This is the twenty-first 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 31st District
U.S. Representative: Gary Miller
Median Household Income: $50,882 (National Average: $51,017)
Unemployment Rate: 15.3% (National Rate: 7.3%)
Gender: 50.2% Female, 49.8% Male (National Percentages: 50.8% Female, 49.2% Male)
Age: 8.9% 65 and over (National Percentage: 12.8%)
Race: 57.0% White, 9.9% Black, 7.4% Asian, 1.0% American Indian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)
Ethnicity: 50.7% Non-Hispanic, 49.3% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic)
Urban/Rural Population Split: 99.4% Urban, 0.6% Rural (National Split: 82% Urban, 18% Rural)
District Voting Patterns: Prior to 2012, Miller, a Congressman since 1999, represented the 42nd District. That district was located mostly in Orange County and a small part of San Bernardino County. However, after redistricting, Miller, along with some other Republican Representatives in the area, found themselves in a bit of a pickle. While the majority of Miller’s old district was now the 39th District, another long-term incumbent, Ed Royce, also saw much of his district moved to the 39th. Royce was considered a better candidate for that district, so he ran. This left Miller to go elsewhere.
Miller decided on the 31st, which had very little of his old district in it. Another veteran Republican Congressman, David Dreier, was essentially forced to retire as he was either going to have to move to a completely Democratic district or go up against Miller. Even with Dreier out of the picture, Miller faced a steep uphill climb in 2012. He lucked out due to California’s blanket primary system, which first went into effect in 2012. As the top two vote-getters in the primary election move on to the general election, regardless of party, Miller was able to get to the general election with just 26% of the primary vote. There were so many Democrats running in the primary that they ended up finishing third through sixth and the two Republicans running made it to the general election. Miller defeated Republican State Senator Bob Dutton by 10 points that November.
As for Presidential elections, the district went for Barack Obama by 17 points in 2012. Yes, you saw that right, 17 points! The same district lines went for Obama in 2008 by a very healthy 15 points.
Congressional Activity by Miller: Currently, Miller serves on the Financial Services Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is also a member of the Tea Party Caucus. However, he must know that he is in desperate need of getting some moderate credentials for the upcoming election in his district, as he voted for the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014, which raised the debt ceiling and reopened the federal government last month. He also voted for the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ bill on January 1st, 2013. Both of these were roundly rejected by the vast majority of Tea Partiers in Congress.
His voting record shows that he tends to tow the party line. Per OpenCongress, he has voted with his party 96% of the time. He has also abstained 19% of the time, which is pretty high. The National Journal ranked him as the 66th most conservative member of Congress in 2012 and the 29th in 2011. While the Tea Party is supposed to be all about reducing the deficit and cutting federal spending, Miller has been known to earmark pork to line his and his donors’ pockets during his tenure. He also has been known for a handful of shady business and real estate deals. On other issues, he is pro-life and against same-sex marriage. He is generally against any further gun control and when it comes to immigration he is against anything he’d consider ‘amnesty.’
Notable Quotes by Miller:
“There are 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants right now in the United States, or more specifically 12 to 20 million law breakers who flaunt our immigration laws. Congressman Miller advocates that illegal immigrants apprehended must remain in custody until removed from the United States. Under current policy, some illegal immigrants are released into the United States and told to return for a later court appearance, which very few actually show up for. The simple fact remains: if the United States were to enforce its immigration laws and apply common sense to the disbursement of government services, many illegal immigrants would return home voluntarily.” – From Miller’s 2012 campaign website. Apparently Miller was following Mitt Romney’s ‘self-deportation’ lead here.
“I am deeply concerned about the impact this shutdown is having on working families, veterans, and seniors in the Inland Empire. The House has continued to pass funding measures to ensure vital government functions and services can continue. But, any agreement will require both sides coming together. In all my time in Congress, I have never seen the solution to a disagreement come without both sides coming to the negotiating table.” – Made on October 10th, 2013 when discussing an incident where he shoved a camera out of the way after being asked if he supported a clean funding bill to reopen the government.
Odds of District Going Blue in 2014: Extremely good. The fact is, this seat should have been won by a Democrat in 2012. However, Miller was able to luck out when four Democrats decided to run in the new primary system and ended up shooting the party in the foot. Everything about this district shows that it doesn’t just lean Blue, it is solid Blue. And it isn’t just the large number of Hispanic voters in the district. The district is almost entirely urban and the population is younger than the national average. Unemployment is much higher than the national rate, meaning many citizens are dependent on social services. Finally, President Obama easily carried this district in the past two elections.
The only chance Miller has is if the Democratic Party doesn’t pay attention and somehow allows three or more candidates to run in the primary. This district’s party leadership needs to be on top of this the entire time. They need to get behind the strongest candidate and make sure to get the name recognition out. They also need to make sure that voters know to show up for the primary election and not just the general one. Do those things and this should be a double-digit win for the Democrats come November 2014.
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).