It has never been clearer than today that the majority of just a few, even one or two, votes in the House of Representatives can have a profound effect on national policy and priorities.
Republicans, with help from some California districts, took over the House last year and essentially retired former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who remains in Congress but only as a rank-and-file.
Does anyone, for example, believe that the possible impeachment of President Biden would be the subject of House hearings today if the Republicans were not in charge? In other words, they are in charge if they can choose a leader. If Democrats were running the House, there would be no debate about expanding the federal debt ceiling, or preventing a government shutdown, etc.
A move of just five votes to the Democrats would change the status quo quickly, giving them a one-vote margin.
The results almost exactly a year from now may hinge on some seats won by narrow margins last year by California candidates.
For example, the GOP scored key victories in two Central Valley districts that some expected to go Democratic. Without the victories of John Duarte in Modesto and David Valadao in Hanford, the GOP margin today would be much thinner.
Both Republican victories were mild surprises, as the two districts involved, the 13th and 22nd, have large Latino voters. Their failure to turn out in numbers comparable to 2018, when Democrats easily won the House, is a key to the current Republican majority.
On the 13th, Duarte won by just 600 votes out of 133,000, well below 1 percent. He will again face former Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced, who will try to turn those 600 votes not only from Latinos, but from students on the booming UC Merced campus.
Just up Highway 99, Valadao won the 22nd district by 3 percent against another former Democratic state lawmaker, Rudy Salas. Like the 13th, this district voted for Biden, but here again, Latino turnout cost the Democrats.
Elsewhere, some consider Democrat Dave Min, an Orange County state senator under fire since his May arrest for drunken driving, as a surefire loser. Min, a labor union ally in the Legislature, admitted his wrongdoing. Min said, “… To my family, constituents and supporters, I am very sorry. (But) I won’t let it…interfere with our work…”
It is not known whether voters in the tight 47th District, which has won the last three elections by Democrat Katie Porter, will forgive Min. Porter, who is running for the seat long held by the late Democrat Diane Feinstein in the US Senate, did not withdraw his endorsement of Min.
If Min wins the primary, he will likely face Scott Baugh, 61, who previously represented a coastal Orange County Assembly district. This could be one of the tightest races in California.
The disparity in the results in the Central Valley districts and the 47th shows why Democrats need to turn away Latino voters. Porter did this in 2022; Gray and Salas did not.
Another threatened Democrat is Josh Harder of Tracy, challenged by Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln. But Harder defeated opponents who seemed stronger than Lincoln.
Others expressed doubts about the political survival of first-termer Kevin Kiley in the 3rd District and two-termer Mike Garcia in the 27th, which includes much of the Antelope Valley.
But Kiley, who won by more than 6 percent last time after running poorly as a potential replacement candidate in the 2021 recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom, now looks safe in this center-centered district. GOP stronghold in Placer County. Garcia, on the other hand, easily overcame the challenge of former Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith last time. But voter registration in his 27th district, centered on Santa Clarita, continues to lean heavily Democratic.
Republicans, as usual, think they can defeat three-term Democrat Mike Levin in the 49th District, especially in northern San Diego County. But the GOP has run stronger candidates against Levin in other years than it is currently running against him.
If all goes according to form elsewhere, it could take a Democrat or two here to get the House back on their side. But nothing is certain in any of these swing districts.