In the 45th district, Walters’s district, similar nastiness has erupted among the the Democratic candidates, with the party-backed Dave Min feuding with two of his opponents, Katie Porter and Brian Forde, as the contenders scramble to be the one to face off against Walters. But in the 39th, where another possible shutout looms, the state party struck a truce between two of the top candidates, millionaires Andy Thorburn, a health-insurance executive, and Gil Cisneros, a lottery winner and former Navy officer. That race is complex on the Republican side as well, with multiple candidates duking it out amongst themselves. In effect, these have become closed primaries.
At a get-out-the-vote rally in the 39th district at California State University, Fullerton, on Wednesday, Representative Adam Schiff, who represents Burbank and who has become a leading antagonist of the Trump administration as the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, spoke to activists gathered in the university’s arboretum and encouraged them to “throw the bums out.” In the audience were at least three of the candidates: Thorburn, Cisneros, and Sam Jammal.
“Californians feel they’re in the backseat in national elections, there’s not much that can be done,” Schiff said. “This is not true today. This election in California may make all the difference, and Orange County may make all the difference.” But: “We are all pulling our hair out obviously with this cockamamie jungle primary we have, and it’s a law of unintended consequences.”
“We should give a serious rethink to whether this makes sense,” Schiff told me of the jungle primary. “It’s very possible that these races will be decided by a handful of votes in terms of who goes on to the general and that people will be deprived of the opportunity of a choice between parties, and that would be I think tragic not only for the Democratic Party but tragic for voters in not having a choice in November.”
Fran Sdao, the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, downplayed the chaos when I spoke to her after the event.
“It’s settled down a lot,” she said. “Each one has their army of supporters. And if each one brings their army of supporters to the polls, all Democrats will benefit from that.”
As for the confusion between which party apparatuses were supporting whom in which districts, Sdao said the state party’s endorsement was important, and that every day her office gets calls asking who they’ve endorsed. The endorsement “means something,” she said. “And it should.”
“The California Democratic Party has been an invaluable partner as we have worked to flip these districts,” said Drew Godinich, a DCCC spokesman. “Ultimately we share the same goal—to beat Republicans and win House seats in California in November.”
For Republicans, the messiness on the Democratic side has been a relief.