BREA, California – Confused and frustrated, more and more Democrats are accusing their own party of trying to avoid a threat in the Tuesday's primary election that would have barred their candidates from voting in November Breeds – and with a narrower path to gain control of the House of Representatives.
An abundance of enthusiastic candidates and conflicting messages from democratic organizations and allies have come together in three districts of Orange County to complicate the party's path to victory. All three districts are held by Republicans, and all three are widely regarded as critical to the Democrats' efforts to raise the 23 seats they need nationwide to win the majority in the House of Representatives.
Democrats had internal conflicts in other states, but California is far more complicated due to the state's "Top Two" nomination system, in which the top two winners are elected regardless of party affiliation in the November election campaign. Two Democrats could make the general election ̵
The result, say activists, party officials and some candidates, was anger among voters, who fear terrible divisions in the democratic vote – and a chaos that has not been seen in the primaries of Congress for years, if any.
The candidates are trying to break away, democratic groups are pushing for unity to gain control of the house – and many voters are wondering how they would feel with despair if Democrats were locked out in this liberal state.
"I would do a Thelma and Louise – just drive over the cliff," said Danna Lewis, 66, a physician who lives and walks in the 48th congressional district
Across California, seven Republicans represent districts where Hillary is Clinton performed the elections in 2016. This fact, coupled with an explosion of Liberal enthusiasm since President Trump's inauguration, led dozens of Californians to launch congressional campaigns.
But separated, national and state Democrats spend much of 2017 to recruit wealthy challengers and encourage others to change districts. More problematically, two Republican officials – Darrell Issa (whose district includes parts of San Diego County) and Edward R. Royce – have announced that they will retire this year. What the Democrats expected as races between the established and established Democrats became candidates with unpredictable results.
A third race that typified the confusion of the election: Republican Dana Rohrabacher attracted a party challenger, Orange County's former GOP chairman Scott Baugh. The Democrats needed months to formally support a candidate, businessman Rouda, and only after he had encouraged stem cell entrepreneur Hans Keirstead to start the race.
Laura Oatman, a candidate in the 48th district of Rohrabacher, said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee caused problems by recruiting Keirstead. According to Oatman, the committee then urged them to step down and support him, despite what she described as grassroots enthusiasm in debates and other events for them and Rouda. (The committee disputed Oatman's claim.)
A disillusioned Oatman dropped out but after the deadline for voting, Rouda agreed. And the DCCC, too, after allegations of misconduct against Keirstead surfaced. Keirstead denied the allegations made in connection with his tenure at the University of California at Irvine and remains in the race.
"They realized," Oops! Boy, did we make a mistake? Oatman said
However, the Democratic Party of the State had followed the leadership of the National Committee and confirmed Keirstead Democrats in the district received random samples from the state party asking them to vote for Keirstead – and promoting Rouda, who was the president DCCC approval.
"There is much frustration," said Fran Sdao, chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County, who has described an inbox with emails from voters who do not know who they were in the primaries on Tuesday
At a launch last weekend in Laguna Niguel, Rouda told the volunteers that Keirstead had no chance of winning and closed with negative attacks before they left, the volunteers posed with their candidate for a picture and broke into a song a: "Knock Doors, Not Dems!"
In an interview at his house nearby, Keirstead said the DCCC had chewed "smear marks" from him In spite of a university inquiry that released him, he said the committee had left when he refused to ask former students to go to the camera to refute charges that he had sexually molested them.
"Harley was $ 450,000 above me, and the DCCC invested $ 200,000, or $ 650,000," Keirstead said. "So I wrote a $ 650,000 check to my campaign, and if they bring in another million, I'll do the same."
A DCCC spokesman said Oatman was not pressured to leave the committee than she went before the risk of lockout grew and was refused that Keirstead was asked to get prosecutors on video that defended him.
The Democrats' ability to avoid a vote is in any way based on how the vote between Republicans separates in the race, said Paul Mitchell, a number crunch and vice president at Political Data, who has voted absentee in California primaries. In the '48s, this prompted the Democrats to pre-empt Baugh, hoping to squeeze his vote, even though Republicans portray Rouda as one of their own who, in Baugh's words, became a "reborn socialist."  "It is somehow in the control of Democratic voters to see if they will bring someone to second place," Mitchell said.
The Democrats have become cautiously more optimistic in Orange County's open seats, in part because Republicans have their own races with multiple candidates to split the vote. But both races were transformed by candidate assets.
In Issa's district, Democratic competition began as a battle between unsuccessful candidate Doug Applegate of 2016, a retired colonel, and Mike Levin, a lawyer. But both were greatly surpassed by real estate investor Paul Kerr and Obama administration veteran Sara Jacobs, whose grandfather Irwin co-founded mobile giant Qualcomm.
On the trail, neither Applegate nor Levin disdained their contempt for the assets of their challengers. In an interview after a memorial day, Applegate warned that Jacobs would not get a single vote from veterans, "the largest demography in the district." At a house party this weekend, Levin asked question after question about Kerr's negative mailers. To reassure followers, he dismissed his advocates of unions and said their members had collected enough votes to pull the trigger.
"I do not have a billionaire for a grandfather, I'm not worth $ 300 million from my real estate empire," Levin said, referring to Jacobs and Kerr. "I am a normal person."
Jacobs has received support from Emily's List, the Democratic Fundraising Powerhouse that promotes female candidates who support abortion rights, and who received an infusion of $ 1.25 million from Irwin Jacobs. His ads, like Jacobs' own spots, say she could "change the face of Congress" in ways her male opponents can not. In an interview, Jacobs said that her wealth had simply leveled the playing field.
"We know it needs resources to run," Jacobs said. "There was a calculation that if we wanted a woman in the race, it would have to be someone who had resources for the campaign, and I am happy that I am able to do that."
The prosperity problem has surfaced even greater in the competition for Royce 39th district seat. Early on, the DCC recruited and supported Gil Cisneros, a veteran and former Republican who won a $ 266 million lottery jackpot in 2010 and began investing money in philanthropy and donations to Democrats. Some challengers just quit.
Most did not. Cisnero's support was directed at Mai Khanh Tran, a medical doctor who raised more than $ 900,000, invested $ 500,000 of her own money, and ran after the Democrats said they were supporting someone else in the 48th district where she lived. Also in the running is Andy Thorburn, a wealthy insurance manager who is run as a populist after Bernie Sanders and acted up to a truce last week attacks with Cisneros.
None of the candidates won support from the US government.
"It's complicated, it's confused," Thorburn said as he camped recently. I do not think anyone has a good answer for that. "
The party's lack of control was highlighted again last week after Herbert Lee, a doctor who skipped most of the district's candidate forums had put $ 750,000 of his own money in advertising.
"In some of these races it's very difficult because you have no leverage," said Steve Smith, communications director of the California Labor Federation, which supports the same candidates as the DCCC. "These are self-funded candidates, and if they want to run, they'll run, whether the DCCC says otherwise or not."
Yet, some voters see the conflict through. Carson Newton had seen the ads, the turf signs, and the stacks of glossy campaigns. He decided to help Cisneros after learning about the DCCC's support.
"I am here because the DCCC has selected him as the candidate with the highest probability," said Newton, a 40-year-old attorney who walks in the Cisneros Electoral Office. "I read one of these Democrats with the words: 'Now is not the time for the little' D 'democracy, and I thought:' That makes sense to me. ' "
Gardner reported from Washington.