50-State Strategy: California
Power-Building Strategy: Flip back suburban and Central Valley districts, like the current CA-21, CA-25, CA-39, and CA-48, in 2022 to help Democrats hold the US House.
In 2018, red to blue flips in congressional districts in California powered Democrats to a large US House majority. Losing several of those districts in 2020 has left Democrats with one of the smallest US House majorities of the post-war period.
If history holds, 2022 should be a challenging year for Democrats. As we discuss in our 2040 Report, Democrats are on extremely tenuous ground given the swings against the president’s party that midterms typically bring. Based on our analysis, a 35-seat loss would not be out of the question if previous midterm results hold — and it could be even larger. Democrats are strongly favored to lose their majority no matter what, and what happens in California will be critical.
The 2018 gains in the House of Representatives were driven, in large part, by the shifting preferences of college-educated suburban white voters, particularly white women. However, the 2020 election results showed the limits of this new coalition. Democrats failed to pick up most of the second wave targets and dropped seats not only in challenging districts like UT-4 or OK-5, but also in Biden-won districts like these four in California.
Due to redistricting, these districts are likely to change, but the core areas that they serve are likely to be the same, or similar, meaning Democrats should be strategizing now about how to not just win back these districts, but continue to win them for decades to come.
The four California districts of CA-21, CA-25, CA-39, and CA-48 mirror the diverse, college-educated electorate that makes up the core of today’s Democratic Party. CA-21 is notable as a majority-Hispanic district; Democrats’ struggles with Hispanic voters in 2020 were a major weakness across the country. Rebuilding support among certain Asian voters is similarly critical.
Since demographics are not destiny and based on what we saw in 2020 as Republicans held on and roared back in these places, we should not assume that the educated, suburban women who have recently drifted leftward will reliably vote Democratic, or that they will be enough on their own to overcome other trends. We also cannot take the Hispanic vote for granted. To firm up control of the House, we have to better understand what these voters are concerned about and how Democratic governance can meaningfully improve people’s lives in these districts.
How you can advance a 50-state strategy in California:
- Democrats need to invest in continued messaging, surveying, and organizing targeted at the key populations that make up our current coalition, and in particular those where we saw losses in vote share in 2020. Beginning in Virginia in 2021 and expanding to other battleground states in 2022, EveryDistrict’s Win Number program will do exactly that.