The race for the Inland Empire’s 31st Congressional District is shaping up to be among the most competitive in the state following Wednesday’s announcement from state Senator Bob Dutton that he would run for the seat.
It also serves as yet another example of the scramble set off by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission as some elected officials find their districts chopped up and rearranged.
Dutton’s decision pits him against Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a Democrat, and fellow Republican and Rep. Gary Miller (R-Diamond Bar), who himself had avoided a run against Republican Congressman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) for the 39th Congressional District. They are running for the seat Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) will vacate the seat end of the year.
It’s a scenario that is playing out in several districts, said Mark Standriff, an independent political consultant and former Communications Director for the California Republican Party.
“The whole outcome from the redistricting commission has now changed things so that both parties are now dealing with people of significant political weight having to go against each other,” Standriff said.
Another Inland Empire example is Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) facing-off against state Senator Gloria Negrete-McCleod for the 35th Congressional District seat.
The primaries are open in California, so the top two vote getters will advance to the November elections. But the pressure to gain or preserve seats for the parties mounts as districts once considered safe for either party have completely changed.
Lewis’ current district, the 41st, was once considered firmly conservative. Following the redrawn lines, the district, relabeled the 31st, now includes right-leaning Loma Linda, Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga along with the bluer areas of Rialto, Colton and San Bernardino.
“The redistricting committee was specifically designed to not have to worry about whether or not there were going to be setting up seat challenges.” Standriff said.
With a shrinking window of time before the June primaries, candidates have begun the hard push.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is backing Miller, according to Rollcall.com. Dutton just announced his intention to run Wednesday.
Aguilar has the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has named the 31st Congressional District to the committee’s highly competitive Red-to-Blue program.
According to a news release, the program helps foster fundraising possibilities by introducing candidates with supporters interested in helping the campaign. The district was named to the program in part because Democrats believe they can win. The committee also believes that Aguilar's campaign can meet rigorous fundraising, organizing and infrastructure goals.
“I am honored that so many people in San Bernardino County are joining our grassroots campaign to create jobs, stand up for middle class families, protect Medicare and Social Security and reignite the American dream,” Aguilar said in a news release. “The early strength we have demonstrated and our ability to win in November has earned our district a spot in the Red-to-Blue program.”