Open Seats Provide Opportunity
By the time you read this you are aware that 2020 is a presidential election year and California is brimming with activity due to our March 3 primary election. There will be campaign workers and volunteers aplenty stumping for Trump, roaring for Warren or siding with Biden plus numerous other candidates creating a hive of activity that will drive voter interest and participation.
While the presidential primary is the marquee race, we at the California Chamber of Commerce will turn our time, attention and resources further down the ballot by focusing on the 20 Senate and 80 Assembly elections that coincide with the presidential contest.
The early primary creates special challenges for legislative candidates, especially those running in open seats where there are no incumbents. This year there are eight open assembly seats—10% of the body; and seven in the Senate—almost 20%.
Most of these seats have multi-candidate fields, which make it difficult to separate the front runners from the also-rans. That being said, we will do our best to find the candidate who understands the employer community’s perspective and who can win regardless of party affiliation.
Roaring into the 20’s —California’s Election Landscape
As mentioned above, the open Senate and Assembly seats will draw an extraordinary amount of attention as they provide a unique opportunity to elect people willing to learn our issues and support our legislative agenda.
The trick is getting the sympathetic candidates elected, which is why we deploy all the modern techniques of elections, including polling, analytics, targeted messaging and good old-fashioned shoe leather to succeed at the ballot box.
A year ago, there were zero Assembly vacancies and no lawmakers were facing the end of their 12-year terms. But electoral opportunities pop up like a game of whack-a-mole and
now we have eight open seats in 2020. Of the eight seats, seven are occupied by Democrats, again presenting an opportunity to improve the quality of the officeholder, and that will be our aim this year.
• Among the open Democratic Senate seats, expect a lot of attention paid to Senate District 5, a Central Valley district currently occupied by business-friendly Democrat Cathleen Galgiani.
• Senate District 13, split between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, will be open due to Democrat Jerry Hill terming out. The Santa Clara County seat, Senate District 15, will open up due to Democrat Jim Beall being term limited. CalChamber is looking at replacements for both of these seats who will be more open to the views of the high concentration of employers in these two counties.
• Senate District 19, which contains the counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura, is open due to Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson stepping aside due to term limits. It is very likely that Democrat Monique Limón will move up from the Assembly to occupy this seat.
CalChamber has the dual imperative of protecting our Senate allies. To that end, we will work to ensure that Democrat Steve Glazer returns to the East Bay Senate District 7, where he faces two challengers—one from the right and the other from the left.
It is expected that labor and its allies will work to unseat several sitting GOP senators and CalChamber will engage to defend those seats as well.
Among the Republican seats thought to be most competitive are the San Bernardino County seat occupied by Mike Morrell, the Santa Clarita Valley seat of Scott Wilk and the Orange County seat occupied by John Moorlach.
In addition, there will be a special election in Senate District 28, based in Riverside County, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Republican Jeff Stone. It is a March Primary
and May General Election in a district that slightly favors the GOP. CalChamber will be working to ensure the seat remains in Republican hands.
CalChamber will continue to recruit and elect business-friendly candidates to maintain our superb track record of beating jobkilling legislative proposals by staying on the task of engaging our political action network. Our focus will remain dedicated to finding and electing candidates from both political parties who possess the courage to stand up to the liberal special interests and reject their philosophy of tax, spend and regulate. If are successful with our election strategy, then our opportunities will far outdistance our challenges.
Although not a political action committee, the Candidate Recruitment and Development Program provides the resources necessary to build a bench of electable, pro-jobs candidates for state legislative and local office. CalChamber partners with our local chamber network, as well as state and local member businesses, to ensure the recruitment efforts are bipartisan and locally driven.
The primary component of this program is to identify potential candidates and put them on the path to elective office. The secondary component is training and developing candidates for their positions. The program has successfully recruited numerous local candidates who have won election to state legislative seats.
Political Action Committees (PACS)
The CalChamber’s Political Action Network includes three
• ChamberPAC is a bipartisan political action committee that makes direct contributions to incumbent office holders and select candidates who promote and vote for an agenda of private sector job creation. Contributions to this committee are limited to $7,300 per year, person, organization or political action committee.
• JobsPAC is an independent expenditure committee, meaning it speaks directly to voters on behalf of the business community to elect pro-jobs candidates. Co-chaired by CalChamber and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, JobsPAC may accept contributions in unlimited amounts.
• CalBusPAC is a CalChamber committee that is formed to primarily support or oppose ballot measures having an impact on the state’s business climate. CalBusPAC may accept contributions in unlimited amounts.
California’s business community is under constant pressure due to the disproportionate influence that special interest and government employee organizations have on the legislative and regulatory process. CalChamber is committed to standing up for and speaking out on behalf of the state’s employer community through political action, our advocacy network, and constant and direct contact with elected officials.
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Martin R. Wilson
Executive Vice President,