Why Donald Trump keeps popping up in local races he has nothing to do with
From the suburbs of Los Angeles up the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara and north to the Bay Area, the specter of Donald J. Trump looms in nearly every political corner of the Golden State ahead of the June 7 primary.
Democratic operatives are using Trump as a sort of all-purpose boogeyman in a diverse range of down-ticket races all over the state.
Even in districts where there is no meaningful Republican opposition in sight, Democratic campaigns are milking Trump's rhetoric to raise money and bring out voters.
"It is the best political gift a Democrat running in California could get," said political consultant Dave Jacobson of the political firm Shallman Communications.
Compton City Councilman Isaac Galvan, running for an open state Senate seat in a safe Democratic district, sent out a mailer in English and Spanish quoting Trump's now infamous comment that Mexico sends "rapists" and drug dealers across the border to the United States.
The mailer screams: "PUT AN END TO DONALD TRUMP'S RACISM AND SEXISM!!! VOTE TUESDAY JUNE 7, 2016 FOR ISAAC GALVAN."
It is an understandable move for Galvan. As his mailer reminds voters, he is the only Latino candidate running in a district where a plurality of voters are Latino.
And he needs to get past two well-known and better funded former Democratic state assemblymen — Steven Bradford, who is African American and Warren Furutani, who is Asian American.
They are running to replace State Sen. Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), who is running against fellow Democrat Nanette Barragán, an attorney and former member of the Hermosa Beach City Council, to fill Rep. Janice Hahn's seat. Hahn is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Hall got in on the Trump mail too. His campaign sent out a mailer bragging about a symbolic resolution he introduced in Sacramento last summer to denounce Trump.
"Somebody needs to stand up to this bully," it reads, over a picture of a shouting Trump.
Trump is good for opening up purse strings too.
In the liberal bastion of the East Bay, Assemblyman Rob Bonta is running for reelection in a solidly blue district where Democrats hold a 62.8%-to-7.5% voter registration advantage over Republicans.
His challenger, 68-year-old property manager Roseann Slonsky-Breault, is running little more than a token campaign — she has about $2,500 in the bank compared with the $1 million Bonta is sitting on. She admits she knows only about 60 Republicans in the district.
Still, when Bonta's campaign staff saw that his long-shot Republican rival was going to be a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention, they shot off a fundraising email to supporters titled: "Do You Want Trump Values Representing You in Sacramento?"
"Can you join me in the fight against Donald Trump with a donation of $500, $250, $100, or $50," the email continued.
Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) is challenging Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) for her 32nd Congressional District seat. He made his campaign slogan #StopTheTrumpAgenda, even though she is considered a staunch liberal and is supported by Emily's List.
Darrell Park, a Democrat running to replace termed-out Republican L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, sent voters a mailer identifying five of the Republican candidates in the race as being "part of Donald Trump's Republican Party." Park said he put out the mailer because the position is nonpartisan and the candidates' party affiliation does not appear on the ballot.
"To me, it is a labeling issue," he said.
Even without Democrats stirring the pot, Republicans are having a tough time deciding what to say about supporting Trump.
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) told The Times earlier this month that he was still "working on figuring out what I am going to do with the presidential race." Earlier in the year, he flirted with supporting Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida but mostly stayed away from making an endorsement, along with most of his congressional colleagues.
Trump is playing a prominent part in the rematch between Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Torrance) and Al Muratsuchi, the former Democratic assemblyman Hadley narrowly defeated in 2014.
Muratsuchi's campaign put up a website called hadleytrump.com, with audio and video of Hadley being confronted about whether he will support Trump.
Hadley said in a statement that although he has not made an endorsement in the presidential race, he will not be voting for Trump in the primary and that he will make announcement about the presidential campaign in July.
"The raging id of the Republican party has broken through and taken over," said Mike Shimpock, a political consultant with SG&A Campaigns, which works on Muratsuchi's campaign. "And now that it has broken through and become very literal, they are trying to distance themselves from it."
Matt Rexroad, Knight's political consultant, said many Republicans "are struggling with that question."
But Rexroad also noted that Knight isn't the only one holding out on an presidential endorsement. One of his Democratic challengers, Bryan Caforio, has yet to publicly choose between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders in his party's contest while the other, Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Lou Vince, has endorsed Sanders.
Nationalizing local elections works both ways: Republican consultant Mike Madrid said his firm plans to label a candidate a "Hillary Democrat" in hopes of winning Sanders voters.
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