The Nov. 6. midterm election is shaping up as a classic referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, and California is one of the main battlefields as Democrats try to seize control of the House.
The party that holds the presidency typically plays defense in a midterm vote. But Trump’s unpopularity is driving an extraordinary surge of voter hostility toward Republicans.
Democratic candidates here are raising staggering sums of money, driven mostly by increased enthusiasm by donors on the left and aided by ActBlue, the online fundraising platform for progressive candidates.
It’s especially pronounced in California, where the GOP is badly diminished after more than two decades of decline brought about by political and demographic changes.
25th Congressional District
Clockwise from top left; Katie Hill talks to a supporter at a meet-and-greet and rally in William J. McAdam Park in Palmdale; Rep. Steve Knight during debate with Hill at the Santa Susana High School Performing Arts Center in Simi Valley; Rep. Steve Knight, shakes hands with Simi Valley Councilman Mike Judge, center, during a campaign stop in Simi Valley. (Irfan Khan / Brian van der Brug / Patrick T. Fallon /Los Angeles Times)
Rep. Steve Knight is a former state legislator and Palmdale city councilman who had a 18-year career as a Los Angeles police officer before running for office. A U.S. Army veteran who almost always votes along party lines, he has enjoyed solid support from the district’s sizable military and law enforcement communities.
Candidate Katie Hill is a former executive at PATH, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit providing services to the homeless. She describes herself as a “pragmatic progressive,” emphasizing her support for border security, lower prescription drug costs and new tax cuts for the middle class.
39th Congressional District
Clockwise from top left; GOP candidate Young Kim campaigns with gubernatorial candidate John Cox in Rowland Heights; Democratic candidate Gil Cisneros canvasses neighborhoods in Rowland Heights, a majority-Asian enclave with a large population of Chinese Americans; Kim meets with supporters at her new campaign office in Rowland Heights; Cisneros talks with reporters at a political rally in Cal State Fullerton. (Irfan Khan / Brian van der Brug / Patrick T. Fallon /Los Angeles Times)
An immigrant from South Korea with an extensive political background, GOP candidate Young Kim is running in a district where more than a third of residents are immigrants and about a fifth of registered voters are Asian American. She worked for Royce for two decades before being elected to the state Assembly in 2014. She was unseated in 2016 by the same Democrat she’d previously defeated.
Democratic candidate Gil Cisneros was a manager at Frito-Lay when he and his wife hit a $266-million lottery jackpot in 2010. Since then, the couple has become well-known in Democratic circles for their education-related philanthropy, including funding for a news assignment desk that bears their name at the USC Annenberg newsroom.
45th Congressional District
Clockwise from top left; One week before the election, candidate Katie Porter, center, campaigns with two-time U.S. Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan at UCI; Rep.Mimi Waters speaks to supporters of "Yes on Prop 6" rally outside her campaign headquarters in Newport Beach; Porter cast her ballot for the 2018 midterm elections at the early voting center at UCI; Walters with volunteers working the phones at campaign office in Newport Beach. (Allen J. Schaben / Gina Ferazzi / Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A former state legislator and Laguna Niguel city councilwoman, Rep. Mimi Walters has long run on a pro-business, anti-tax platform. She previously worked as a stockbroker, and co-owned a business with her husband that provided medical staff to California prisons. A resident of Laguna Niguel, Walters is one of several California members of Congress who do not live in the districts they represent.
A UC Irvine law professor, candidate Katie Porter is testing the limits of progressivism in this politically transitioning district. She supports single-payer healthcare and has cast herself as a consumer advocate who stood up to big banks when she was tasked with overseeing the distribution of California’s share of the national mortgage foreclosure settlement. She has criticized the 2017 tax plan and called for reform that would cut taxes for the middle class but not corporations. Porter broke with her party to oppose the increase in the California gas tax.
48th Congressional District
Clockwise from top left; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher addresses supporters during a thank-you event for campaign volunteers his GOP headquarters in Costa Mesa; candidate Harley Rouda speaks during a 'Vote for Our Lives' rally at UCI; Rohrabacher, right, greets supporters from left, Krista Weigand, son, Miles, husband Eric Weigand and daughter, Anne, during a thank-you event for campaign volunteers; Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, right, shows his classic pose while introducing democratic candidate Harley Rouda at a Retire Rohrabacher Party at Rouda's campaign office in Costa Mesa. (Brian van der Brug / Kent Nishimura / Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the 15-term incumbent, got his start in politics as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and previously worked as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register. The image he’s built over the decades as a surfer with a libertarian bent has competed in recent years with his push for better relations with Russia, leading one publication to name him “Putin’s favorite congressman.”
Candidate Harley Rouda is an Ohio-born real estate investor who moved to Laguna Beach seven years ago. The former Republican became a Democrat last year after nearly two decades as a political independent.
49th Congressional District
Left, GOP candidate Diane Harkey with supporters at the Golden Hall in San Diego. Right, Democratic candidate Mike Levin gets his photograph taken with supporters, during a 'get out the vote' rally at his campaign office in Oceanside. (Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union Tribune / David Maung / EPA / Rex / Shutterstock)
GOP candidate Diane Harkey is chairwoman of the state Board of Equalization, which oversees many of California’s tax collection policies. A former state legislator who worked in corporate finance and banking before entering politics, she has positioned herself as a pro-business candidate who will fight tax increases, oppose California’s sanctuary state law and scale back regulations.
Democratic candidate Mike Levin is an attorney specializing in environmental issues. He previously served as executive director of the Orange County Democratic Party and most recently was director of government affairs for FuelCell Energy, an energy storage company that focuses on carbon capture.
50th Congressional District
Clockwise from top left; Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, center, and campaign volunteers cheer as they take a group photo at Campa-Najjar's North County campaign office in Escondido; Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. holds a press conference on a hill looking over the border where sections of the border fence are being replaced with taller pieces; Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, left, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti talk to Kristin Andrade in front of her garage in Escondido. (Hayne Palmour IV / John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Republican incumbent Duncan Hunter was first elected in 2008 and succeeded his father, former GOP Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, who held the seat for nearly three decades. A Marine Corps veteran, Hunter enlisted in the military following the Sept. 11 attacks after spending several years in the computer industry. He has emphasized his work advocating for veterans issues and has said he supports Trump’s policies to secure the border.
Campa-Najjar is a public affairs strategist who previously worked in the Department of Labor under President Obama and for Obama’s reelection campaign. He most recently was a communications director for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Born to a Mexican mother and a Palestinian father, Campa-Najjar grew up mostly in the San Diego suburbs. He also spent a few years in the Palestinian territories.