‘Outside the norms’: 8 Democrats file paperwork for 25th Congressional District race

Signal file photo. Voters cast their ballots at the Bouquet Canyon Church in Saugus on in the June 2016 election. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.

The potential for the 25th Congressional District, which has been a Republican seat for decades, to be “in play,” to use punditry terms, might be why eight candidates are seeking the Democratic Party’s endorsement, politicos said Friday.

However, as anyone who has run before knows, a successful candidacy takes a lot more than filing all the right paperwork.

And while the primary race is more than six months away, the proliferation of candidates might be impacting expectations more than outcomes, and the only thing definite right now is the uncertainty surrounding who voters will be choosing from in November.

Three Democratic Party candidates have recently tossed their hat in the ring for California’s top-two June primary election, Diedra Greenaway, Mike Masterman-Smith and Scott McVarish, joining Kelan Farrell-Smith and Daniel Fleming, in addition to the better-organized top-three fundraising candidates from the Democratic Party: Bryan Caforio, Katie Hill and Jess Phoenix.

Only the last three had fundraising totals to report as of Friday, which leaves many wondering why eight people are vying for the Democratic Party’s endorsement?

“I suspect that the number of candidates is driven by No. 1, the belief that Knight is vulnerable,” said Phil Gussin, a political science professor at College of the Canyons, and “No. 2, the failure of the party to coalesce around a preferred candidate.”

Gussin and several others have noted the 25th District is considered a “toss-up” by many, including Larry Sabato, founder of the Center for Politics. However, many said the same in 2016, when Congressman Steve Knight, R-Santa Clarita, managed to defeat Caforio. Sabato, like many other national pundits, also missed the mark on his prognostications for the electoral college results that year. And Knight first garnered his seat by beating out Tony Strickland, another Republican, for the spot, in November 2014.

While there are lots of reasons looked at for why candidates are running, there’s so much involved in a federal campaign that it would be hard to consider anyone without a fundraising machine already behind them viable, said Joe Messina, chairman of the 38th Republican Assembly District Committee.

A successful politician has to connect with about 40,000 voters to make it past the primary (if 2016 figures are any indication), he said.

“I sometimes feel that people go into these things without understanding the reality of what to takes to win,” Messina said. “Grassroots is great at the local level, but can you honestly do a grassroots campaign to reach (tens of thousands of) people?” he asked rhetorically.

The ability to get the message out is much more important than the message, he said.

“I think when people jump in (the race), they have the right heart most of the time,” he added, “but I think once they get into it they realize, ‘Oh my God, I need how much? And I need how many people to walk for me?’ And the party won’t really engage unless they feel you’re a viable candidate.”

Voter registration numbers and polls indicating a more “purple” valley than one in previous years — which was also a rallying cry for the Democratic Party in 2016 — is almost certainly a contributing factor to the surge in candidacy, said Christy Smith, Newhall School District board president who was defeated by Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, in the November 2016 race for the 38th District 52.9 to 47.1.

“This cycle in particular, people have been highly motivated to be a part of the political dynamic and a lot of people felt this was there time to run or felt compelled to lend their voice to the conversation,” said Smith, who’s once again challenging Acosta, “and some of that has fallen outside the standard norms of people working their way up through offices and agencies.”

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