Democratic Party candidates have been trying for nearly three decades to defeat San Dimas Congressman David Dreier, who has been serving in the House of Representatives since his election in 1980 as a Ronald Reagan Republican.
Dreier has served in the district ever since, defeating a string of under financed and little known opponents. After the 2000 reapportionment, the 26th District was redrawn to include La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta.
His major opponent this year, Rancho Cucamonga businessman Russ Warner, believes that pattern could change in 2008, a year in which politics has been difficult to predict.
Warner, a magazine distributor, ran two years ago, but could not win his party's primary. This year, with state and national party support and a campaign war chest in excess of $700,000, the West Virginia native thinks Dreier may now be vulnerable.
Dreier declined a telephone interview about the campaign, though he issued the following statement through an aide: “I am once again committed to running an aggressive, grass-roots campaign that emphasizes the issues that matter to the people of the San Gabriel Valley — bringing down the price of gas, reducing congestion on our roads, and ensuring a solid education for our kids.
We've had a great response to our campaign so far, with a tremendous influx of volunteers and support. I look keep working right up to election day to earn the votes of the people of this district.”
Warner released the results of a poll that indicated Dreier is running below 50% support in the district, and has an unfavorable rating of 32%. The poll results show an essential dead heat in the district between the two major presidential contenders, and a high disapproval rating for President George Bush, a close associate of Dreier's.
Dreier, who served eight years as chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, has been taking a lot of flack from the right wing of his party, with particular attention to immigration issues.
Dreier has been a strong free trade advocate, but has pressed in recent years for stronger border controls and curbs on employment of undocumented.
In the last two elections, Dreier received 53% of the vote in 2004 and 57% in 2006. His golden touch as a fundraiser remains; he had nearly $2 million in the bank in June, and had spent another $1.3 million.
A sign that Republicans are taking the campaign seriously is a series of attacks the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has put out, charging that the Warner business is failing and that his business license was suspended by the state.
Warner said the issues date back to 1992, when the business was starting, and have been resolved.
District observers aren't quite ready to predict an end to Dreier's 28 year career, but a close race could mean that the leader of the California house delegation could be looking toward the end of a remarkable career.