Democrat Pete Aguilar survived the race for second place to make the runoff against Republican Paul Chabot in the 31st Congressional Race.
Aguilar, the Democratic Party’s chosen candidate, bested Republican Leslie Gooch by a mere 183 votes or a margin of .0035 percent of the 51,623 votes cast. The Democrat was assisted by a relentless set of attack ads on radio and in mailboxes against Gooch in the last week of the election by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Gooch had been in single digits in polls weeks out due to a late campaign start which gave her other Republican opponent, Paul Chabot the opportunity to gather early support among Republican voters in an election heavily weighted to vote-by-mail voters. Gooch was also hurt by Democrat Eloise Gomez Reyes’ aggressive campaign to women of both parties. Gooch’s late campaign obviously made significant headway in the last two weeks causing fire alarms among Democrats in Washington, DC.
The Democratic Party was desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2012 debacle where Republicans finished first and second and voided a possible pick up for Democrats desperately trying to retake the House of Representatives. The brutal negative campaign by Democrats against Gooch was apparently successful in halting Gooch’s rising momentum and prevented Pete Aguilar, who has raised $1 million so far, from a second embarrassment of a third place finish as he did in 2012.
Aguilar, who was the early hand-picked candidate of Washington Democrat insiders and the Party, was unable to clear the field of Democrat candidates having three other Democrats jump in as well and severely divide vote totals.
Aguilar, who had endorsements and a significant funding advantage over every other candidate Democrat or Republican has so far failed to successfully take advantage of his obvious frontrunner status. The reason; Pete Aguilar is a flawed candidate who only won election to the Redlands City Council AFTER he had run, lost, and finally got appointed. He has no level of accomplishment to speak of in either his private sector or public sector experience.
Now, Aguilar will face off against another flawed candidate of similar profession, anti-drug fanatic/small business-owning/nonprofit running and self- aggrandizer Paul Chabot. Chabot, while leading the rest of the pack in the primary by over nine percentage points was generally left unscathed while the rest of the pack tore into each other and the DCCC tore into Gooch.
Chabot attacked Gooch early in the election and has managed to alienate many Republicans and potentially the Republican Party itself. While he did garner some impressive endorsements, it will be interesting to see if the National Republican Congressional Committee, the counterpart to the DCCC, will make a similar investment to assist Chabot or whether they will focus limited resources elsewhere in the Country where a Republican pickup may be easier.
Aguilar, while unimpressive, is one of few bright spot for Democrats this election cycle. The top-two primary strikes again!