This is the sixteenth edition of a research project at PoliticusUSA known as Taking Back the House. You can check out the previous edition here. The purpose of this project is to analyze each Republican Congressional district in the United States and see how likely the district can go ‘Blue.’ To do this, I will take a look at the overall demographics of the district, as well as review the historical voting patterns and the record of the Congressperson representing the district. This series will run until we’ve looked at every single district in the country, which should take us right into the 2014 campaign season.
Congressional District: California 8th District
U.S. Representative: Paul Cook
Median Household Income: $45,879 (National Average: $51,017)
Unemployment Rate: 16.3% (National Rate: 7.2%)
Gender: 49.5% Female, 50.5% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)
Age: 11.3% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)
Race: 70.1% White, 7.7% Black, 3.4% Asian, 1.3% American Indian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)
Ethnicity: 64.1% Non-Hispanic, 35.9% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)
Urban/Rural Population Split: 85.5% Urban, 14.5% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)
District Voting Patterns: After redistricting in 2011, a lot of district in California were merely renumbered. The 8th District is one such district. Previously, the 8th District was represented by Democrat, and former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and covered an area around San Francisco. Now, the 8th District is pretty much the same district that was the 41st and is in San Bernardino County in the Greater Los Angeles area. That district was represented by Republican Jerry Lewis, who served for 17 straight terms before deciding to retire in 2012.
With Lewis retiring, Republican Paul Cook decided to throw his hat in the race. Cook, who didn’t get into politics until he was 63 in 2006, was a California State Assemblyman. As this was the first year of California’s ‘blanket’ primary, meaning that the primary election covered all parties and the top two vote getters moved on to the general election, Cook found himself pitted against a fellow Republican in the general election, Gregg Imus. Cook won the general election, 57-43. As for Presidential elections, the district went for Mitt Romney by 14 points. The same district lines voted for John McCain in 2008 by nearly the same margin, 55-42.
Congressional Activity by Cook: Currently, Cook serves of three House committees: the Armed Services Committee, Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. He was most likely put on these committees due to his military record, as he served with the Marines for 26 years. Since Cook was elected to his first term in 2012, his legislative record is very light, as he’s served in Congress less than a year. In his short time in office, he has voted with his party 93% of the time, per OpenCongress. He did vote for the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014 last month, which reopened the federal government and raised the debt ceiling.
Overall, Cook looks to be a run-of-the-mill Republican. He isn’t overly extreme like those from the Tea Party, but he still pretty much follows along with the normal conservative positions of the party. He is pro-life and against further gun control. He opposes any increases in federal spending as well as raising taxes of any kind. However, he has been extremely quiet about same-sex marriage, perhaps sensing the shifting winds and looking to form an opinion. Also, when it comes to immigration, he does seem to be in favor of more border security and is opposed to ‘amnesty’ for illegal immigrants.
Notable Quotes by Cook:
“Government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does. Too often, government gets in the way of job creation. We can get this economy moving again by simplifying the tax code; lowering taxes; encouraging investment; getting wasteful spending under control; developing energy resources in America; and reducing government red tape and bureaucracy.” – From Cook’s campaign website.
“If the federal government won’t secure our border or deport criminals from other countries, California should be reimbursed for incarceration.” – From press release on May 7th, 2012.
Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Not bad. What we see with the demographics here is that the district has a very large Hispanic population. For the most part, the district is urban. Also, the median income is below the national average while unemployment is very high. This could indicate that voters are both unsatisfied with their current economic condition and that a number of them rely on social welfare programs and entitlements to get by. Having a Republican in office seems to counteract that.
With California’s blanket primary system, it does allow for a number of candidates to throw their name in the pile. This should be a case where the Democrats identify a very strong candidate and push that candidate early. Make sure to get proper funding behind the candidate and create name recognition as soon as possible. It would seem that once you can get a strong Democratic candidate through the primary and into the general election, that it is quite possible that Cook could be defeated. Perhaps Cook’s comments and votes surrounding immigration can be used against him in a campaign. Also, overall dissatisfaction with the Republican party might be enough to push this district into turning Blue.
Justin is the Managing Editor and a Contributing Writer for Politicus Sports, PoliticusUSA’s very own sports site. You can check out the site here.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).