Steinorth Undaunted In Wake Of Second Place Primary Showing

First term Assemblyman Marc Steinorth shook off his second place finish in the June 7 Primary, expressing confidence it does not presage his exodus from the political stage.
In a head-to-head contest between political newcomer Abigail Medina and Steinorth, Medina edged the incumbent, 36,524 to 35,814 votes. Numerous factors were at play in the race. The 40th Assembly District is a relatively evenly divided political battleground, with 37.9 percent of its voters currently registered Democrats, 35.8 percent registered Republicans and 26.3 percent registered with other parties or unaligned with any party.
In 2014, Steinorth experienced what was a relatively comfortable victory over Kathleen Henry, when he took home 31,774 votes or 56.37 percent to Henry’s 24.597 votes or 43.63 percent.
California in general is dominated by the Democratic Party, with a Democratic governor elected by what was a convincing margin in 2010 and 2014 and what was a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature until Democratic State Senators Leland Yee and Ronald S. Calderon were indicted and Democratic State Senator Roderick D. Wright was convicted on perjury charges in 2014. The percentage of voters registered as Republican in the state stands at 29.3 percent, translating into just barely enough clout to mildly temper the Democrats’ policies and virtually no power to put GOP policy initiatives into effect.
There do remain pockets of Republican holdouts at various spots throughout California. One such bastion of Republicanism is San Bernardino County. Beginning in the 1960s and for more than four decades, San Bernardino County was a Republican stronghold. In 2008, the number of registered voters in the county identifying themselves as Democrats, some 314,000, eclipsed the number of those registered as Republicans, 312,000. Nevertheless, because Republicans turn out in far greater numbers at the polls than do Democrats as well as in voting by absentee, the Party of Lincoln has continued to dominate the county politically. In recent years, three of its four congressional representatives have been Republicans. Five of its eight assembly members were Republicans. Three of its five state senators were Republicans. Though county and municipal offices are considered non-partisan ones, those positions, overall are predominantly occupied by registered Republicans. Of the members of the board of supervisors, until 2012, four of five were Republicans. In the last four years, three of the five are Republicans. Of the county’s 24 incorporated cities, only three – San Bernardino, Colton and Rialto – had city councils with a majority of Democratic Party-affiliated members.
In Assembly District 40, there are 198,180 voters registered. At present, 75,085 or 37.9 percent of those are registered Democrats. Registered Republicans in the district number 70,947 or 35.8 percent. Last week, that 2.1 percent voter registration disadvantage redounded to Steinorth’s detriment, when 72,338 of the district’s voters participated at the polls or by mail-in ballot, and 36,524 votes or 50.49 percent were cast for Abigail Medina and 35,814 votes or 49.51 percent were cast for Steinorth.
The California Elections Code requires that in elections for candidates for state office, the two top vote-getters in primary elections move to run-off election in the November general election, even if one has obtained a majority of votes. Thus, Steinorth and Medina are scheduled for a showdown in November.
Steinorth said he is not terribly concerned over last week’s results.
“Nothing is decided in June,” he said. “It’s just a beauty pageant.”
Steinorth said he recognized that the primary election was not the crucial contest and so he husbanded his resources for use in November, when things will really matter. He said he was not going to be lured into squandering his money in the run-up to the June election, despite a concerted and well-funded effort by the Democrats on Medina’s behalf.
“It is more difficult as a Republican in California to raise the necessary resources against the Sacramento machine that wants to replace me,” Steinorth said. “I only spent enough money to do door hangers, probably ten thousand dollars, maybe more, but no more than $15 thousand. I will spend over a million in November.”
Steinorth said the obvious keys to victory in the 40th consist of voter registration and voter turnout. He said he and the Republican Party had previously been active in registering Republicans there but conceded he had been outhustled by the Democrats during the primary.
“At one point the Republican registration was up by 600,” he said with regard to his 2014 effort. “In targeting the district the Democrats were able to complete a registration drive and were up by 4,000 voters. That’s where it is currently. I think it is pretty close percentage-wise.”
Steinorth said he had the further disadvantage of Medina being able to ride the coattails of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters who were driven to the polls by the presence of those two candidates at numerous rallies locally just prior to the voting.
“Really, I was surprised her turnout was so low,” Steinorth said. “I was proud of how well my team performed. If you look at the turnout by party at the polls, Democrats turned out 2 to 1 over Republicans, yet I was behind by just over 700 votes. That was with two Democratic presidential machines campaigning heavily in my district in the two weeks before the election. There should have been a wave of Democratic voters to bury me, but that wave did not occur. I was able to get 20 to 25 percent of the Democratic vote. That reflects how positive many Democrats feel about my representation of them.”
Steinorth made a mercurial rise as a politician in just four years. In 2010, he vied, unsuccessfully, for Rancho Cucamonga mayor. Two years later, he ran successfully for the Rancho Cucamonga City Council Then, less than two years after that victory, he sought election as assemblyman. He struck pay dirt. Steinorth’s success, no doubt, resulted in part from his ownership of an advertising company. He was able to promote his candidacy, based upon his status as a fiscal conservative, in Republican-leaning Rancho Cucamonga, his base. Within the other portions of the 40th District, he was able to sell that philosophy by selectively targeting Republicans.
Once in office and commuting to Sacramento on a regular basis, Steinorth began to move toward the center, recognizing that vituperatively reproaching the Democrats, who are in control of the state capital, would avail him and his constituents nothing. But that shift did not buy him immunity from Medina’s challenge, and now he is in the position of having to rediscover his Republican roots to get his underlying constituency energized.
He acknowledged he must write off any possibility of finding favor with liberal Democrats but said he would try to bridge the gap between Republicans and conservative Democrats. “Of all of the constituents in my district, I think the Republicans and the more centrist Democrats see me as their representative,” Steinorth said. “My opponent authored an op-ed piece last year advocating Senate Bill 350, which would increase the tax on every gallon of gas sold in the state by as much as 25 cents. I voted against that because my district pays more in gas tax than we get in revenues for our infrastructure and roads. We are paying enough tax already. She wrote in another op-ed piece that she voted for Proposition 47.”
Proposition 47 reduced penalties for what were deemed “nonviolent, non-serious crimes,” particularly property theft and drug offenses.
“I represent cities that have been greatly damaged by Prop 47,” said Steinorth. “In my district property crime has skyrocketed. Prop 47 ties the hands of law enforcement. It keeps the police and the courts from taking action against these offenders. I greatly disagree with my opponent.”
Steinorth sought to frame his reelection effort as one of David versus Golliath, an outsider Republican against the insider Democrats.
“The Sacramento machine has nearly unlimited resources,” he said. “They have decided they to want to raise our taxes. They want to eliminate Proposition 13. They want to regain a supermajority in the legislature so there are no checks on government spending. They believe by spending as much money as necessary to beat me they will be able to shift the balance of power back to Sacramento for good. I won’t let that happen.”

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