As with many progressives, I have developed a great admiration for Congressperson Katie Porter (D-CA). But her district was already a swing district, and now her district was redrawn to the point that her re-election looks to be on shakier ground than before.
PORTER HAS BECOME A DEMOCRATIC MEDIA SENSATION over the past few years, beloved for her takedowns of corporate CEOs in hearings and her general no-bullshit attitude. What’s more, she did it as a frontliner, Washington’s name for House Democrats in swing seats whose electoral outcomes typically determine which party controls the chamber. Where frontliners often aim for the most inoffensive, bland position possible on any issue, pandering either to an imagined fussy median voter or to the donor class, Porter’s more unyielding stances are what she believes gives her broad buy-in with a divided electorate.
After redistricting, about 70 percent of voters in California’s 47th Congressional District will see Porter’s name on the ballot for the first time.
“I didn’t run as a typical politician,” she said. “And I think I’ve delivered on not being a typical politician.”
This fall, Porter faces Scott Baugh, a state assemblyman in the 1990s and the former chair of the Orange County Republican Party. The fact that Baugh paid fines for multiple state campaign finance violations while in the legislature, and became a lobbyist for the county after his terms in the assembly, plays into Porter’s narrative about taking on special interests.
“I think there’s a pretty clear contrast between someone who is one of the dozen members of Congress who doesn’t take lobbyist money, and someone who’s been a professional lobbyist,” she said. “I ran on good governance, and on standing up to special-interest money, and he has been involved in projects that corrupt our political system.”
Porter’s popularity has given her an insurmountable fundraising lead, with an incredible $19.8 million in cash on hand as of the end of June. Baugh had about $1.1 million in the bank at that point. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the leading House Republican PAC, has spent a nominal sum of about $800,000 on the race.
Still, Porter has never won more than 53.5 percent of the vote in her two House victories, and Republicans are loaded for bear against her. First, they highlighted a discounted home she purchased in University Hills, on the UC Irvine campus, as part of a program the university uses to attract professors who would otherwise be priced out of a city where the median home price exceeds $1 million. Because she is currently on leave from the school, some have questioned whether Porter should still be eligible for that discount, or whether under the rules of the arrangement she should have to pay off the mortgage entirely.
Fingers crossed her substantial war chest gives her the advantage she needs in November. (See her campaign web site here.)
Meanwhile, the video below is from her greatest hits of holding the rich and powerful to account in ways most elected officials can only dream about.