Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, looked relaxed and confident when he stopped in Fresno last week.
“I’d rather be us than them,” he said of the rival Democrats.
To make his point, he said there are 40 to 50 competitive congressional districts across the nation, with 16 considered true toss-ups that could go either way. Of those, Walden said, 13 are currently held by Democrats — and just three by Republicans.
Walden was in town for a thank-you luncheon at the Elbow Room for some folks who had already donated to NRCC this election cycle. And there is, of course, a local connection for the NRCC — David Valadao, the freshman Republican from Hanford, is seeking reelection in what is considered a competitive district.
But if Walden is nervous about Valadao’s reelection prospects in the 21st Congressional District, he’s not showing it. In fact, he’d rather talk offense than defense, saying Republicans think they can take out incumbents Scott Peters in the San Diego area, Ami Bera in Northern California, and possibly a handful of other Golden State Democrats.
“We’re pretty bullish on California,” he said.
In the meantime, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the NRCC’s Democratic Party counterpart — looks at Valadao’s seat and doesn’t think Walden should be feeling so confident. Amanda Renteria, the Sanger Democrat who is challenging Valadao, can win, the DCCC says.
On paper, statistics such as voter registration and the election performance of Democrats such as President Barack Obama back that up.
As such, the D is trying to find and push issues where it says a clear contrast exists between the two.
With Social Security marking its 79th anniversary this summer, the DCCC has latched on to it as a possible wedge issue, saying that Valadao — as opposed to Renteria — might be open to its privatization.
As proof, they offered up a comment he made at a recent coffee gathering in Shafter: “Has there been a vote? Or have I came out publicly to support privatizing? No. I don’t think that’s a good place for it, but I do want to make sure people have every opportunity to save for their future. And so, if there is a private way of doing that, where people can put their own money away and make their own decisions…”
But Tal Eslick, Valadao’s spokesman, says there’s nothing hidden in Valadao’s comment. While Social Security needs to be reformed, Valadao has not supported privatization, Eslick says.
Until the program is reformed, Eslick says, it isn’t sustainable. As such, people will need to make “private money decisions” to back up Social Security. For instance, starting a 401k.
And that, Eslick says, is a long way from privatizing the program, though Democrats are “trying to scare seniors in to believing that.”
Another issue on the DCCC radar are fake news websites the NRCC has created, including one for Renteria. The NRCC has been criticized for it, and the DCCC has called the move underhanded.
“The NRCC’s shady tactics are just the latest example of their pattern of deception, and it’s shameful that Chairman Greg Walden would allow this to continue,” according to a statement from DCCC spokesman Tyrone Gayle.
Whether either of these gains political traction remains to be seen. It’s still a few weeks until the fall campaigns kick into high gear.
At this moment, however, it seems that Walden has some evidence to back his comfort level.
The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report recently moved the Valadao-Renteria 21st District clash from “toss up/tilt Republican” to “Leans Republican,” a rating change that favors Valadao.