Jay Chen, Ed Royce’s CD-39 opponent in 2012 and Mt. San Antonio Community College Trustee, has joined a field of five other Democrats who declared for the seat last year on the heels of Royce’s surprised retirement announcement.
On the upside, Chen has a record of raising money (nearly $800K in 2012 and some from PACs and IEs). Chen was crushed by Royce 145,607 to 106,360 (58% to 42% rounding) in a presidential election year where Democrats usually turn out. While registration numbers have improved, Chen is simply too late to the race for reasons I’ll offer shortly.
A new poll, before Royce’s decision to retire, shows Phil Janowicz in the pole position for the declared Democrats in race. Here’s the announcement from the Janowicz campaign:
Polling Shows Phil Janowicz Leading Democratic Field in CA-39 Following Royce Retirement
Buena Park, CA Following the announcement that Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) won’t be running for re-election, the Phil Janowicz for Congress Campaign released polling numbers showing he is leading the crowded field of Democratic candidates in CA-39.
“Our campaign is leading because we’ve been out in the community talking directly to voters and building a genuine grassroots movement for months,” Janowicz stated. “We’ve created a ground-up campaign that’s focused on neighborhood outreach, meeting voters one-on-one, and listening to their issues and concerns. I’m very proud of our team and the many hours our volunteers have put in so far. I look forward to continuing this momentum through June and flipping this district in November.”
A memo on the poll, conducted by Jonathan Brown of Sextant Strategies and Research states: “Phil Janowicz has run an effective campaign thus far. He is the best known of the field of Democratic candidates and leads among them on an initial ballot test. More importantly, when voters hear profiles of all five Democratic candidates – all of similar length – Janowicz continues to lead the field. Phil Janowicz stands a very good chance of emerging from the primary as the Democratic candidate.”
Phil Janowicz also benefits from his background as a professor at Cal State Fullerton, which is a good match for the issue priorities of the primary electorate and tethers him to a well-regarded local institution to which many voters have a direct connection.
Further, Janowicz has an advantage over the rest of the field because he was the only candidate (of those tested) who lived in the district prior to this year. More than half of voters (53%) say they have doubts about voting for any of the four candidates who lived elsewhere on Election Day 2016 and were ineligible to vote against Ed Royce.
The full polling memo has been made available by the campaign.
CA-39 has been recognized nationally as a top pickup opportunity for Democrats in 2018. Hillary Clinton won the district with a majority of the vote by 8.6 points. The Republican registration advantage has shrunk dramatically since the district was redrawn in 2011 and is now less than 2 points. The nationally respected Cook Political Report moved this District to the “Lean Democratic” column and has noted a “political outsider” is ideal for the race.
About Phil: Phil Janowicz is President and CEO of Quill & Abacus, an education consulting firm focused on narrowing the opportunity gap for first-generation and low-income students. He formerly taught chemistry at CSUF. There, he founded the Supplemental Instruction (SI) program for Chemistry, which provides extra instruction, mentoring, and support for students. Phil is the only Democratic challenger in CA-39 who voted against Royce in 2016. He lives in Buena Park with his wife, Angela, a native of Rowland Heights and an English Teacher at Fullerton College. They have two dogs, Molly and Jasmine, and a cat named Arya.
About Sextant Strategies and Research: Jonathan Brown, President of Sextant Strategies and Research, is a veteran California public opinion researcher with experience ranging from Presidential campaigns and high-profile statewide races down to local races for candidates, Independent Expenditure committees and ballot measure committees. Brown worked on campaigns across the country as a consultant, campaign manager, and communications director for more than a decade before focusing on research.
Back to Chen. After the 2016 election, he told folks in CD-39 he wouldn’t challenge Royce because he wanted to spend more time with his kids. It’s a solid reason not to run. But his new entry into the race is pure opportunism and not political courage. Was Chen afraid of a rematch? If Chen were serious about Congress, he would have entered the race a year ago — six months ago — heck, three months ago. I’ll give props to Democrats who saw the hard path ahead against Royce and declared anyway. It’s their success in fundraising, in calling out Royce’s record, and non-stop pressure that made Royce quit.
ASPIRE PAC, a committee that backs Asian Pacific Rim candidates, has already thrown its support to Dr. Mai Khanh Tran. Yes, she’s new and she doesn’t live in the district, but she’s demonstrated political courage Chen didn’t show until yesterday. Chen cannot count on this PAC.
I’m happy to make the same argument in CD-48 about Rachel Payne, who spent time district shopping between CD-45 and CD-48 before joining a crowded field.
Candidates who aren’t raising significant money for Congress really need to take a good hard look at the path before them and support those who have more money and stronger endorsements. There are plenty of city council, state assembly, school board races to run. But its this blog’s opinion Chen reconsider.