The race for the Modesto area’s seat in Congress is now a toss-up, two national analysts say, thanks to Democrat Michael Eggman’s gains on incumbent Republican Jeff Denham.
The Cook Political Report moved the 10th Congressional District from its previous “lean Republican” rating Thursday. The University of Virginia Center of Politics did the same last week.
The Eggman campaign said voters are reacting to Denham’s support for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who continues to make provocative statements and has boasted on videotape about his sexual advances on women.
“It’s clear that Michael Eggman’s message of common-sense leadership for Central Valley families is resonating with voters in sharp contrast to Congressman Denham’s unwavering support for Donald Trump and his nasty, divisive agenda,” campaign spokesman Josh Lord said in an email to The Modesto Bee.
Lord provided a recent poll commissioned by the Eggman campaign showing Eggman leading 47 to 42 percent in advance of the Nov. 8 election, a gain of 12 percentage points from a July survey.
Denham campaign spokesman Dave Gilliard did not return calls requesting comment Thursday. Denham previously has written that he is troubled by Trump’s “disturbing, inappropriate and outlandish” rhetoric but still prefers him to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Denham is seeking a fourth two-year term in the 10th, which takes in Stanislaus and southern San Joaquin counties. Democrats had slightly trailed in voter registration before the June primary but as of Sept. 9 were at 38.9 percent to 37.7 percent for Republicans. Another 18.6 percent of voters have no party preference but could play a key role as the GOP defends its 60-seat advantage in the House.
The Virginia center released its latest ratings via Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, named for its director. It too cited Trump.
“Ultimately, Trump is just a bad fit for diverse California, and Republicans may not have much reason to vote: In addition to an unappealing nominee at the top of the ticket, the Senate race features two Democrats,” Managing Editor Kyle Kondik wrote.
The Cook Political Report also moved the race between Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and Democrat Doug Applegate north of San Diego into the category of toss-up. The Los Angeles County race between Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, and Democrat Bryan Caforio is also rated a toss-up.
Kondik wrote that Republicans do have a chance to pick up a seat in the Sacramento suburbs, where Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, is running for re-election against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, but that Sabato’s Crystal Ball still sees Bera as a “small favorite” to prevail in the race.
The Cook Political Report also rates the Bera-Jones race as “leans Democratic.”
The Eggman campaign’s poll was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research and surveyed 500 registered voters from Oct. 12 through Sunday. It identified each candidate by his ballot designation – almond farmer and beekeeper for Eggman, businessman and farmer for Denham – and asked who would get their vote if the election “were held today.” The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
John Holland: 209-578-2385