Abel Maldonado turned 44 this week, an age that seems far too old in our youth-obsessed culture to qualify him as a “young” anything.
Nonetheless, Santa Maria’s favorite ex-lieutenant governor and wannabe member of Congress appears on the new list of “Republican Young Guns,” the top picks among the horses the GOP Beltway establishment is expected to back in next year’s races for the House of Representatives.
The “Young Gun” designation (putting aside the questionable message the moniker sends about the role of firearms in politics) means the National Republican Congressional Committee has favorably assessed Maldonado’s strength as a candidate, using criteria like name ID, fundraising ability, and political alignment with the district, and will provide resources to try to end the career of incumbent Democratic Representative Lois Capps.
“It’s more of a Beltway thing,” said Brandon Gesicki, Maldonado’s campaign manager. “What’s important is that he’s a serious candidate who looks forward to bringing his independent leadership to the 24th District.”
As a political matter, two-thirds of the 92 candidates the Republican campaign committee anointed as “Young Guns” won election last fall, a key factor in the GOP’s tidal-wave takeover of the House; this year, Maldonado is one of 23 contenders who are so far on their list.
The committee avoids endorsing one Republican over another in primary elections. Still, its embrace of the veteran North County officeholder at this early point makes it more politically awkward for another establishment GOP candidate — such as State Senator Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, who’s been the subject of speculation in the district — to enter the race. Tom Watson, a grassroots Tea Party favorite, also is considering a run.
The D.C.-based campaign operation has targeted Capps as one of 10 incumbent Democrats in the nation, and the only one in California, whom it is trying to soften up with early attacks. In June, they paid for an ad to run on local cable, bashing her for supporting President Barack Obama’s health-care–reform law last week, they began generating “robo-calls” into the district, blaming her for unemployment, home foreclosures, high gas and grocery prices, and pretty much everything else but the Kennedy assassination.
Capps also has been whacked with a more substantial TV attack financed by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a secretly funded, independent committee connected to Republican national strategist Karl Rove. Capps strategist Bill Carrick, who responded to the first GOP spot with an online counterattack, has said that “Karl Rove will find out that the independent-minded voters on the Central Coast don’t need any help from him or his Washington cronies telling them how to vote.”
WILL CALIFORNIA MATTER? Noting the enormous news coverage given to Iowa Republicans for their recent presidential “straw poll,” California GOP leaders are working to organize a similar event for their upcoming state convention.
Although the Legislature has pushed back next year’s primary until June, raising the possibility that California once again won’t matter in the presidential nominating sweepstakes, the GOP’s wide-open, multicandidate campaign could also make the vote here determinative.
Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann and Texas Congressmember Ron Paul — who finished one-two in the much-covered, if meaningless, Iowa straw poll — have committed to speak to the convention next month in L.A.
However, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the front-runner, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, the GOP flavor of the week, aren’t playing, at least so far.
As a practical matter, candidates who show up would be guaranteed a splash of free media, if only because national political reporters with expense accounts would flock to the event. Also, those who attend California’s state convention, the largest Republican event in the nation, are the most committed activists, representing a big pool of potential campaign volunteers.
If the Republican race isn’t settled by June, then winning the California primary could net a campaign an enormous cache of delegates — about 170 are at stake — that might prove pivotal in securing the nomination.
“A huge portion of the Republican volunteers and activists in the state will be there,” said state party chairperson Tom Del Beccaro, “and they should be courted.”