Democratic infighting roils California battleground seats that might decide US House control (Part-1)

Los Angeles — Democrats have controlled California politics for years, but party infighting ahead of Tuesday's primaries might give Republicans an edge in battleground U.S. House districts that could determine Congress control.

In Southern California's 47th District, which includes Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach surf breaks, Democrats Dave Min and Joanna Weiss and their supporters are fighting over drunken driving and sexual predator profiteering charges.

After harsh confrontations between Democrats Rudy Salas and Melissa Hurtado in the 22nd District in the Central Valley farm belt, Democrats worry two Republicans could be on the November ballot, boxing them out. With three openings and a 219-213 Republican margin, the stakes are high. North Carolina House Republican campaign chief Richard Hudson termed the 47th District “probably our best pickup opportunity in the country.”

California's primary ballot includes all candidates, regardless of party. The two with the most votes advance to November's general election. The chance of a record-low turnout among older, white, conservative-leaning homeowners, the state's most consistent voters, is fueling shocks.

“A nasty primary campaign can be dangerous, especially when the other party has a strong candidate in the general election,” stated Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney of the 47th District. You can change this seat from blue to red with a few percentage points.

Former legislator Scott Baugh, the top Republican, has been allowed to reach out to undecided voters while the Democrats exchange personal insults and burn through hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign funding for the Orange County seat.

Following a heated campaign, Jon Fleischman, former executive director of the state Republican Party and informal Baugh adviser, predicted that Min or Weiss will struggle to unite a fragmented Democratic base in November.

Longtime Democratic consultant Roger Salazar, who is not involved in either election, said party infighting is never desired but “it’s part of the democratic process.” He added that with the general election long off, the two contests may change after the primary. “I’ve always believed that tough battles make you stronger,” Salazar stated.

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