CA-9: An Emerging Challenge

If Republicans are to secure their small House majority in the 2024 elections, they will have to engage, challenge, and defeat a significant number of entrenched opposition Representatives, historically a task that neither party has mastered.

In 2022, for example, the incumbent retention rate for those who sought re-election was 98.1%.

In the 2022 elections, Republicans over-performed in California and New York (4 seats in each state) in reference to the redistricting maps. Each of those seats will be highly competitive in this next election. Additionally, the Alabama racial gerrymandering case cutting against them, and the enhanced national presidential turnout model particularly in the bigger states such as the aforementioned, Republicans will be forced to score at least a small series of offensive victories to maintain their current status.

One such race could now be forming. Turning to California Rep. Josh Harder’s (D-Tracy) 9th Congressional District, Republicans appear to be uniting behind a proven vote getter who recently became a congressional candidate: Stockton Mayor Keith Lincoln.

Pastor Brett Dood (R), who had previously declared his congressional candidacy against Rep. Harder, announced yesterday that he will end his campaign. Mr. Dood then said he would support Mayor Lincoln who formed his own federal campaign committee just last week. A united Republican Party behind the Stockton chief executive means the GOP will field a credible challenger against Rep. Harder in a district that can become competitive.

In 2021 redistricting, Rep. Harder fared poorly and moved into the 9th District after veteran Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) announced his retirement. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission members cut Rep. Harder’s former 10th District into three pieces, none of which carried the majority of his constituents, thus leaving him with a difficult choice regarding where to run.

The McNerney retirement made Rep. Harder’s district choice easier, but he represented less than 28% of the crossover population when compared to his previous 10th District. Mr. Harder still recorded a 55-45% victory over San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti (R) but needed to outspend him by a 6:1 ratio in order to do so.

Kevin Lincoln was elected mayor of his Democratic city in 2020, with an eye opening 56-44% victory over then-incumbent Mayor Michael Tubbs (D). Assuming he will come out of Stockton with a bigger vote percentage than a typical Republican, he would already be in favorable position to cut into Rep. Harder’s 2022 victory margin.

The 9th District houses all of San Joaquin County along with slivers of Stanislaus and Contra Costa counties. The district’s largest city is Stockton (population: 321,819 according to the latest US Census Bureau estimate) which lies wholly within San Joaquin. The other population centers are the cities of Tracy, Manteca, Lodi, and Lathrop.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates CA-9 as D+8, and Dave’s Redistricting App calculates the partisan lean as 53.9D – 44.4R. The 9th CD is highly diverse. Hispanics are a plurality at 37.6% of the district population, with the remainder being 32.6% white, 19.4% Asian, and 9.0% black.

If Republicans are starting to perform better among Hispanics and Asians, this contest could become a national model for them especially when considering that Mayor Lincoln is of mixed heritage.

In California, Republicans must protect five top tier Democratic challenge seats, those of Reps. John Duarte (R-Modesto), David Valadao* (R-Hanford), Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita), Ken Calvert (R-Corona), and Michelle Steel* (R-Orange County). The open 47th District, which Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) is vacating to run for the Senate, and now this 9th District looks to be the two top Republican offensive targets in the state.

These California seats will be critical in determining which party will control the House in the next Congress, and now it appears we can add another contest to the Golden State target list.

*denotes candidate received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2023-2024 election cycle. 

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