“Never count your chickens until they hatch?” That is an old statement that clearly applies to the race for the 31st Congressional District pitting Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) against Reserve Naval Officer Paul Chabot (R).
In a race that is Aguilar’s to lose with a 6-8 point Democrat registration edge, Aguilar has been slow to begin campaigning for the general election on November 4th. Aguilar has a significant funding advantage and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has engaged with a negative ad buy against Chabot. But, outside of a few yard signs, Aguilar seems content with showing up at events in the district.
This is reminiscent of his poor showing in the Congressional primary of 2012, when he finished third and was bested by two Republicans. That scenario nearly played out this year when Republican Leslie Gooch finished only a few votes behind Aguilar in this year’s primary.
Chabot on the other hand has a significant presence of yard and large signs plastered throughout the district and has volunteers walking door to door. While he clearly is behind on the money front, there is no doubt that his campaign is engaged. Chabot is showing up across the district and will announce a new campaign office in Aguilar’s hometown of Redlands next week.
Chabot has also created some of his own problems with inter-party fights and some very damaged relationships left over from the primary election. The question arises as to whether Republicans that supported Gooch will hold their nose and support the Republican candidate. Our guess is for the most part, yes.
These factors combined with an expected low turnout among disenchanted Democrats and a riled Republican voter base could make this race much closer than anyone expects.
But, before we make any predictions of a Chabot victory, it is necessary to point out the obvious; it is unlikely that the DCCC will allow their candidate to take any chances in one of a few seats that Democrats are expected to pick up in what could be a very bad year for them. The DCCC may even be running the show for Aguilar.
Whatever the case, we should know very soon.