Dem targets Tom McClintock in uphill fight

Tom McClintock takes question at a raucous townhall meeting in March 2017. (Photo: Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee, via Associated Press)

Placer County is seen as a bastion of red in a largely blue state — and Republican Congressman Tom McClintock has carried the district easily for the past decade. But this election year, amid the deepening anti-Trump sentiment in California, will things be different for the veteran lawmaker?

Political handicappers believe McClintock faces a significant fight but likely will keep his seat. The Cook Political Report currently rates McClintock’s seat as “Likely – Not considered competitive…but (having) the potential to become engaged.” That’s a rating down from “Solid Seats,” which are not considered contested or competitive.

Not surprisingly, Democrats don’t agree.

“A year ago, Tom McClintock was taking afternoon naps. Well, now he’s up all night because two Democrats raised almost $2 million combined,” said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Mulholland. “A year ago if someone had said to any Democrat official in California that there would have been someone with big sums of money against McClintock, you would’ve been dismissed.”

The leading Democratic challenger, Jessica Morse, raised $268,271 in the third quarter of 2017, a significant lead over McClintock’s $149,503.

The 4th Congressional District includes parts of Placer, Nevada, Fresno, and Madera counties, along with Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, and Tuolumne. The most densely populated portion lies in Granite Bay, Roseville, and Rocklin, all in Placer County. McClintock has held the district solidly since 2008, when he was first elected to Congress.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the leading Democratic challenger, Jessica Morse, raised $268,271 in the third quarter of 2017, a significant lead over McClintock’s $149,503. Morse picked up the Democratic Party’s official endorsement in February. Morse beat out fellow Democratic front-runners Regina Bateson and Rosa Calderon for the endorsement, though both of those candidates are still campaigning and remain officially in the race.

With the statewide primary rapidly approaching on June 5, it seems likely Morse will be the top contender against McClintock in the election on Nov. 6.

Morse, a Carmichael native, with a background in the State and Defense departments, worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development and spent time working in Iraq on civilian reconstruction projects. Her credentials were critiqued by the Sacramento Bee in a recent article that said, “This Tom McClintock rival is stretching the truth about her resume, investigation finds.”

The Democrats’ hope to flip enough GOP seats this year to win control in the House, now held by a Republican majority of 235-103, with 7 vacant seats.

That article proved galvanizing to Morse’s opponents, but failed to knock her off the Democratic ticket. Morse defended her credentials, and now seems poised to pose more of a challenge than McClintock has faced in years.

She also sees the contest as important to the Democrats’ plan to flip GOP this year to win control over the House of Representatives, now held by a Republican majority of 235-to-193, with seven vacant seats.

“When McClintock came out in lockstep with Trump and started voting against the interest of community, I thought, ‘OK, I need to challenge him now,’” Morse said in an interview with the Roseville Press Tribune in January.

“The 4th Congressional District continues to be the most Republican district in California.” — Jon Huey

Morse also carries the endorsement of Sierra Forward, a Democratic group founded with the emphasis on “the need to unify and get on with the task of defeating five-term Congressman and lifelong politician Tom McClintock…” according to the organization’s website.

Despite the rising Democratic challenger, McClintock’s campaign expressed confidence.

Through April 6, party registration in the 4th CD stood at 42.93 percent Republican and only 29.06 percent Democratic. That means McClintock is favorably positioned to win, as long as voter turnout stays in their favor. It also means Morse and the Democratic Party will face a grueling uphill battle if they want to flip the district.

McClintock’s campaign manager, Jon Huey, expressed confidence in Republican security regarding the 4th District in an email.

“In 2016 the voters of the 4th Congressional District reelected the Congressman with 63% of the vote,” Huey said. “There hasn’t been any change in the political make up of the district in the past year and (a) half to change that. The 4th Congressional District continues to be the most Republican district in California.”

In fact, Huey said, Trump’s presidency had not had any negative effect on McClintock and the Republican stronghold in the 4th District. If anything, Huey sees Democrats as shooting themselves in the foot with their own reactions to Trump.

“We can thank liberal Democrats in Sacramento in energizing the Republican base in the district and across California,” Huey said in the email. “Through the overreach that is happening in declaring that California is a sanctuary state, and raising our gas tax. There is no shortage of anger at Democrats in the district and it is galvanizing the grassroots.”


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