This is part 8 of the PredictWise series on congressional districts that are seen as competitive in the 2018 election according to PredictWise and Cook: The PredictWise Progressive Pendulum, with new entries coming right here on PredictWise every Tuesday. Instead of the ins-and-outs of the horse-race, this series sheds light on the ideological landscape in these districts. How do residents tick politically? What are their stances on the hot-button issues of the day, from immigration to gun regulation? How do they view traditional political fields, from taxation to healthcare? What role do environmental policies play in the mind of voters of these Districts? How does the Progressive Pendulum swing? Today, we will zoom in on the 25th Congressional District in California.
CA-25: Traditional on social values, with strong preferences for issues that help the community, such as regulation of workplace safety and expanding the military. On one issue, this district is especially progressive – assault weapons ban. This district sees Democrat and LGBT candidate Katie Hill squaring off against incumbent Stephen Knight. The PredictWise Progressive Pendulum has identified some openings on progressive messages around healthcare and gun regulation, but Democratic strategists need to be more careful on immigration and the military, as well as negative ads.
This district includes parts of of northern Los Angeles County and part of Ventura County, including Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster, and the northern part of the San Fernando Valley.It is the only congressional district covering part of the Los Angeles city area that is represented by a Republican Congressperson.
Demographically, this district is interesting in that it is minority-majority district. Only 46% of the population are white, while 35% of residents here identify as Hispanics. It is a wealthy district, with a median household income of $75,367, but educational attainment is low, with a low college graduation rate of 27.8%, compared to the 32% at the national level. This district has been in Republican hands since 1994, but recent elections were close: In 2016, now-incumbent Stephen Knight, won by a 6 percentage point margin, while Clinton took the district by a 7 percentage point margin in 2016's presidential elections. Hence, the Cook PVI – comparing a congressional district’s average Democratic or Republican Party share of the two-party presidential vote in the past two presidential elections to the national average share for those elections – is set at EVEN. And, Knight will have his hand-full with challenger Katie Hill, who can become one of the first few LGBTQ members in the House of Representatives.
Cook rates this district as “Republican Toss up". PredictWise registers Trump approval in this Californian district, for which no public polling is available as of yet, at 46% – significantly higher than the 38% state average, of course, and climbing as of late. But, our horse race projections have Hill trailing by only 9 percentage points, down from 12 percentage points in April, enough reason to be interested in the district. Unsurprisingly, Flip14, a Democratic super PAC aiming to flip all Republican districts in California that voted for Clinton over Trump, follows this district closely. And, Hill is currently on the coveted DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) Red-to-Blue list that identifies Democratic candidates who are key to taking back the House in 2018.
Politically, Hill supports universal healthcare (such as Medicare for All), and is fighting for women's reproductive rights. She is more centrist on guns, supporting a federal ban on assault weapons, high capacity magazines and bump stocks. Knight runs on securing the border (but not building the wall), reigning in government spending in Washington, and against any modification of the Second Amendment.
CA-25: Traditional values and respect for the president; strong support for Military and Workplace regulation – issues that help the community
This district, like some of the inland districts in Southern California (for example CA-39), is quite conservative on social values, and that is again a derivative of religious affiliation. Many Hispanics in this districts are devout Catholics; the association of religious data archives estimates that close to 30% of residents of Ventura County, which makes up the bulk of this Southern Californian district, are adherent Catholics for example. This general view on traditionalism is a religiously motivated one; it maybe manifests most prominently in strong beliefs that the general moral direction of the country is troublesome. It is no surprise then that 79% of all likely voters believe that moral decay is on the rise, including sizable majorities of Republicans (82%) and Democrats (75%).
And, negative ads against the president will likely not resonate here. The president is seen as neither particularly corrupt nor immoral. On one issue, likely voters here have a positive image of the current president. 52% of all likely voters in this Southern Californian district believe that the president is competent compared to other recent presidents.
As far as political issues are concerned, residents in this district have strong preferences on issues that directly help the community Take military: This district is home to many LAPD officers, military personnel, and aerospace workers. Subsequently, expanding the military is viewed favorably among likely voters here. 56% of all likely voters in this Southern Californian district believe that the role and scope of the US military should be increased, and that includes 43% of Democrats (as opposed to only 30% who believe it should be decreased), and 67% of Republicans. Given Stephen Knight’s service in the military and the LAPD, this pro-military attitude will be a tremendous challenge for challenger Katie Hill to overcome.
On other issues, though, a strong commitment to positions affecting the local community helps the progressive cause much more. Take regulation: Close to 20% of residents in this congressional district work in the service industry, and this preponderance of service workers readily translates into progressive positions on workplace regulations. 78% of all likely voters here believe that government regulation of workplace safety is necessary to protect the public interest, and that includes sizable majorities of Democrats (81%) and Republicans (78%).
CA-25: Progressive on the Taxation; Healthcare, the Environment
In spite of the relatively high median income in this district, likely voters here are still progressive when it comes to taxation. 50% of all likely voters believe that the government should raise taxes on large public corporations to provide more services, and that includes majorities of Republicans — 47% in favor of raising taxes as opposed to only 36% in favor of lowering taxes — and Democrats (with 55% in favor of raising taxes).
Numbers are very similar for healthcare. The sub-issue on which we register the highest support for the progressive position is healthcare for the elderly: 76% of all voters in this district believe that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure coverage for over 65 years of age. And, this includes very robust majorities of Democrats (84%) and Republicans (71%).
On the environment, likely voters hold similarly progressive views. 46% of all likely voters here favor increased government spending and regulations addressing climate change, even if it reduced economic activity — a majority, as only 39% of all likely voters oppose increased government spending. And again, this includes majorities of Republicans and Democrats. Among Democrats, that includes 49% who favor spending and 35% who oppose spending, and among Republicans, this includes 45% who favor spending and 40% who oppose spending.
CA-25: Conservative on Immigration; Progressive on Gun Regulation
Immigration is a different story. Despite high rates of Hispanics in this Southern Californian district, likely voters here believe that illegal immigration has had negative effects on national security. 59% of all voters believe that recent undocumented immigrants have burdened the country when it comes to national security, and this includes a majority of Democrats (!): 39% likewise believe that undocumented immigrants have burdened the country, with only 35% of Democrats believing that recent undocumented immigrants have strengthened the country.
On another issue, though, the incumbent Stephen Knight is particularly vulnerable. Knight voted against a Bill in Congress that would have expanded the definition of assault weapons, and Hill takes a progressive stance on the issue. Among likely voters here, there is very little ambiguity: 69% of all voters support a restriction of the right to buy assault weapons, and that includes 82% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans. While King's vote did not change the status quo (in that some large-scale weapons are not available for purchase), this vote put him squarely at odds with the general sentiment in this district.
CA-25; target regulations, healthcare, restrictions on assault weapons
In sum, there is no doubt that there are some openings for progressives in this district, especially around the assault weapons ban, workplace regulation and taxation. Katie Hill is in particularly powerful position to make assault weapons a center piece of her campaign, given that she is a gun owner herself. But, this is also a fairly conservative district, with traditional values, that believes in the competency of the current president. This has clear repercussions for our recommendation to Democratic candidate Katie Hill: Hammer Knight on voting against expanding the definition of assault weapons in Congress. Avoid immigration and attacking the president on competency!