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The Forgotten Election: CA-10 Becomes A Progressive District Today

The AP’s Liz “Donuts” Sidoti has a conventional wisdom article out today about the 2009 Election, and not until paragraph six, as an afterthought, is one of the bigger races mentioned:

Elsewhere, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is expected to maintain the Democratic Party’s hold on the open 10th Congressional District seat near San Francisco, while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to cruise to a third term. Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh also will elect mayors, while voters in Maine and Washington weigh in on same-sex unions and voters in Ohio decide whether to allow casinos.

Democratic seat, “near San Francisco,” no big deal. A Democrat replaces a Democrat in Congress. Ho-hum.

Except the difference between the departed Ellen Tauscher and the incoming John Garamendi is numerous. Tauscher led the pro-business New Democrats; Garamendi, the state’s Lieutenant Governor, is one of California’s leading progressives and a longtime single-payer advocate. Tauscher ran away from progressive values; Garamendi charges toward them. Tauscher and her allies were fond of explaining that CA-10 was a moderate district and only moderates could win there; Garamendi ran as himself and will win today. In fact, because of the prominence of vote-by-mail in California, he probably already has.

Robert Cruickshank explains this as succinctly as possible:

CA-10 becomes a left-wing district. John Garamendi, one of the most progressive California politicians we have and a true leader on a broad range of issues, is going to get elected to Congress today. While the right thinks they have an upset potential here, it’s simply not going to happen. Garamendi has a great GOTV operation and widespread support in the district. And whereas the right will spin whatever Harmer’s vote total turns out to be as some sort of victory, the real story here is that CA-10, which as recently as 1996 was a red district, has now become a solidly progressive district. We always said the 10th could do better than Ellen Tauscher. Today John Garamendi is going to prove it.

It doesn’t fit with the storyline that the media has decided for this election. But John Garamendi moves the ideological bar in Congress as much as any election this year, and will provide a strong voice on health care, clean energy and financial regulation. Here’s an interview I conducted with him for Calitics during the primary election.

UPDATE: On MSNBC just now, Chris Van Hollen tried to maintain that this is still a centrist district, responding to Chuck Todd’s persistence that the race will be close. Todd’s talking to inside-the-Beltway folks. He’s wrong. People I’ve spoken to have Garamendi easily winning here by double digits.

UPDATE II: Zaid Jilani and Steve Benen have more.

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David Dayen

David Dayen