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Rating Change: California House Seat Not So Safe for Democrats

Millennial Republican making his move in retiring Rep. Lois Capps’ open seat

Justin Fareed represents a rare opportunity for Republicans to win a Democratic House seat in California. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Justin Fareed represents a rare opportunity for Republicans to win a Democratic House seat in California. (Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Any time there is a discussion about Republicans taking over a House seat in California, I’m skeptical. That’s a reasonable reaction considering Republicans haven’t taken over a Democratic seat in the Golden State since Bill Clinton was president. But that streak could end this year.

Even though Donald Trump is complicating GOP efforts in House and Senate races across the country, Republicans have two takeover opportunities in California.

Democratic Rep. Ami Bera is vulnerable in Northern California’s 7th District after two close races and his father being convicted of campaign finance fraud. The GOP also has an opportunity in Southern California’s 24th District, where Democratic Rep. Lois Capps is not seeking re-election.

[Roll Call’s 2016 Election Guide: House]

Republican Justin Fareed, 28, first ran for Congress in 2014, falling short in the primary. But this year, he finished in the top two and will face Democratic Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal in the general election.

President Barack Obama won the district under its present borders handily in 2008 (58 percent) and 2012 (54 percent), but Republicans held Capps to a 52-48 percent margin in 2014. The Fareed campaign released a mid-July poll by the Tarrance Group which showed him with a 46-44 percent edge over Carbajal. And subsequent evidence also points to a close and competitive race.

We’re changing The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating from Safe for Democrats to Democrat Favored

Some Democratic strategists scoff at the possibility of Republicans winning the seat and love to discount Fareed’s resume and chances. But their opposition research book against him is thin (20 pages vs. the 224-page book against the Republican he defeated in the primary). House Republicans just updated their website with talking points and research against Carbajal.

Fareed is a rare millennial to survive the primary process and have an opportunity to win in November. The former walk-on running back at UCLA who works for his family’s sports equipment business just released a new television ad “Fresh vs. Stale,” which unfortunately doesn’t include him riding a horse as in a previous ad.

[ Millennials Rage Against the Machine and Lose ]

Republicans haven’t taken over a Democratic House seat in California since 1998, when Doug Ose took over retiring Democrat Vic Fazio’s 3rd District and Steve Kuykendall won the 36th District, which Rep. Jane Harman vacated to run for governor.

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