Fresno Democrat Jim Costa last November had his second close race in his past three congressional reelection bids, barely beating underfunded and unheralded Republican Johnny Tacherra.
Still, it appears national Republicans don’t think Costa is vulnerable in 2016.
On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a list of 19 Democrats it will target in next year’s elections. There are six Californians on the list, but Costa isn’t among them.
How did Costa — who beat Tacherra by just 1.4-percentage points — escape the NRCC’s 2016 crosshairs?
Much of the script is well known. Turnout was dismal, and low turnouts always favor Republicans, who are more reliable voters than Democrats. Last year, 5.5 million fewer voters cast ballots statewide than in 2012, and 2.8 million less than in 2010.
So it was the best possible scenario for Tacherra, and he still couldn’t beat Costa.
Next year, turnout is expected to surge because it will be a presidential election year. That will almost certainly help Costa.
For those reasons, the NRCC — at least right out of the gate — doesn’t have Costa’s 16th Congressional District on its list of top targets.
Other California legislators who had close calls like Costa, however, are on the list.
Among them are Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, who is always in a competitive seat. Bera beat Republican Doug Ose last year by less than a single percentage point, 50.4% to 49.6%.
The other five California Democrats are Rep. Pete Aguilar of Redlands, Rep. Julia Brownley of Westlake Village, Rep. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove, Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego and Rep. Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert.
Aguilar, Bera, Brownley, Peters and Ruiz were also recently named by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to a list of incumbents who are in competitive races. The DCCC’s “Frontline” program’s goal is to assist those campaigns with fundraising and organizational help. A total of 14 Democrats nationwide were named to the program.
Costa wasn’t on that list, either, which means neither party considers his seat to be competitive.