Old dynamics, new hopes are brewing in the race for the open seat in California's 8th District
Desert Sun - November 29, 2019
By Sam Metz
Mammoth Lakes Democrat Chris Bubser knows most congressional candidates don’t leave campaign events and head to campgrounds, but in most other districts, political gatherings aren’t hours from candidates’ homes.
“One time I was in Lone Pine at an event that was ending at 9 o’clock and there was a campground close by, it was summer and I thought it might be easiest to just pop my tent,” Bubser said. “I ended up going home to Mammoth, but, you know, it’s an eight-hour drive from one end of the district to the other.”
Perhaps unlike other congressional candidates ramping up their 2020 campaigns, Bubser, a former health care executive, keeps a tent and sleeping bag in her car because she never knows when she might need it, traversing California’s 33,000 square-mile 8th Congressional District.
The district is the state’s largest and historically one of its most conservative.
In 2016, President Donald Trump won here by more than 15 percentage points. In 2018, it was California’s only congressional district where two Republicans — and no Democrat — advanced from the top-two primary election to the November ballot and spent campaign season fighting over who was more aligned with the president.
In September, less than a year after defeating former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly by 20 percentage points, U.S. Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, announced he would not seek a fifth term in Congress, leaving the seat open for the first time since 2012 and priming the district for a competitive race.
Despite their historic struggles and Trump’s popularity, Democrats say the near parity between registered Democrats and Republicans in the district make a path to victory possible. With 32.4% of the district’s voters registered as Democrats, 35.7% as Republicans and 24% as “No Party Preference,” the district’s profile is similar to some of the California congressional districts Democrats flipped in 2018.