Mike Shields

California Democrat John Garamendi has found himself in one of the most competitive races we’ve seen in the Golden State in years.

It didn’t start out that way, but redistricting has shifted Garamendi’s district from solid Democrat to a real toss-up. Meanwhile, the congressman’s own missteps, votes and campaign fumbles have put him in a dicey spot as he seeks another term.

Add all that together and it explains why Garamendi began airing recycled television ads from a past campaign in March – an extremely odd and early move for an incumbent to make.

This new district includes large agricultural areas, and the suburban Interstate 80 corridor, home to more moderate and conservative voters than Garamendi’s old district. It went from having a Cook PVI of D+11, all the way down to just a D+1.

A recent National Journal ranking found Garamendi was more liberal than his friend and neighboring representative Nancy Pelosi – not exactly the kind of politicians who these voters are looking for.

Just looking at his record, it’s not hard to see how he earned that distinction. Garamendi has been an unapologetic supporter of President Obama and his healthcare takeover.

In a column on Huffington Post back in 2010, Garamendi said ObamaCare needed to be passed “In Order to Form a More Perfect Union,” according to the headline. He added: “As I enter the East plaza I pause and look at the Capitol dome and realize how special this moment is.”

And Garamendi was a big backer of the president’s failed stimulus, which wasted $500 million on the failed company Solyndra. Solyndra subsequently went bankrupt and its local employees were laid off.

Positions like those could land Garamendi in hot water with voters in this new district who are much more center-right than voters in his old one. In fact, in the statewide Lt. Gov’s race Garamendi lost the newly configured district. It’s no wonder Democrats have listed him on their most vulnerable list, predicting problems ahead.

Meanwhile, Garamendi is blowing through his campaign coffers – and fast – much of it is on those ads he’s recycling.

The vulnerable incumbent raised $262,000 in the first quarter of the year, but spent nearly $320,000. That means his closest Republican rival is less than $40,000 behind him with total money in the bank.

Garamendi’s reelection bid in the newly drawn 3rd District of California has become an increasingly elevated race as this election cycle has unfolded. Unless Central Valley voters are looking for a congressmen to the left of San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi, things are only going to get worse for him as this election unfolds.


Mike Shields

Mike Shields is the Political Director of the NRCC.