Editor’s note: Could COVID-19 pandemic break Tom McClintock’s iron grip on congressional seat?
Rep. Tom McClintock has been entrenched in office since 2009, despite his awful record representing California’s Fourth Congressional District.
Two years ago, Democrats believed they had a good shot at ousting him after Jessica Morse, a former State and Defense Department official, emerged from a hard-fought contest to oppose him.
But even in the 2018 blue wave, Morse lost (54% to 46%), just as every Democrat before her.
So maybe it would take a terrible once-in-a-century event such as the COVID-19 pandemic to change the political equation.
Democrat Brynne Kennedy is counting on it.
Tuesday, the businesswoman released her first ads in the campaign—and two out of the three focus on McClintock’s response to the coronavirus.
In the 30-second digital ad titled “Choices,” she faults McClintock for voting against the first coronavirus relief bill in March; he was the only California member of Congress to do so and one of only 40 Republicans total.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expanded jobless benefits and required that larger employers offer more paid sick leave. McClintock, however, said in a press release that “at some point” new cases of COVID-19 would “peak and decline” and that once they had, the bill “opens the door to anyone who wants to game the system” by taking time off.
In the second ad, Kennedy criticizes McClintock for at times refusing to wear a mask while on Capitol Hill, despite guidance from the House physician. “I consider masks much more effective at spreading panic and much less effective at stopping a virus,” McClintock has said.
With the ads, Kennedy is seeking to build on her momentum. Kennedy, who founded a software company before becoming a financial columnist and author, outraised McClintock in the last two quarters. She reported a $384,191 haul in the period ending June 30. And last week, the Cook Political Report changed its rating on the race from solid Republican to likely Republican.
Still, in the March top-two primary, she won only 40% of the vote to 51% for McClintock.
He also has the power as an incumbent in a Republican-friendly district, where the registration is 42% Republican and 30% Democrat and which stretches from Roseville east to Lake Tahoe and south to Yosemite National Park.
So it will likely take Republican voters losing faith in McClintock on his handling of the pandemic for Kennedy to have a real shot.
And perhaps that is happening in the final weeks, especially with Democrat Joe Biden attacking President Trump’s COVID-19 response. In a poll released by Kennedy’s campaign on Oct. 19, she was in a statistical tie with McClintock, who led 49% to 45% among likely voters. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.