A Democrat Will Win the Controller’s Race in November

Garry South
Principal of the Garry South Group in Santa Monica, Calif., and a longtime Democratic strategist who has managed or held senior positions in campaigns for 35 years.

My friend Joel Fox, who I greatly respect, takes issue with my prediction that a Democrat will win the controller’s race against Republican Ashley Swearengin in the fall. He cites the very close race for controller in 2002 between Democratic nominee Steve Westly and his GOP opponent Tom McClintock. It was extremely close, but still no cigar for McClintock, as he ultimately lost to Westly.

The race for attorney general in 2010 also was very close, but the Democrat, Kamala Harris, still won in the end. Close only counts in horseshoes.

Perhaps the most important historical fact to ponder is this: In the past 20 years, all the way back to 1994, the Republicans have won exactly one open-seat statewide race out of all the races in ’98, ’02, ’06 and ’10. That was Steve Poizner for insurance commissioner in ’06. And only after he spent millions of his own wealth.

In 2010, the state GOP put up its most diverse ticket ever: the first Republican women running for governor and Senate, a Latino for lieutenant governor, a black for secretary of state, another woman for treasurer. Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman spent a national-record $180 million dollars in her bid, which theoretically should have provided some organizational and GOTV lift for other candidates running with her. But they all got mowed down on election day, as Democrats carried every statewide office for the second time in three elections. Oh, and the state GOP is now down to a historic low of 28.55% of the electorate, lower than in 2010.

Anyone who argues that a Republican can win statewide in current-day California has a very heavy lift to come up with any substantiating data or history to bolster their case. Facts are stubborn things.

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