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Aguilar, Democratic candidate for California's 31st District. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call)
Aguilar, Democratic candidate for California's 31st District. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call)

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar called his bid for California’s 31st District the Democrats’ best chance to pick up a Republican seat in the midterms.  

“It is the most Democratic seat held by a Republican in the nation,” Aguilar told CQ Roll Call in a July 16 interview. “And the Republican decided to retire. So this is a great opportunity, Democrats’ best opportunity for a pickup.” Aguilar will face GOP businessman Paul Chabot in November in a race to replace retiring  Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif. President Barack Obama won the district by 57 percent in 2012, and The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race as Leans Democrat .

But Aguilar almost didn’t make it to the general election thanks to California’s jungle primary system.

The Golden State’s open primary allows members of both parties to compete against one another, and the top two-vote recipients, regardless of party, move on to the general election. Thanks to a crowded field  that split Democratic voters, Chabot secured the top spot  but Aguilar came in second by a mere 209 votes .  

“It’s a jungle for a reason,” Aguilar said, later adding, “It becomes a math issue of a dividing an electorate that was 17 percent of the turnout.”  

Aguilar said that Democrats will likely benefit from a higher turnout in the general election, since there are more registered Democrats in the district than Republicans.

After the primary, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Aguilar to its “Red to Blue” program, which targets seats competitive open seats and districts held by vulnerable Republicans.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz also pointed to this race as an example of where Democrats could gain seats.  

Democrats must net 17 seats to take the majority in the House.  

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Aguilar’s team: Douglas Herman, Strategy Group (mail); Kully Hall (media); Anzalone Liszt Grove (polling); Angerholzer Broz (fundraising).  

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