Editor’s Note: This post was written by Loryn DeFalco, Ryne Martinez, and Felicia Peterson
Based on our research of the competitive congressional race happening in California’s 25th Congressional District (CA-25) and the candidates running in said race, we predict that Democratic challenger Bryan Caforio will unseat Republican incumbent Steve Knight by a 40-60 margin.
Despite Incumbent Knight’s popularity within the district and previous success with attracting bipartisan support, we believe that the increase in Democratic voters within the district will be an advantage for challenger Caforio in the general election. California’s 25th district has been one of the last consistently Republican districts in the state. Howard “Buck” McKeon held the seat for the Republican party from 1993 until he retired in 2015. This year there were four candidates who ran in the primary election, two Republicans and two Democrats. Steve Knight and Jeffrey Moffatt ran as Republicans, Bryan Caforio and Lou Vince ran as Democrats. Knight and Caforio were the top two vote getters for this district with Knight receiving 63,789 (48.3%) votes and Caforio receiving 38,382 (29.1%) votes. While Democratic candidate Caforio received fewer votes in the primary, this is an increase in Democratic votes from the 2014 primary. California is one of few states that has a jungle primary, meaning that the top two vote getters in the district will run in the general election, regardless of which party they belong to. In the 2014 primary, neither of the two top voter getters were Democrats. We believe that, despite the low vote share that Caforio received in the primary, he will receive more votes than Knight in the general election because there are more Democratic voters in this district than ever, and Caforio can persuade the voters who may be still be on the fence. Therefore, we believe that this upward trend of Democratic voters will be extremely evident in the general election because the majority of registered voters in the district are now Democrats.
Recently, California’s 25th district has seen not only an increase in registered Democrat voters, but also an increase in the Hispanic population. This alone could hurt Knight’s chances of reelection due to his conservative views as well as his stance on homeland security and immigration. Also, since the winning candidate will represent a district where the unemployment rate is, on average, higher than the national unemployment rate, the candidates’ plan to bring jobs to this district could play a major role in which candidate is elected. Since California’s 25th district’s population is made up mostly of middle class families, dependence on social programs could be higher in this area than in an area where predominantly upper class families reside. This fact, too, could hurt Knight’s reelection since he tends to lean right when dealing with the issues of social programs and government dependence. There are countless factors that can swing a Congressional race either way, especially in a competitive and evolving district, but we believe we have narrowed down the more important factors that directly affect the race. We believe that Democratic challenger, Bryan Caforio, better represents the views of the people residing in California’s 25th district, and will be chosen by these residents to represent this district in the 115th Congress.
In May 2015, the NRCC named Steve Knight to its Patriot Program. The Patriot Program is a Republican program designed to focus extra attention on re-election campaigns in districts where candidates are most susceptible of losing their seat to a Democrat challenger. As a response, there has been a significant influence of outside donations from all over the country who are heavily investing in a Knight reelection. Knight received $651,676 compared to Caforio’s $348,100 in PAC donations. The NRCC has spent $494,689 in opposition to Caforio. The DCCC spent $755,365 on funds against Knight, while also spending $195,372 in support of Caforio. We believe that the large amount of donations from each committees reveals how vulnerable Knight is. Even though Knight’s campaign has raised and spent more than Caforio, we still think that Caforio will be able to oust his opponent.
We believe that in addition to the demographic challenge that Knight faces, the current presidential race can potentially tarnish Knight’s ability to win the general election in the district. Even though Knight did not get a formal endorsement from Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Knight and even went to California to fundraise for him. Knight has stated that he could not support Republican candidate Donald Trump. Regardless, the presence of Donald Trump’s name on the ballot alone is sure to have an effect on Knight’s run for reelection, as Trump’s presence might depress Republican turnout within the district. In past elections, Knight has depended on cross party voting because he was one of two Republican on the ballot. In this election Democrats will be less likely to vote for Knight because of the association of Trump with the Republican Party. Knight will also certainly lose Democratic voters because there is a Democratic candidate, Bryan Caforio, who has publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton. These national factors solidify our belief that Democrat challenger Bryan Caforio will unseat Republican incumbent Steve Knight in race for California’s 25th Congressional district.