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Hope for the GOP in CA?

After their drubbing in the 2012 election, the California chapter of the GOP had reached a low point, with the Democrats holding the Governorship as well as a supermajority in the State House. But only six months later, the party is already showing signs of life after new State Senator Andy Vidak defeated his Democratic rival in a special election to fill the seat of a departing senator.

The election is noticeable because the odds were stacked against him. The district, located in California’s Central Valley, is heavily gerrymandered to favor the Democrats, and is 60 percent Hispanic. Vidak’s rival Leticia Perez, a Latina and a former public defender, fits the profile of the district, while Vidak, a white farmer from the GOP, does not. Yet despite his disadvantages, Vidak won by a convincing 10 point margin, 52 percent to 42 percent.

The loss of a senate seat is obviously bad news for the Democrats, but it’s the issues he used to defeat his rival that should strike fear into Democrats elsewhere in the state. As Allysia Finley of the WSJ reports, Vidak’s victory was won by hammering the Democrat on a few key points: jobs, the environment, and the bullet train. In a district where unemployment stands at 15 percent, these issues resonated with the local population:

Regulations to protect smelt from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water pumps have created a California water shortage, which is particularly acute in the Valley. This year farmers south of the delta will receive only 20% of their contracted allocations. An irking irony is that the smelt’s biggest killer is the wastewater that Sacramento dumps into the delta.

“It’s fish versus farmer,” he says, and liberals are siding with the fish.

Other species-protection policies have removed thousands of acres of land from production, endangering the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. Meanwhile, California’s bullet train, beloved by liberals, will slash through Mr. Vidak’s district and raze hundreds of farms, homes and businesses.

“We don’t have clean drinking water in some areas of our district,” Mr. Vidak says. “And they want to build an $80 billion bullet train!”

Much of the California Democrats’ electoral strategy is playing on identity politics to win votes. But in this case, it appears that economics trumed ethnicity, at least in the Central Valley. If this is a sign of a broader trend, the Democrats could be in trouble in the next election.

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  • ojfl

    The same problems also affect Democrats at the national level. And they use the same tactics of identity politics.

  • thrasymachus02

    Republicans will always be there to save the day for Democrats by coming in to temporarily restore sanity when they go too far. This allows liberalism to survive and always have somebody to blame for things not being perfect, which is why I will never vote Republican again.

  • Anthony

    Yeah right. The part about supposed Democratic problems in the next election reminds me of Romney’s “Jacksonian pivot,” and all those other pieces making 2012 look closer than it really was.

    That said, Mead makes good points in this article. California needs more good paying jobs for the middle class, and environmental fanaticism impedes that goal.

  • Luke Lea

    Identity politics, the future of a Balkanized America. You need to write more about this possibility and how it connects to the proposed immigration reform. Talk about a long-term issue.

    Meanwhile here’s an old quote in the comments to a piece in Yahoo. Read all the comments and draw your own conclusions. Is this really the path we want to go down? Do we have a choice? Come on, Walter. Have some courage:

  • Luke Lea

    People crushed by law, have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous.
    Edmund Burke

    All that is necessary for the triumph of [naive shortsighted foolishness] is that good men [who are not naive, short-sighted or foolish] do nothing.
    Edmund Burke up-dated for the 21st century

  • Anthony

    “If this is a sign of a broader trend….” WRM, can we transfer local/regional issues nationally to sway general electorate one way or other?

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