It's way too early to start writing about the 2014 campaigns, but with the reported statement by former Republican Sen. Tony Strickland that he's "seriously considering" taking on Rep. Julia Brownley in a rematch of the 2012 campaign, a few preliminary observations seem in order.
1. 2014 will be tougher for a Democrat. That's been well known ever since the 26th District, with its ever-so-slight Democratic advantage, was drawn. Brownley beat Strickland by 6 percentage points in an election in which voter turnout was above 77 percent and in a district in which Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points. In 2014, turnout will be much lower and there will be no presidential race driving Democrats to vote. On the other hand, the demographic shift that benefited Brownley will contunue for two more years and incrementally work to her benefit. In addition, as an incumbent, she will be much better known from the outset than she was last year. But overall, she will be facing a less friendly environment.
2. Is Strickland the strongest Republican? The GOP establishment backed Strickland quickly and enthusiastically as soon as he entered the race in January 2012. Some may now be wondering whether another Republican might stand a better chance. The biggest reason for that questioning is Strickland's performance in Thousand Oaks, the Republican core of the district. Strickland carried the city by only 8 percentage points, despite the fact that Republicans hold a 10 percentage-point advantage in voter registration there. In comparison, GOP state Senate candidate Todd Zink carried the city by 10 percentage points in another highly competitive, expensive campaign. That has to lead some in the GOP to wonder whether there's something about Strickland that makes him relatively unpopular in Thousand Oaks, and whether some other candidate might fare better there.
3. As the story about Strickland linked above reports, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell is insisting he has no interest in running against Brownley next year. Evidence of the sincerity of that assertion is that Gorell this week filed papers to open his "Gorell for Assembly 2014" committee. It makes sense, because Gorell still has one additional term under term limits, and then in 2016 the 27th Senate District will become open when Sen. Fran Pavley is termed out. That race would be a challenge for Gorell, but certainly potentially winnable. And the timing of its term would suit whatever ambitions for statewide office Gorell might harbor. Since elections in the 27th District coincide with presidential elections, Gorell could become a senator and be able to run for statewide office (say, attorney general) in 2018 without having to give up his seat.
4. The Latino factor. After their shellacking in California this year, state Republicans know that they must begin to do better among Latino voters if the party is to have any future at all in this state. Former Sen. Jim Brulte, likely to become chairman of the state GOP in March, is particularly attuned to that imperative. And that's why Simi Valley City Councilman Glen Becerra could become a consideration. Becerra considered for a time becoming a candidate in 2012. He is president of the Southern California Association of Government's Regional Council this year, a position that has allowed him to build his profile throughout Southern California. And Becerra is also a Latino. Given that Brownley won 67 percent of the vote in the heavily Latino city of Oxnard last fall (providing her with her entire margin of victory districtwide), some GOP kingmakers may think it would make sense to have a Latino Republican take a shot at the district. That is slightly complicated by the fact that Becerra doesn't live in the district and neither is most of his Simi Valley political base in the district. But the Constitution doesn't require that representatives live in their district, and Becerra has been around long enough to have established deep connections throughout Ventura County.