There are fervent Mitt Romney fans in our area or maybe they would be better described as ferociously anti-Barack Obama and enthusiastic supporters of the president. Regardless, California overall is expected to support the president for re-election, so this isn't considered a key state.
However, California, which hasn't had a lot of competitive congressional races in the past, could be the key in determining who has control of the House of Representatives for the next two years. The Democratic and Republican national parties are zeroing in on 10 California congressional districts, and three of them are in our area the 9th, 10th and 16th.
I participated in a conference call Thursday with Brock McCleary, deputy political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He offered observations on the "state of play" in the California House races, in a conversation laced with sports metaphors which might as easily be war games, as seriously as some are treating this year's election.
Nancy Pelosi's name will come up in the campaigns, because she might be chosen speaker if the Democrats regain the majority. But she's often on the lips of Republicans, who seem to love to hate her almost as they once loved to hate Willie Brown in Sacramento.
Of course, I asked McCleary about our races. A recap of his comments:
In the 10th District, all of Stanislaus and part of San Joaquin County: Jose Hernandez "is the last remaining recruit for the Democrats that they feel pretty good about," but the district is primarily in Stanislaus County (74 percent), where Denham has won every tough race he's been in.
Clearly the strategist feels confident about Denham winning, no doubt bolstered by the fact that Denham got more than 49 percent in the open primary. Denham also has a big advantage in fund raising.
I think this race will only be close if Hernandez and team work a little harder. His up-from-the-fields success story is compelling, but Hernandez needs to shed the astronaut uniform and provide more information on what he knows and what he'll do. And for heaven's sake, put up some signs.
In the 9th District, northern San Joaquin County west into Alameda County: The Republicans obviously want to regain this seat, which Jerry McNerney won by upsetting Richard Pombo in 2006. "Ricky Gill is a pretty dynamic candidate, to say the least," said McCleary, with obvious enthusiasm in his voice.
My thoughts: Gill is one of the people McCleary refers to when he talks about the GOP having a "diverse set of recruits." Gill is Sikh, the son of two physicians of Punjabi descent, and is an Ivy League graduate with a new law degree from UC Berkeley.
In the 16th District, Merced County, south into Fresno: This is being referred to as the Dennis Cardoza seat, though he's retiring. Democratic Rep. Jim Costa got almost 43 percent of the vote in the five-way primary. He will face Republican Brian Whelan, a Fresno attorney, in November. "We're still waiting to see how that race takes shape," McCleary said, which translates roughly to "see whether Whelan can put together a strong campaign and raise money on his own." As of mid-May, Costa's war chest quadrupled Whelan's.
On May 20 I wrote about the unusual contest for five seats on the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee, District 4. What happened?
The leading vote-getter was Rod Olsen, husband of Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen. Rod Olsen filed after the central committee refused to endorse his wife in her re-election bid, apparently because she didn't support Republican Brad Hawn in the nonpartisan Modesto mayor's race. Three other people with ties to Kristin Olsen were not successful.
Brad Rodman, whose wife works for Denham, came in second in the voting. The next three winners, all within a few votes of each other, were John Freeman, a staffer for Assemblyman Bill Berryhill; insurance man David Wright, one of the two who put up signs and campaigned for the post; and incumbent committee member Bill Mussman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Modesto school board last year.
Three committee incumbents lost, including Doug Miller, an aide to Sen. Tom Berryhill and the other one who put time and money into the campaign.
There were 16,444 undervotes in this race, meaning that many Republicans didn't vote for anybody or voted for fewer than five. For balance, let me note that there were a comparable number of undervotes in the Democratic Central Committee contest in the same district.
Sly is editor of the Opinions pages. Contact her at (209) 578-2317 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @judysly.