New Dem super PAC aims to win California House seats

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Former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher is launching a California-specific super PAC aimed at winning seven competitive California congressional districts in the midterm election next year, The Hill has learned exclusively. 

Tauscher, together with longtime strategic adviser Katie Merrill, are teaming up to launch “Fight Back California,” the Golden State-based organization launching on Friday. 

The duo are launching the super PAC a year and a half before the midterms so they can “soften the ground” in seven key districts in California and get a jump start on the races they feel they have a shot at winning.


“We thought if we kept our money here and kept our people here, we could take a lot of these seats back if not all of these seats back,” said Tauscher, who served seven terms representing her California district. 

The seven key districts (dubbed “the California Seven”) all supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE over Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in the 2016 presidential election but also voted Republican for the House seats. 

But both Tauscher and Merrill see some hope in that narrative. If they can win back the majority of the seats in those districts, it can help win the 24 seats that Democrats need to regain control of the House. 

“I think the road to 24 goes through California,” Merrill said. “Democrats have a wave behind them, but we’ve got to start now and we think California is ground zero for taking back the House.”

Bill Carrick, a California-based political consultant, agreed with that premise. 

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“I don’t see how we can win the house back if we don’t win some of these seats in California,” he said. “I just don’t see how the hell we get there.” 

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, who is also based in California, said the mood of the electorate could help.

“If there is a wave election these are the kind of districts that would be caught up in that,” Lehane said. “And Democrats have a pretty deep bench in California.” 

But Lehane said that it will boil down to whether Democratic turnout is strong and just how deep support runs for the Golden State’s GOP incumbents.

Democrats put some effort into the 2016 races against Reps. Jeff Denham, Darrell Issa and Steve Knight but came up short. 

And on the heels of that cycle, Tauscher and Merrill quickly got to work on the idea for the super PAC. 

At a time when grassroots energy on the left is largely directed against Trump, Merrill warned that winning the California seats will depend upon focusing on local issues. 

In other words, don’t expect much Trump-bashing. 

“You can’t nationalize it,” Merrill said. “If you start talking about Trump and domestic issues, you’re going to lose.”

In the coming days and weeks, both Tauscher and Merrill say the plan is to go door to door talking to persuadable voters and then continue to communicate with them through mail and digital advertising. 

“We need to go into these districts and talk to these voters about the issues that matter,” Merrill said, who added that each of the districts will have an individualized approach. “And we need to do it now.” 

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