment Campaign To Anti-Issa Protest In Vista

The rallies began last December, right after the November election, when Issa, a nine-term incumbent, was nearly unseated by a little-known Democrat, Doug Applegate.

Campaign To Flip The 49th Congressional District Off To An Early Start

Issa won the district of nearly 400,000 registered voters by fewer than 2,000 votes.

Ellen Montanari of the group Indivisible has led the rallies and said she is amazed at how the passion of the early demonstrations has persisted.

“I thought it was going to evaporate after 'Resist Trump Tuesdays,'” she said, “I thought it was going to evaporate when the summer hit, I thought it would evaporate once the holidays hit, and I’m not seeing anything evaporating.”

Weekly face off

More than 100 protesters line one side of the street from 10 to 11 a.m. every week, and face off with a handful of Issa supporters who line the other side of the street.

This level of grassroots activism is unusual a year before the election. But Tony Krvaric, chair of the San Diego Republican Party, is skeptical that the rallies signal danger for Issa.

“It makes some people feel good,” he said, “but at the end of the day, just standing around and yelling doesn’t get the job done. That said, we’re motivated, we’re organized as well. And whatever seats they could not win in 2016, I seriously doubt they’re going to win in 2018. I would argue people are being paid to show up, so you have a bit of this astro-turf stuff going on, so I don’t know actually how deep this stuff goes.”

Bill Rider of American Combat Veterans of War is one of the protesters. He laughed at the idea he was being paid to be there.

"I would take the money, but I’m not getting paid, certainly no,” he said. “I’m here on my own free time and I think that it’s important — this is called democracy for those people that don’t understand it."

Dominic Nguyen said the rallies have become a focal point for people with all kinds of agendas.

“There are advocates for climate change, for choice, for criminal justice reform,” Nguyen said, “as well as generally trying to change the political narrative to more community based, as well as well as getting rid of the corporate interests in our government.”

Montanari said neither she nor the protesters are paid to show up at the rallies.

Cipriano Vargas instructs canvassers during a training exercise in Solana Beach for the Flip the 49th campaign, Dec. 2, 2017.
Alison St John
Cipriano Vargas instructs canvassers during a training exercise in Solana Beach for the Flip the 49th campaign, Dec. 2, 2017.

Flip the 49th

But the campaign to unseat Issa has registered an independent expenditure committee — known as a Super PAC — called Flip the 49th, which is raising money. Montanari said it is not “dark money."

"You can go online and look at the filings and see who has donated and how much," she said.

Flip the 49th has declared fundraising totals of more than $400,000 so far — 40 percent raised locally in San Diego and Orange counties. Donors include Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm and actress Jane Fonda. Instead of spending it all on TV ads, Flip the 49th is investing in neighborhood organizing.

On a recent Saturday morning, about a dozen volunteers showed up for a canvassing workshop at a park in Solana Beach. Their leader was Cipriano Vargas, a paid community organizer for Flip the 49th.

Community organizing

“To date we have trained more than 200 neighborhood leaders all across the 49th,” he told the group. “We have contacted with phone banks and knocking on doors more than 7,000 individuals in the 49th, and we have a goal of getting to 70,000. That’s an aggressive goal, it’s an ambitious goal but I think we can do it.”

It is unusual to have this level of community organizing happening a year before the election, especially when the campaign has not yet chosen a candidate. That will not happen until after the primary election in June.

Four Democrats have jumped into the race to oust Issa: Doug Applegate, a former Marine colonel who ran in 2016, Mike Levin, an orange county environmental attorney, Paul Kerr a Rancho Santa Fe real estate investor and Sara Jacobs, a former Hilary Clinton foreign policy adviser and granddaughter of Qualcomm’s Irwin Jacobs.

But Vargas said this campaign is not about a particular candidate — it is about knocking on doors and listening to what voters have to say about the issues.

Republican super PACs

Republican super PACs are also gearing up for the battle for the 49th. Republican political consultant Jason Roe works for two national campaign committees: the American Action Network, a 501(c)(4), and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC. Roe said they are also shifting their focus.

“What’s different from what you see typically from super PACs that are really mostly focused on television ads first and foremost, and maybe digital advertising, and once in while mail,” Roe said. “I think what you’re seeing now is much more of a focus on the grass roots.”

Roe said while the local Republican party faithful will mobilize to educate the electorate, he will focus on new technology to reach voters.

“What we used to do door-to-door: identifying voters, knocking on doors, talking to friends, all those kinds of things, you can now do with a couple of clicks,” Roe said.

Knocking on doors

Flip the 49th volunteer Michelle Burrascano is doing it the old fashioned way — knocking on doors.

“The vast majority of people are really willing and anxious to talk,” she said. "They are frustrated by the way things are going politically and they are just desperate to share their frustrations. I have no doubt we’ll be able to do this for a year because the frustration is not going to go away.”

Issa is one of the wealthiest men in congress. The Flip the 49th campaign knows it is unlikely to raise as much money as the incumbent and the independent super PACs supporting him. They are banking on voter frustration and an early start on grassroots campaigning to make a change.

Last midterm election, voter turnout was less than 50 percent, but with all the money and energy building in the 49th, campaigners on both sides hope many more voters will get engaged in this key congressional race in 2018.

Corrected:
Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that the American Action Network is not a super PAC, but is a 501(c)(4). A previous version of this story also listed Mark Levin as a candidate. His name is Mike Levin. The story has been modified to reflect that.