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How Did California's Primaries Work Out For Democrats?


On the day of California's primary, we noted the potential for Democrats. They dominate California politically, which gave them a chance to target some of the Republicans who still represent California in the House of Representatives. Yet Democrats faced danger yesterday of splitting their votes between too many candidates. So how did it all work out? Eric Bauman is our next guest. He's chair of the California Democratic Party. Mr. Chairman, welcome to the program.

ERIC BAUMAN: Good morning and thank you for having me. And it's nice to be listening to you over phone when it's not my podcast.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Well, thanks for listening to the podcast or whatever else you listen to, appreciate that. I want to note you're in Orange County, Calif., outside of Los Angeles, location of some of the key House races. Did you get the candidates you need to win House seats in November?

BAUMAN: You know, I have to tell you we've spent the last month battling a media narrative that said we were going to get shut out of all these races, we had too many Democrats. And I kept saying, while we have an overpopulation problem, we don't have a quality program - problem.

INSKEEP: And we should explain for people, overpopulation - you mean there were too many Democrats running. And if you split the vote too many ways, you wouldn't be in the top two in this nonpartisan primary.

BAUMAN: Exactly. Exactly. The California Democratic Party working very closely with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, we have held one of the top two seats in every targeted congressional seat. And that's the Republicans' worst nightmare because what they wanted to do was lock us out. They know they're vulnerable. Oddly enough, in 2016, Hillary Clinton won each and every one of these targeted districts in Orange County for the first time a Democrat has done that in probably 70 years. And so when we go into the November election in a state where the president has a 26 percent approval rating and where Hillary Clinton won all of these, we're pretty sure we're going to pick up quite a few of these seats.

INSKEEP: Are you pretty sure that basically getting any Democrat on the ballot in November is going to be sufficient for you to gain seats?

BAUMAN: Well, it wasn't a question of any Democrat. These are all the top - cream of the crop of who won in each of these races. Because in each of these races we had at least two candidates who were solid top-tier candidates. And in each of these cases, including a couple of other surprise races like Congressional District 4, which is Tom McClintock, where we had an extraordinary victor who comes out of the national security field and who was in the military and cuts a great profile and did very, very well and kept them to barely over 50 percent in the primary.

INSKEEP: Let me ask a couple of quick questions here though, first about Dana Rohrabacher, Republican congressman. He's been criticized for his closeness to Russia, appears to be vulnerable. But he got more votes than any other candidate in this primary. And there - it's not quite decided yet, they're still counting the votes, right? There are two Democrats and a Republican vying for that last spot.

BAUMAN: You know, it's between two Democrats. It's between the Democrats that the party supported and one that folks from Washington supported. Either one of those two Democrats will be strong against him. Rohrabacher has been representing that district for 30 years and his percentage of the vote - think about this for a second - his percentage of the vote that he got - let me get it so I can give you the right number.

INSKEEP: It's about 30 percent. It's in the low 30s.

BAUMAN: Yeah. OK. That - he should be embarrassed. He should be running for the doorways because when an incumbent with that much experience gets 30 percent, come on, that's an embarrassment.

INSKEEP: Just got about 20 seconds left, but let me ask because it's on the mind of some Democrats. If Democrats win the House of Representatives this November, do you think they should be talking about impeaching the president of the United States?

BAUMAN: I think that this president of the United States needs to be held accountable for what he says and what he doesn't.

INSKEEP: Mr. Bauman, thanks very much.

BAUMAN: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: He's chairman of the California Democratic Party. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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