Taking Back the House, Vol. 20: Jeff Denham and California’s 10th District



This is the twentieth 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 10th District


U.S. Representative: Jeff Denham


Population: 713,912


Median Household Income: $49,660 (National Average: $51,017)


Unemployment Rate: 17.8% (National Rate: 7.3%)


Gender: 49.7% Female, 50.3% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)


Age: 10.3% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)


Race: 75.2% White, 3.9% Black, 6.3% Asian, 1.0% American Indian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)


Ethnicity: 60.0% Non-Hispanic, 40.0% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)


Urban/Rural Population Split: 92.4% Urban, 7.6% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)


District Voting Patterns: As is pretty much the case with the rest of California, the 10th District is not the same district that it was prior to redistricting in 2011. The 10th District used to be in the East San Francisco Bay Area. Now, the district is in Stanislaus County and part of San Joaquin County in the central part of the state. For the most part, this area was previously the 19th District. Jeff Denham was first elected to Congress from the district in 2010, when he ran to succeed retiring Republican Congressman George Radanovich.


While Denham had to contend with a crowded Republican primary field that year, he was endorsed by Radanovich, which helped push him across the finish line. He then easily defeated the Democratic candidate, Loraine Goodwin, by 30 points. In 2012, after redistricting, he found himself given a much more difficult challenge, as he faced off against former astronaut Jose Hernandez. Denham was able to squeak by with a 5 point victory. However, it did indicate that this may not be the safe Republican seat it was in the past.


As for presidential elections, President Obama won this district in 2012 by 4 points. In 2008, the same district lines also went for Obama, this time by three points.

Jeff Denham

Congressional Activity by Denham: Currently, Denham is a member of three different committees: the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Agriculture Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.  In terms of ideology, he appears to be your standard Republican. He is pro-life and a supporter of the Second Amendment. He appears to be against same-sex marriage, but isn’t vocal about it. And, much like just about any other Republican, he is against any increases in taxes or federal spending.


Per OpenCongress, he’s voted with his party 93% of the time. The National Journal ranked him the 163rd most conservative member of Congress in 2012. In regards to memorable votes, he voted against the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014 last month, which raised the debt ceiling and reopened the federal government. However, he did vote for the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ bill on New Year’s Day. He also was one of six Republicans to vote against the King Amendment in June 2013. The King Amendment was in response to an executive order signed by President Obama that effectively allowed ‘Dreamers’ to stay in the U.S.


Notable Quotes by Denham:


“Currently, the unemployment rate in the San Joaquin Valley rests at an unacceptable 17 percent. We can turn this around and restore jobs to the Valley but it will require the adoption of pro-growth policies.” – From Denham’s campaign website.


“Some of my fellow farmers and ranchers are also aware that EPA also wanted to expand its regulation of manure as a threat of greenhouse gas. I mean, some of these things are so ludicrous that they just cost us millions of jobs, and the threat alone causes farmers to say, Do we really want to be in this business? Do our kids really want to take over the family farm? We’ve got to stop this overregulation because it does cost us jobs. We’ve got to stop eliminating jobs before we can actually go out and create more jobs. We have to have certainty in the marketplace. And whether you’re a farmer or a small business owner, the regulations affect us in such a way that, as a small business owner, I couldn’t go out there and hire a lobbyist to go through the 90,000 pages of new regulations this year alone.” – Denham on November 30th, 2011 on the House floor.


Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Very good. Denham barely won reelection in 2012 and his district’s demographics are changing in an unfavorable way for Republicans. Right now, 2 in 5 residents are Hispanic. Also, the unemployment rate is extremely high, as it is well over twice the national rate. This is a mostly urban and younger population. Also, it twice went for Obama in the Presidential elections. All signs seem to indicate that Denham will be losing his seat in 2014.


Of course, it is not a sure thing. It will take a good, strong candidate by the Democrats to pull this out. Also, Denham has made sure to support sweeping immigration reform, siding with the Democrats on this, as he can see that this is an important policy issue in his district. With California’s open primary system, he isn’t as vulnerable to an extreme Tea Party challenger, but it is still a remote possibility that one can sneak through and leave him on the outside come the general election. However, the most likely outcome is that he and a Democrat get through the primary and face off in a tough general election campaign.


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.

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