Political Notebook

Is 16th Congressional District competitive? Most say no, one says possibly

Just what is the status of California’s 16th Congressional District, where Fresno Democrat Jim Costa is seeking reelection?

Respected national prognosticators like the Rothenberg Political Report and “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” a national look at races published by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, don’t even have the race on their radars.

But interestingly, the equally respected Cook Political Report does.

It’s led to home head scratching, mostly because the evidence — and even several Republicans — say Costa is safe this year.

Costa’s Republican opponent, Burrel dairyman Johnny Tacherra, has a different opinion, but the only thing he can show is an internal poll by his campaign that shows him ahead. The trouble with that is the data in internal polls can be manipulated, so it is almost always suspect.

Most everyone looks at the registration, which favors Democrats over Republicans by almost 16 percentage points. Tacherra’s campaign is pretty much broke at this point, while Costa has around $760,000 in his account.

And when Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was in town recently, he listed a bunch of California races he said were competitive or potentially competitive. He didn't mention the Costa-Tacherra race.

Former Republican legislative aide Tony Quinn said the race is “far borderline” competitive.

And, in reality, the Cook Political Report agrees. Cook lists the 16th District — which covers all of Merced and parts of Fresno and Madera counties — as “likely Democratic,” which means while it may be on the radar, at this point at least, Costa is likely to win.