California Dreaming - 2010 House Races

With the midterms only 10 months away it is time now to cast our eyes over the biggest state in the country - California.

How will we fare in 2010?

Below the fold for all the details and hey go check out the 2010 Race Tracker Wiki over at Open Congress for all your House, Senate and Gubernatorial needs.

(Cross posted at Daily Kos, MyDD and Open Left)

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CA-41: Subpoena in Jerry Lewis Probe

Former House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis has been under the watch of many for alleged improprieties (check out posts here, here and here), potentially putting his reelection bid in jeopardy this cycle. Now comes word that one of Lewis' staffers has been subpoenaed as a part of a federal grand jury looking into Lewis' activities.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has issued a subpoena for a House Appropriations Committee staffer as part of the ongoing probe of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the powerful panel.

Greg Lankler, a staffer on the House Appropriations Committee's Defense subcommittee, was recently subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into Lewis, according to House insiders.

The subpoena is for both documents and testimony, although it is unclear at this point whether Lankler will cooperate. The matter has been forwarded to the House general counsel's office, which is still studying the subpoena.

A number of grand jury subpoenas were issued in the summer of 2006 as the Justice Dept. looked into Lewis' relationship with Bill Lowery, a former California Republican who had left Capitol Hill to become a lobbyist. Lewis steered millions of dollars in earmarks to Lowery's clients, who in turned donated tens of thousands of dollars to Lewis' re-election efforts.

In addition, several Lewis'  aides worked for Lowery, before and after joining Lewis' staff.

Lewis has denied any wrongdoing, although he has shelled out more than $900,000 in fees to defense attorneys representing him in the probe.

The investigation had been outwardly dormant for an extended period of time, and sources close to Lewis have suggested that it was over, but the Lankler subpoena shows that Justice is still looking into the veteran lawmaker's activities.

No one would argue that California 41, which Lewis represents, is inherently the most competitive of districts. In fact, with a lean of about 9 points towards the Republicans in presidential elections, it is not terribly competitive at all -- save for, of course, a situation in which the incumbent is under federal investigation. Oh, wait...

There is a Democratic candidate in the race, local attorney Tim Prince. But it's not clear to me that he's running the most active of races. For instance, a Google news search for "Tim Prince" yields recent articles in the local paper, the San Bernardino Sun -- but only recently in relation to Prince's service as an attorney and as head oft the local Rotary club, not as a congressional candidate. That said, if Prince -- or someone else, for that matter -- can put together a credible campaign, Lewis' ethics problems could make him vulnerable next fall, so it would not be bad to at least be prepared for whatever comes of the federal grand jury investigation.

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Decision by Jerry Lewis to Run for Reelection Puts CA-41 on Map

We've been watching California's 41st congressional district for close to a year and a half (check out posts here, here and here) as Republican Congressman and ranking member (and former chairman) of the House Appropriations Committee Jerry Lewis has come under some strict scrutiny from federal investigators over some potentially shady land deals. Unfortunately the Democrats were unable to capitalize on the scandal-ridden Lewis last cycle. But with more time for the public to learn about Lewis' misdeeds and Lewis no longer at the helm of appropriations, perhaps voters in the 41st district will think twice now that the incumbent has decided to defy expectations that he would retire (or perhaps even resign) by announcing that he would seek another term.

GOP Rep. Jerry Lewis of California announced Friday that he'll seek a 16th term, putting to rest speculation that he would retire amid a federal lobbying probe.


His talent at securing federal dollars for his inland Southern California district brought him unwanted scrutiny last year when federal prosecutors in Los Angeles began probing his ties to lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former member of Congress whose clients included towns and businesses in Lewis' district.

Lowery's clients benefited from federal dollars approved by Lewis' committee, and Lowery and his lobbying associates and clients donated generously to Lewis' campaigns.

Lewis has denied any wrongdoing, no charges have been filed and there have been no recent public developments in the probe. However, Lewis hired criminal defense attorneys after news of the investigation broke in May 2006. He has paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars, including more than $30,000 in the second quarter of this year.

With someone other than Lewis running as the GOP nominee in this district, which leans about 9 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections, it would be unlikely that the Democrats would have much of a chance. But given that Lewis will be on the ticket -- or rather at this point he intends to be on the ticket (you never know what federal investigators will find or do...) -- it wouldn't be wise to gloss over this district whatsoever.

Currently Tim Prince, an attorney who has been active in Democratic Party politics (serving, for instance, on the state executive board of the California Democratic Party), is in the race, though as best I can tell he has not yet released campaign finance numbers to the Federal Election Commission, nor is he yet active on ActBlue (though he is accepting contributions through his website). Whether or not he's the man for this district, I'll admit I do not know. But it's good to see that there at least is a candidate in the race so that Lewis will not get a free pass -- and if Lewis does befall some legal woes the Democrats will have an opportunity to capitalize.

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Potential California Special Elections

In California, there is a good chance the GOP will put together a reunion tour of the Culture of Corruption campaigns. There are two districts that have insiders preparing for potential special elections: CA-04 and CA-41.

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California $4 Million - What would you have done?

I know there has already been a great deal of attention to the California Democratic Party's $4 million "refund" check to Speaker Fabian Nunez (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7).

But to-date, most of the discussion about the money has focused upon whether it was proper (with Nunez team refusing to discuss, instead insisting that it doesn't matter because the transfer was technically legal). I would prefer to focus on whether the transaction was strategic. Below I offer various other scenarios laying out rough budgets for ideas on how the CDP could have invested the $4 million dollars. Please take the poll, and if you have an idea that isn't on there, please drop it in the comments.

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