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Roundtable: Election 2018 Major Races

Roundtable: Election 2018 Major Races
Roundtable: Election 2018 Major Races
Roundtable: Election 2018 Major Races PANEL:Art Castañares, publisher, La Prensa San Diego Jade Hindmon, reporter, KPBS News Michael Smolens, columnist, The San Diego Union-Tribune Alison St. John, reporter, KPBS News

M Sauer: California's primary election is just days away. Why the real prize in the governor's race Tuesday will be second place. Republicans may be close to saving one of their most vulnerable House seats. Will Democrats be a shut out in the Forty ninth. And a cloud of suspicion isn't stopping Duncan Hunter's reelection campaign to Congress. The new polling that shows a one sided race high marks our PBS roundtable starts now. M Sauer: Welcome to the discussion. I'm Mark Sauer and these are my guest. The race to replace Governor Brown comes down to the race for second place. Gavin Newsom appears to be a lock for first place and the battle is for the right to oppose the Democrat in November. Who are the two main candidates? M Smolens: Days before the election, you should always treat these polls with suspicion and caution. The Republican, John Cox is in second place and this has been a surprise in the last month or so. Former mayor Villaraigosa is struggling, within striking distance of the second spot. A lot of people came into this race thinking that it would be Newsom and Villaraigosa in November -- two Democrats. The Republicans have been surprised. Cox has spent a lot of his own money. There is still a lot of time left. The votes are in and things have been volatile this year. We always have to be cautious about what the polls are saying. M Sauer: Let's start with Villaraigosa. M Smolens: He seems to be focusing on working-class issues and Latino voters. Border issues -- he was just down in San Diego at the border talking about immigration the other day. He is working hard trying to get the voters that I mentioned -- trying to shore up his L.A.-based. There is some concern that Gavin Newsom is doing pretty well in LA County. M Sauer: We have a portion of this. Let's hear it. [Clip] We can have differences of opinion and still believe in human values. Not calling people animals and rapists and criminals when you know the vast majority, according to the National Academy of Sciences, the most authoritative study on crime of immigrants, they come to work. They are working. Those who are committing crimes go to jail. M Sauer: How do you think that might play across the state? AC: I think he is doing what he has to do because the base he needs to turn out are the Latino voters and the lower social economic angle of the Democratic Party and they are notoriously poor voters. M Sauer: In terms of turnout? AC: He has to close the gap. He is about seven points behind and this is the first time we've had a governor's race with an open primary where you have them jockeying between Newsom and Villaraigosa tried to knock each other out. This is interesting. In the last week Newsom has been supporting John Cox to keep him in second. M Sauer: I want to ask you about the details on that. That is interesting. ASJ: With Villaraigosa, does he have loyal support? He came to San Diego and had to change his venue. AC: Yes, I was there. It was moved. With happening now we see in the polling -- he is barely ahead among Latinos of Newsom. There splitting 75% of the vote is -- evenly. ASJ: Why do you think that is? AC: Newsom has been popular. He is very progressive. He appeals a lot to the liberal base. M Sauer: Picking up on what art was saying, Michael, you've got Newsom boosting John Cox. He has been boasting that. There is a whole dichotomy about whether you would want to see that with Democrats and Newsom at the top of the pole -- two Democrats fighting a race or rather a Republican there who probably doesn't have a chance? M Smolens: This primary has mix things up. The Republican chairman in California said he used to be a checkers match. Now it is a chess match. You got the Democrat trying to boost the Republican -- selecting opponents is not new. But there is that aspect. There are two different arguments. They are convoluted. Some Democrats are criticizing Newsom for boating, if you will -- even though he is attacking -- saying these nice conservative things about John Cox saying it will help turnout the Republican vote. They are more concerned -- not really concerned about losing in the governors rate -- race but the congressional seat. It's all about whether they can flip the house. California is essential to that. Newsom is getting criticism from that. On the flipside this is interesting. Another bizarre aspect is, Mike Madrid, a prominent Republican political consultant is working for Villaraigosa and he has made the argument that Republicans would do better with Villaraigosa on the Bella because he said if Cox is on there even the Republicans don't think he will win and they won't spend that much money. If Villaraigosa is on their he would have two campaigns spending a lot and he would have the Republican vote because there could be a California aspect but he is considered the more moderate. You have two theories there. Take your choice. M Sauer: Speaking to that, does that further depress the Democratic vote? AC: Yes, I used to be the chairman of the Democratic Party. Democrats don't like to pick between their friends. You see that in some of these races they have not taken a position because they didn't want to endorse or endorsed multiple Democrats. This just dilutes the vote. If Villaraigosa is not in the general election a lot of the Latinos won't turn out. It helps the Republicans in the long term. M Sauer: Let's talk about Cox. What is he running on against the Democrats? M Smolens: He is a successful businessman and appealing to Republicans. We have a businessman in the White House. Despite what a lot of the commentary says, the Republican views -- review of things going well. He will bring the business sensibility to California. He has been railing against the sanctuary loss. It's not a right wing approach but more of a business approach. He is appealing to the right a little bit more. ASJ: Do you think moderate voters might be feeling like California is so blue that they would consider the possibility of a moderate Republican to moderate the -- M Smolens: It's hard to say. John Cox would get some votes. Would it be a handful or 1%? I think if it is Villaraigosa or Newsom I don't think you would get the Democrats supporting them going for a Republican. M Sauer: I will get right back to you. Let's hear this. Let's hear his side of it. [Clip] Let me tell you, there are a lot of businesses that are mismanaged. The management gets replaced ultimately and that is what we have to do in California. We got bad management. They are mismanaging the roads and the schools. They are mismanaging the water. They are mis-managing the forests. You almost can't name and aspect of life in California that is managed properly. M Sauer: Art? AC: I think the worst endorsement he got is the one from Donald Trump. He is moderate and I think he could sell himself as a businessman but he is tainted with that. Something interesting happened this week. The new numbers just came out. The Republican Party is now in third place. Behind the Democratic Party at about 45%. Declined to state or no preference is at 25.1%. The Republican Party is in third place. There just aren't enough Republicans to elect this guy statewide. M Sauer: There are others in this race. M Smolens: Travis Allen is another coal -- viable Republican. But they are not mentioning him. They are coalescing around Cox. John Chiang and Eastin -- they don't seem to be gaining much traction. Mentioning schools -- one thing about the Newsom-Tran16 battle is that it is a proxy education battle going on. There are some wealthy charter school supporters contributing heavy -- heavily to the independent campaign. When he was mayor he tried to take over the school system. He wanted to change things and this did not sit well with these teachers associations. They have powers behind Gavin Newsom who has talked about putting a cap on charter schools. This is a subtext. Philosophically they are a lot in line. AC: The folks behind Villaraigosa have spent billions of dollars. M Sauer: Another race on the congressional side will be interesting. Anti-Trump activists went to the Republican. Their weekly demonstrations contributing to his decision to step down. That has created a free for all in the 49th district encompassing parts of San Diego Riverside and Orange County. Allison, after all this how could the Democrats wind up on the losing end? ASJ: It is interesting how this has changed. Democrats thought they had a go at overturning him. Now you have 16 candidates. Eight have raised several hundred thousand dollars. The polls keep giving us different impressions. It is interesting. M Smolens: Yes, very interesting. ASJ: A poll came out today upending the whole thing. A month ago we bought the two former Marines -- Chavez and Applegate -- were probably going to be the top two. Applegate has name recognition because he almost won last time around. Chavis is an assembly meant so he has a lot of supporters. I have watched them in forums and they almost come over as buddies. I wonder how it would be if they faced off in November. The latest poll has changed the dynamics suggesting that the top two will be Diane Harkey and Mike Leven. Both are the chosen candidates in a sense. Leven is the Democrat and Harkey is the Republican. Republicans have endorsed Diane Harkey and the Democrats -- was it you that said the Democrats don't like to -- M Smolens: Yes, they are supporting four Democrats. ASJ: There is Adam Schiff throwing his weight behind Mike Leven. There are endorsements across the board. I haven't seen anyone risking a prediction as to what will happen in November. I think it will be very exciting June 5. M Sauer: Let's split this by party and talk about Doug Applegate coming close to winning the race. It was a very tight race and it was almost 2 weeks before it was settled in the votes were tallied. He is back. He is near the lead. ASJ: Yes. I think the Democratic party is concerned because one thing that came up last time was some history of contentious divorce and a custody battle. His behavior at that time. He was probably under a lot of emotional stress and his behavior did not behoove someone you would want to put into Congress. It was 10 years ago but still on his record. There are Democrats that are concerned that he would not make it through in November. He is the one who a lot of people feel loyal to. He put the cracks in the glass ceiling for the Democrats. We will have to see. There are websites where you can look at the history. M Smolens: Now Leven has edged ahead. ASJ: Yes, he is a good family man and brings his kids to the forums. He has a lot more support from establishment and he has raised money from around the country. A lot of established Democrats feels he has the best chance of defeating a Republican in November. M Smolens: Yes, Applegate was the sacrificial lamb in 2016 -- the kind of person that runs against the incumbent that's going to win and the world was still upside down because of Trump and they almost lost. He would not have been the Democrats choice if it was a contested district. Leven was the executive director of the orange County Republican Party. He's got deep roots in the party. No one has been endorsed by the party. He has gained some support. The irony is, the cliche, be careful what you wish for. They so wanted to weaken him that they did a good job. He realized he wouldn't be elected and he stepped down and that made things difficult. In other races they wanted to weaken the incumbent and a primary battle tested Democrat to go at it in November. Now there is a lot of open field running and there is a threat here and other races of Democrats being shut out. Don't think that will happen. I think the blue wave is still there but it is more tentative than people thought. AC: This is another case where the Democrats blew it. The leading Republican between Harkey and Chavez are former members of the legislation and experienced fundraisers. Instead of going again with someone who raised a lot of money and have a lot of support they endorsed four different candidates and don't give the Democrats a sense of unity to attack. So, we will end up with two Republicans. M Sauer: That's interesting. I will throw that to you. We said at the outset that they can get shut out and the Republicans could get shut out, too. ASJ: Looking at the math -- there are eight potential viable candidates throwing a lot of money into this. What's interesting to note is that every vote will count. It will come down to percentage points. We won't know on election night who will be the one. M Sauer: Before we leave the 49th let's say it is two Republicans. You still have a big block of Democrats. The blue wave. What about a viable right in -- write in candidate? M Smolens: Anything can happen. This is difficult. It is rare. It usually involves a tremendous controversy. I don't know that a top two Republican base office controversy know. If it was two Republicans it would be Harkey and Chavez and I think Chavez would get the Democratic vote. He is more moderate. Yes, he is no longer in the lien because the Democrats attacked him. ASJ: Where with the money come from? You would have to have some funding there. M Sauer: At that point would it be enough of a priority for the Democrats? They have so many other things to do in November. S Molens: I noticed that in voter registration to Democrats have been working hard. There are more this month than last registered and the Republicans are keeping their heads above water. M Sauer: Let's look at this district -- the 50th congressional district where the situation is completely different from the 49. A conservative district represented by Duncan Hunter. The son has a big cloud over him. This baggage has doomed many candidates. So far he is rolling along. JH: Yes, even with this suspicion over Duncan Hunter there's nothing out of the ordinary. Everything seems to be predictable in this race. He is ahead in the polls -- 43 and 10% with the closest and 25% of voters are undecided. Even if they pull the votes Hunter has got a sizable lead. M Sauer: Still amount to climb. You have interviewed some people and ask them about the baggage. What do they had to say? JH: They either don't care or they are -- they don't believe that these allegations are true. He -- he's got some supporters. M Sauer: Your paper has written quite a bit about this. You have gotten into the specifics. Give us a recap. M Smolens: It started out with misuse of campaign funds. He joked about paying for a rabbit being flown across country. There is school tuition and dental work. Contrary to what he told Jade, he said no mistakes were made. He admitted the mistakes and they paid back $60,000. This investigation has been going on for more than a year. I've lost track. It has been on the slow track because the DOJ has so many other things or they are looking into other things we don't know about in terms of the kind of things that have been happening with the money. JH: That is the overview. The thing that they are walking on eggshells about -- does he get indicted while he is the only nominee on the ballot for the Republicans? M Sauer: You set up a nice clip from this interview. Let's see that. [Clip] I don't have a reaction. It has been a year and a half. I have heard nothing and had no involvement. We have done nothing because we haven't been asked. People run for office all the time. People like power all the time and you will see politicians say stuff like that all the time. Did you misuse campaign funds? No. I did not misuse campaign funds but thank you for asking. M Sauer: Thank you for answering. He paid stuff back, right? AC: We are in this area of Trump for you can be under investigation and still have 43% of the vote. It's unbelievable. These were career killers 10 years ago. For any party. He used campaign many to pay for your games and tuition and dental work. Before it was a deal killer and now he's saying thank you for asking let's move on. M Sauer: What does this tell us about the district X M Smolens It tells us about this brand which was built by his father and he is highly respected. It carried over to the son who has had issues. His personal behavior has been well documented. M Sauer: It was a national story. M Smolens: Yes, we get inside a bubble. Because of the trust in the Hunter Emily -- they know these people -- they get the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that to a lot of people this is like and investigation and we wait to see. They don't jump to conclusions. Also, there's something about the misuse of campaign funds. Unlike Cunningham who was selling contracts for personal money -- I think it's a little harder for people to get their arms around. Whether we see this coming up -- that might change the equation but until the government indicts or decides there's nothing there this will be the status quo. JH: You mentioned the benefit of the Hunter brand. Also, he has worked hard to support a Trump and I think he is piggybacking off of that. M Sauer: Let's talk about the Democrats. Who is running -- who knows what could happen in the investigation? JH: You never know. I will give you these names. You've got these Democrats and this -- these Republicans. You've got this independent, Richard Carl in there right now. M Sauer: It sounds like a crowded field. JH: Yes, and it is clustered. The numbers are close. You can tell who will pull away from the pack. M Sauer: Someone will be there opposing Duncan Hunter in the fall. This is not a done deal like last week. You've got several months for someone to go ahead and something to happen. Which among the Democrats -- you say the polls are close. JH: He was in the Obama administration and he used to work with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Is a small business owner and these are the things that he is platforming.'s campaign is around immigration. He is in huge support of the dreamers. He is pushing a different agenda than what Duncan Hunter is pushing. M Sauer: And the Democrats who is a veteran is -- JH: Josh Butner. A former Navy seal. He is doing pretty good in the polls. He is probably in some of the biggest competition for Campa-Najiar. M Sauer: Hunter is a hawk and he called for preemptive bombing of North Korea. What about his opponents? Are they talking about this? JH: Which ones? M Sauer: The Democrats. Or the Republicans as well. JH: They are not talking about that. A lot of the talk is about immigration. That is the biggest issue for folks in the 50th. ASJ: Did Campa-Najiar raise significant funding? JH: Yes, he outraised Duncan Hunter. He has a lot of support. ASJ: It all comes down to voter registration. AC: Yes. Two things -- whatever makes the runoff hope something will happen in the investigation between June 5 and November that leaves Hunter dead on the side of the road. M Sauer: That is the wild card. When you expect that? Before September -- M Smolens: Yes, I would've thought something would happen by now. I don't know. One wildcard aspect -- as Jade mentioned, Campa-Najiar has run pretty well. A few days go by and you can throw these polls out the window. Bill Wells is still in the hunt. The could be a top to Republican? M Sauer: All right. We will find out Tuesday. That wraps us up. I would like to thank my guests. Comprehensive voter information will be on the voter guide on KPBS.org.

Race For Governor

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If Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives, they will need to flip districts like the 49th. Several strong candidates are in the race and none has emerged as a true frontrunner, opening the door for a smaller Republican field to claim the top two spots. If that happens, a congressional seat viewed as one of the most vulnerable in the nation will be held by the GOP.

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Representative Duncan Hunter is running for re-election. This time around, he’s also facing a federal investigation into the alleged personal use of campaign funds. Despite the controversy, recent polling shows Hunter far ahead of his primary challengers including El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and former staffer to President Barack Obama, Ammar Campa-Najjar. Many voters in the district say they are still undecided in this race.

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