Democrats set their sights on ‘Putin’s favorite congressman’ – Mother Jones

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)Bill Clark/AP

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Representative Dana Rohrabacher (Republican of California) won his first election to the House of Representatives in 1988 with 64 percent of the vote. Since then, he has been re-elected 13 times. And even though he beat his most recent challenger by nearly 17 percentage points, some Democrats now believe this could be the Southern California conservative’s last term. Policy dubbed “Putin’s favorite congressman.”

Protesters, sometimes in the hundreds, gather outside Rohrabacher’s office every Tuesday at 1 p.m. “He has been our congressman for a long time,” laments Diana Carey, vice chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. “But since the district was majority Republican, I think he put it on cruise control.” Thanks to Orange County’s changing demographics and new liberal voters, Carey no longer thinks Rohrabacher’s seat is any safer.

Recently, Rohrabacher was drawn into the scandal over possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Like Trump, Rohrabacher, who claims to have lost a drunken standoff with Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, believes the Russian government is unfairly demonized. (During the 1980s, Rohrabacher was a staunch anti-communist who associated with anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan.) He has ignored allegations of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election by emphasizing that the United States is guilty of actions similar. . In May, the New York Times reported that in 2012, the FBI warned Rohrabacher that Russian spies were trying to recruit him. Two days earlier, the Washington Post reported a June 2016 recording in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “I think Putin is paying two people: Rohrabacher and Trump. (McCarthy assured Rohrabacher that the remarks were meant as a joke.)

In a 2016 conversation with Republican members of the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “I think Putin is paying two people: Rohrabacher and Trump. » Washington Post

But of all the issues Rohrabacher and Trump align on, Russia may be the least pressing concern for voters rallying behind him. So far, Rohrabacher has voted in line with Trump’s positions more than 93% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, including voting in favor of the GOP health care bill that would effectively end Obamacare. Rohrabacher pushed for the bill, warning fellow Republicans that letting Trump’s first major legislative effort die would stunt the president’s momentum. “If it breaks down,” he said in March, “we are going to castrate our President Trump. You don’t cut off your bull’s balls and expect him to come out and do the job. Health care is a hot-button issue in the 48th District, Carey says. “I’ve had conversations with people who were absolutely beside themselves, afraid of losing their coverage.”

While Rohrabacher won his last race by a near-overwhelming majority, his district went for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. She won by a narrow margin, but that was enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to name the district as one of the top targets for flipping in 2018. If Democrats hope to beat Rohrabacher in the midterms, they have a lot of work. do, says Justin Wallin, an Orange County-based pollster who runs an opinion research firm. “I don’t think Dana carved out a position as a fire-breathing partisan for any political figure except Ronald Reagan,” Wallin says, referring to Rohrabacher’s early days in the Reagan White House. “He tends to align quite naturally with this district in his outlook, personality and political views. His district views him as independent, and when Dana takes a stand on something that seems to deviate from the mainstream, it can actually increase his favorable consideration.

Two Democrats have announced their candidacy to run against Rohrabacher. One is first-time candidate Harley Rouda, a businessman and lawyer who gave $9,200 to Republican congressional candidates and nothing to Democrats between 1993 and 2007. The other is Boyd Roberts, a Laguna Beach real estate broker who pledged to work to impeach Trump and who finished last among five candidates vying for a seat on the Hemet, Calif., school board in 2012. Both attack Rohrabacher for his sympathetic stance towards Russia. “The district will vote against (Rohrabacher) because I think there is something with Russia. I think I can raise some money through this,” Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. In an online ad, Rouda calls Rohrabacher “one of the most entrenched members of the Washington establishment” and promises to be “tough on Russia” if elected.

“They’re both waving the Russian flag, and I just don’t think that’s going to get them over the finish line,” Wallin says. Carey declined to comment on either candidate, although she says a third challenger will announce his candidacy this summer. Meanwhile, the DCCC has yet to provide support to anyone. “Unless something drastic happens, I would say it’s much safer than several other districts in the area,” Wallin says.

Still, Carey believes that as long as Democrats continue to organize with the same intensity they’ve shown so far, they can turn the district blue. “A lot of people say they never paid attention to it, a lot of people with no party preference who are really concerned about democracy,” she says. When asked if neighborhood residents continue to get involved, she says, “So far, I think the energy remains. I tell people, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” » But I think as long as Trump keeps tweeting, we’ll keep getting our interest!

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