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Inland Empire Political News.001
Inland Empire Political News.001

31st Congressional District Crap Shoot

What a difference a week makes, and a million dollars in independent campaign expenditures. Apparently, with the low returns on vote-by-mail ballots and expectations of even lower turnout on election day, no one is certain about what will happen in Tuesday’s California Primary.

Polling data released in the middle of May gave evidence of a close but fluid race between the top five candidates with roughly half of voters remaining undecided. In order of the last poll, Paul Chabot (R), Pete Aguilar (D), Eloise Gomez-Reyes(D), and Joe Baca (D) where all within ten points of each other with Leslie Gooch (R) trailing far behind. All those numbers seem to have changed, or at least the campaign advertising would demonstrate strategies that explain a completely different election environment.

All five candidates have been running aggressive mail campaigns, and for the first time negative mailers have begun hitting everyone. The only leading candidate who has not gone negative has been Joe Baca. Every other candidate has hit someone, Aguilar has attacked Gomez-Reyes and Baca, Gomez-Reyes has attacked everyone (but recently pulled Gooch off of her hit list), Chabot has attacked Gooch and Baca, and Gooch has attacked Chabot and Baca (well it was a side by side comparison piece.)

Now, in a last minute attack barrage, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is attacking Gooch in radio ads and a last minute mailer, while Baca has had at least one attack ad against him paid for by environmental interests that must remember when Baca chose to protect jobs and people instead of the Delhi Sands Flower Loving Fly of Colton fame.

These last minute negative campaigns tell us something very clearly. First, Gooch is climbing rapidly. Second, Baca, through shear name identification and a stealth campaign has been climbing while Gomez-Reyes and Aguilar are floundering.

Under the new “top two” runoff, whoever finishes first and second regardless of party face off in November. The most important factors to remember over the next five days are that low turnout favors Republicans and conservatives, and Democratic voters are unenthusiastic nationally. There are also four Democrats running and only two (campaigning) Republicans.

If Chabot has held at the 25 percent margin of previous polls and Gooch is rising, Democrats have to be very concerned about the possibility that 2014 could repeat the 2012 disaster when Republicans finished one and two in a district that supposedly favors Democrats. This explains the last minute DCCC attacks on Gooch. She must be rising in internal polling, enough to knock Democrats out of the runoff. Or, Democrats have determined that they would much rather face Paul Chabot in the November election.

Could Chabot and Gooch finish in the top two, denying Democrats a California Congressional seat? Could Joe Baca, defeated just under two years ago be making comeback in an election upset? Will Pete Aguilar, who has raised in excess of a million dollars, be embarrassed a second time by finishing third? Did Emily’s List, by heavily backing Gomez-Reyes, doom Democrat chances of a House seat?

We will start to see at about 8:15 PM on Tuesday June 3rd. Expect it to be close. Anyone who would make a prediction with any certainty has lost their senses.

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