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California: Fade the Red and Cue the Blue—Newly Registered Democratic Voters and Enthusiastic Turnout for Obama May Turn Heads--Downticket Races Ready to Flip

It is happening across the country, and California is no exception. Democratic voter registration is up, a record turnout of voters is expected, and polls show independent voters trending Democratic and districts once thought safely in the hands of Republicans from the State Assembly to the Congress are up for grabs. This last happened in California in the aftermath of Watergate and the resignation of Richard Nixon from the Presidency in the 1970s.


Yesterday was the deadline to register to vote in California. This morning’s papers tell tales of lines stretching out of county courthouse doors as new registrations arrived by the tens of thousands by mail or in person at registrar of voters offices along with a crush of early voters. It will take time for harried election workers to process and tally the final results of those who are eligible to vote. Democrats already had as of the last statewide report, 60 days before the election, a widening lead in registrations compared with the 2004 presidential election and we reported in September the following:

“The California Secretary of State’s office released new voter registration figures and they show that Democrats have not only increased their percentage of registrants from 43.2% four years ago to 43.9% today, but that Republican registration has actually dropped from 35.2% in 2004 to 32.3%--a decline of 2.7% in their share of voters. At the same time decline-to-state a party voters now comprise 19.5% of registrants, up 2.4% from their figures in 2004. Democrats now have an 11.6% advantage over Republicans in a state where the voters not affiliated with either major party add to that because their votes favor the Democrats over Republicans.

“What is most striking is that the actual numbers of Republicans in the state has dropped. On September 3, 2004, the same 60 days before the Presidential election, Republicans had 238,915 more voters than they do today. Democrats and decline-to-state voters have increased their numbers in an overall electorate that has grown in size.”

But the real story here lies in the individual counties and districts that make up California. The Press-Enterprise headline blared: “Counties flooded with last-minute voter registrations” and pictures told the tale along with these snippets:

“Scores of people lined up Monday to register to vote in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and elections staffers worked until midnight on the final day of registration for the Nov. 4 presidential election.

“Inland election officials said the crowds of prospective voters were a likely a preview of Election Day, which they expect will draw record turnout approaching 80 percent. Voter registration numbers in both counties already broke records….

“The phone lines to the Riverside County registrar's office also were jammed much of Monday.

“Martine said at times they had up to 30 callers on hold.”

And the same article said that statewide and in Sacramento the trend was the same:

“Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office in Sacramento reported large crowds but no problems as Monday's registration deadline approached.

“Bowen helped host a dawn-to-midnight voter registration drive at the city's convention center. Spokeswoman Kate Folmar said Bowen's office also received 29,000 registration cards in Monday's morning mail.

The same scene was described from the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Office in “Rushing to register.”

And in Ventura County, ground zero to the hottest contested State Senate race between Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson and Republican Tony Strickland, the headline read: “Hundreds swamp Elections Division--Residents register, get ballots, cast votes.” This is the description of what it looked like: “The Ventura County Elections Division looked like the hottest velvet-rope nightclub in town on Monday, with a line that stretched out the door for most of the day.”

What Does It Mean in Local Races?

There are plenty of pick up opportunities for the Democrats and scarcely any for the Republicans. The sole Democratic Congressional incumbent in California facing a serious challenge, freshman Jerry McNerney, is favored to retain this seat and is ahead in latest polling by 11 percent. No Democratic seats in the California State Senate are in danger of being lost—Democrat Lois Wolk is ahead by double digits in a district won by Democrats in the last several races by razor thin margins. And there is one Democratic Assembly District, the 30th, where a seat may go from blue to red—and there are signs that this may soon be out of reach for the Republicans as well.

In the 30th Assembly District in the Central Valley, moderate Fran Florez will probably prevail based on registration that was 46.5% Democratic and 37.25% Republican as of last week. Polling showed that a generic Democrat was preferred by voters by 9 points. (This is the edge by which voters said they would prefer to be represented by a Democrat in the Assembly over a Republican).

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The 15th Assembly District from Alameda County to points to the east and north, long represented by Republicans, showed last week a net registration swing of 4.65% towards the Democrats and polls show a 9% preference for a Democrat with Joan Buchanan the likely winner.

The 78th Assembly District in San Diego, narrowly won by Republicans for some time, has a net 4.1% voter registration improvement for Democrats who are now 42.6% of registrants to the Republican 32.3$. The generic Democrat has a 16 point advantage. Marty Block is poised to win here.

The 80th Assembly District in Riverside and Imperial Counties, held by Republicans for the last six years, is primed to elect Democrat Manuel Perez. There is a 17 point Democratic advantage in generic preference and the district is 44.9% Democratic and 37.5% Republican. Since September, new registrants have been 47.6% Democratic and only 30.4% Republican.

The 10th Assembly District, stretching from Lodi to Amador County, may elect a Democrat, Alyson Huber, who is running a great campaign, despite the fact that Republicans outnumbered Democrats in registration 40.4% to 38.9%. A Democrat is generically preferred by voters in this district by a 3 point advantage—based on preferences of independent voters.

Likewise in the 26th AD, Democratic farmer John Eisenhut, may take this seat from the Republicans where Democratic registration has gain to a 41.6% to 40.6% advantage and there is a 3% Democratic generic preference.

Even in the 38th AD, where Democrat Carole Lutness had not received any substantial party support until lately, Democratic registration has swung over 3% towards the Democrats and the generic preference is even between a Democrat and a Republican.

In the 63rd Assembly District, Republican had a 10% registration advantage and there has been a 4.6% swing toward the Democrats. The generic preference is equal between the parties.

And there are other Assembly races---not one where Democrats are in danger of losing a seat they already have—but where Democrats can win a seat from the Republicans.

We’ve described some of the Congressional races where Democrats may make gains in November.

Turnout in these races will be critical. If it is heavy, as predicted, an Obama wave may carry many of these Democrats to victory—if Obama voters go down the ballot and vote for Democrats.

Now the attention turns to getting every possible voter to the polls—on or before Election Day.

It is just possible that Democrats could have a two-thirds majority in the Assembly, be within one vote of two-thirds of the State Senate, and pick up a number of Congressional seats. With all the ballots, it may be a few days after the election is over before we know this.

Frank Russo

Now, get to work!

By Frank Russo, Publisher, The California Progress Report

Originally published on The California Progress Report. Republished with permission.

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