I have been looking over the election stats of Republican House Reps in California.
As a state with one of the largest Congressional delegations in the country, one has to wonder what the California Republican Party was doing (or failed to do) in order to build or maintain party numbers in Congress.
This year, 2014, is an exceptional year especially because following two electoral reforms, Citizen Redistricting and open jungle primaries, Congressional seats are no longer breezy coronations.
Nearly one century ago, a similar situation of static representation defined California Congressional politics, but with a strong red hue and Democrats with a marginal presence at best.
Strong pro-business, limited governor Republican policies in Washington, combined with the Roaring Twenties, gave the GOP the edge nationally and in California.
Election Year 1926:
Election Year 1928
Election Year 1930
Election Year 1932
Election year 1932 brought different realignments to California Congressional politics. The growing migration to the West Coast, particularly California, expanded the delegation to twenty seats.
Because Republicans had fallen into such disfavor with the American people (particularly because of GOP President Hoover and his protectionist policies, which had exacerbated the Great Depression), Democrats were making heavy wins in Congress.
The coincidence of expanding seats and deep GOP unpopularity gave off the majority of newly created seats to the Democratic Party.
The new tally was the first time in decades when Democrats had more seats that Republicans in California's Congressional Delegation:
Election Year 1934
The popularity of New Deal liberal programs continued, and California Democrats gained two more seats.
Election Year 1936
Roosevelt's second selection granted Democrats sweeping control over the House of Representatives, backing the GOP to holding only 88 seats. California's delegation became bluer than ever:
Election Year 1938
Inevitable in American two-party politics then as well as now, the Democratic hegemony in Washington and throughout the country splintered terribly, between conservatives and liberals, between labor supporters and farming interests. Frustration and alarm with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's court-packing schemes, plus general disillusion with the New Deal failures (Recession of 1937) pushed Republicans to win major seats for the first time in nearly a decade.
The same backlash swept California:
Election Year 1940
Even though Dems gained a few seats nationally, California was an anomaly, with the CA GOP gaining another seat:
Election Year 1942
California's delegation expanded, but not as greatly as 1932, gaining three seats.
Concerns over World War II hurt Democrats, and the national GOP edged closer to gaining the House majority.
Election Year 1944
The Democratic Party maintained greater parity and popularity, and took more seats, including California, all boot-strapped with FDR's unprecedented election to a fourth term:
Election Year 1946
Harry Truman was less popular (and less effective) a leader compared to FDR, who had died in office in 1945, granting Truman the Presidency. Labor strikes, food shortages, general economic malaise plagued the Democratic Party, and the GOP won the House majority for the first time since 1928.
California's Delegation altered considerably, as well, including a new freshman Congressman from Yorba Linda, CA: Richard Milhous Nixon
Election Year 1948
Truman's reelection was a surprise, even for Truman, who held a newspaper with the headline "Dewey wins". Democrats took advantage of a "do-nothing" Republican Congress, and won a landslide majority of seats.
However, the Democratic wave made little impact on Western shores, where Democrats gained only one seat in the California delegation.
Dems : 10
Election Year 1950
Election Year 1952
Election Year 1952 was a realignment, reapportionment year, where the CA delegation expanded from 23 to 30. Republicans won eight seats and Dems won one more.
What happened in 1952? Presidential year, with a damaged Dem brand, contrasted with a strong GOP candidate, Dwight David Eisenhower, and he pulled up his ticket quite well that year.
Republicans also won the majority in Congress that year. I could not believe it - but there was a Republican House Speaker in the next term, Joseph Martin of Massachusetts (and Mass had at least fourteen house seats in those days)
Election Year 1954
Election Year 1956
The California delegation started slipping a little during the Eisenhower Administration.
Election Year 1958
This was the first time in the decade when Republicans held fewer house seats than the Democrats
Election Year 1960
The delegation count did not change this year.
Election Year 1962
The California delegation expanded again by eight seats, and the expansion focused on urban areas: Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay.
No wonder the Democratic Party made net gains that year, and continued to do so:
Election Year 1964
Despite a banner year for the Democratic Party under Lyndon Baines Johnson, and a wide gain for Democrats nationally, the delegation did not change (although one incumbent Dem and GOP lost in CA). Goldwater Republicans emerged in the Deep South, too, the first Republicans to represent seats in the region since Reconstruction.
Election Year 1966
Republicans gained four seats in the next term, riding a GOP wave of discontent with LBJ and his Great Society failures.
Election Year 1968
Nixon's ticket helped the party gain a net five seats in Congress. The California delegation did not change at all.
Election Year 1970
Nixon's party suffered losses in the House, but the CA delegation one a seat
Election Year 1972
Reapportionment brought in five more seats to 43, again in the Bay Area and in Southern California.
The Dem gains were in Northern California, while the GOP gains were in Southern California.
Election Year 1974
The Watergate Scandal hurt Republicans national, including California, and Five GOP incumbents were edged out:
Election Year 1976
Dems gained another seat in a banner Democratic election year, with Carter at the top of the ticket:
This term was the last time when a party had a veto-proof majority in the House of Representatives
Election Year 1978
Carter started to drag down his ticket, and CA GOP gained three seats:
Election Year 1980
Ronald Reagan's first election helped the CA GOP ticket further, with a net gain of three seats
During the three previous cycles, one can see the power of the Presidential ticket to hurt or help the CA GOP delegation. Perhaps the strong media markets in LA (and to a lesser extent San Francisco) give the national politics so much power in California.
Election Year 1982
Another redistricting effort, and California gained only two seats. The realignment collapsed districts and forced incumbents to fight for their seats (kind of like 2012). Republicans did very poorly that year.
Election Year 1984
Reagan's strong win had a lesser effect in CA. One seat gain
Election Year 1986
Despite scandals, upsets and the six year itch for Reagan, the CA Delegation did not change at all.
Election Year 1988
Election Year 1990
Election Year 1992
Another realignment-reapportionment took place, and this year Republicans won more seats in Southern California (again) and in Central California, while Democrats did well in Northern California again.
This election cycle was unique, though, in that Republicans pick up five of the new seats created in that cycle (45 to 52).
Republicans were gearing up for a stronger win in 1994, perhaps.
Election Year 1994
This year was a wipeout for the Democratic Party. Republican operatives took advantage of Bill Clinton's extra-liberal push for universal healthcare, thus abandoning his claims of a conservative Democrat seeking to reshape his party.
California was interesting, in that three incumbents were tossed out, and two others (including Jane Harmon, my former Congress) nearly lost her seat, along with Anthony Beilenson, who retired in 1996, replaced by Brad Sherman
Election Year 1996
Clinton made a comeback this year, and so did the Democrats in California, winning three house seats and unseating three GOP incumbents in the process.
Election Year 1998
Republicans were hoping for victory during the six-year itch which plagues second-term Presidents' party in the White House. The GOP actually lost seats in the House, but in California, Republicans made one again (Jane Harmon retired to run for Governor and lost, but she tapped a Republican, Steven Kuykendall, to replace her.)
Election Year 2000
Democrats most likely capitalized on Bill Clinton's ongoing popularity, plus national resentment with an impeachment hearing which seemed more political than moral in nature.
Democrats picket up five seats, one in the Bay Area, three in the Los Angeles Basin, and one in San Diego.
Election Year 2002
California gained another House seat, picked up by Republican Devin Nunes in the Central Valley.
Bush's resurgence following September 11 gave Republicans an edge in Congressional races,
Election Year 2004
The redistricting in Sacramento balanced the seats so well, that incumbents had nothing to worry about.
Election Year 2006
The landslide election was a repudiation of George W. Bush's policies, including financial (Jack Abramoff) and moral scandals (Mark Foley with underage male pages)
California Republicans only lost one seat, though.
Election Year 2008
Republicans faced another shellacking in 2008, but the CA delegation did not change.
Election Year 2010
Another wave election, rejecting President Obama, Obamacare, and his Big Government, Big Brother expansionism.
Sadly, the GOP wave had no effect in California, where even closely targeted seats remained in incumbent hands
Election Year 2012
The Citizens Redistricting Commission, combined with open primaries, plus a bad standard-bearer (Mitt Romney) led to Republicans losing some otherwise winnable seats.
What can we take away from the Congressional election trends in California?
Republicans as the more liberal party in the 1910s and early 1920s captured the changing values which shaped with the growing California population.
During the late 1920s, California Republicans grew with the laissez-faire economy of the Harding-Coolidge administrations. With the severe economic contractions of the 1930s, and Republican President Hoover's insistence on protectionism and interventionism (neither of which worked), the country took on Roosevelt and his New Deal.
The political perception of FDR's aggressive government expansion (followed by successful war efforts) granted Democrats commanding political presence in Washington and in California.
California Republicans came and went with the wave elections of the early to mid 20th Century.
Republicans were paying more attention to winning seats in the 1940s and 1950s, plus the impact of Richard Nixon to the state, since he was a major player in the House, the US Senate, and then as VP and finally President
Party bosses in Sacramento ensured safe seats in the 2000s, limiting any major shifts or dramatic fights. This political complacency, combined with demographic shifts and a straggling economy under a very liberal Republican governor and Democratic legislature extended the party's political power.
Republicans made no gains and planned no major ground game for the redistricting in 2011, which made it all to easy for Democrats to capitalize on the major shifts in the state.
Will Republicans learn from the mistakes of neglect and complacency from the 1990s and 2000s to effect a reverse in California's one-party Democratic dominance? Election year 2014 will afford some evidence to answer this question.
|Can the California Congressional Delegation Go GOP once again?|