Back in 2001, the Democratic and Republican leadership forged a bi-partisan gerrymander of the district lines for congress and both houses of the state legislature. Gerrymandering is the drawing of district lines in such a way that the districts become so heavily Democratic or Republican that winning the primary election is tantamount to winning in November, making the November general election meaningless in all but a small handful of districts.

The congressional line drawers particularly did such a skillful job that almost all incumbent members of congress who sought re-election since 2002 have won with majorities exceeding 60 percent of the votes cast.

But 2006 saw some chinks in the armor with Democrat Jerry McNerney defeating incumbent GOP Congressman Richard Pombo (CD11) and the near upset win by Democrat Charlie Brown over GOP Congressman John Doolittle (CD4).

McNerney is facing former GOP Assembly Member/BOE Member Dean Andal this year, in what is expected to be one of the hardest fought congressional races in the nation.

But Democratic leaders — emboldened by McNerney’s win and Doolittle’s near defeat in 2006, combined with the belief of a possible Democratic landslide in California this November — are looking to seriously challenge at least four GOP incumbents: David Dreier (CD26), Mary Bono Mack (CD45), Dana Rohrabacher (CD46), and Brian Bilbray (CD50).

While it is important to note that all four of these incumbents represent districts that are considered by most as being safe Republican, the Democrats were able to recruit strong formidable candidates in each of these districts.

Challenging David Dreier is Russell Warner, a wealthy magazine publisher whose son served in Iraq.
Challenging Mary Bono Mack is Julie Bornstein, a former member of the state Assembly who also served as the Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development under Gov. Davis.
Challenging Dana Rohrabacher is Debbie Cook, the mayor of Huntington Beach and a longtime community activist.

Challenging Brian Bilbray is Nick Leibham, an attorney and former prosecutor with the office the San Diego City Attorney. Leibham is also a former aide to Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and worked in the Washington, D.C. offices of Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York.

Gov. Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock, the GOP nominee for Lt. Governor, easily carried these districts in 2006, but it must be noted that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was able to outpoll her GOP opponent, Richard Mountjoy, in these same districts.

A Democratic win in any of these races would be considered a major upset. But it is indicative of the temper of the times that Democrats are even thinking that they may have a chance of such an upset.