John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Pelosi Doesn’t Play Well in the Denham District

Posted on July 7, 2017

Nancy Pelosi has an approval rating of 34% in the 10th district of California.

That’s significant, because Pelosi is trying to mobilize action to defeat the current occupant of that district, Republican Jeff Denham.

Denham is used to fighting off tough opponents.  Since first getting elected to Congress in 2010, Denham has rarely had a free ride and usually has to fight hard to keep his seat in Republican hands.

In the 2016 Presidential election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the 10th district by a narrow 49 to 46 percent and President Obama won the district by a similar margin in 2012, capturing 51% of the vote.

Denham plays his district smartly.   He is a former Air Force veteran who served in the Iraq War, a former business owner who cares deeply about fiscal restraint, and a social conservative.  But he also understands his district, which has a large Hispanic population.  His wife is a Mexican American and Denham speaks Spanish fluently.   On immigration issues, Denham votes his district more than he votes his party.

It’s not unusual for the 10th District to attract a lot of interest, and this election cycle is no different.  In fact, half a dozen Democrats have already thrown their hats in the ring, vying for the chance to knock of the Republican.

One candidate, Josh Harder, is a venture capitalist and close supporter of Mrs. Pelosi.  According the Los Angeles Times:
“Harder is a vice president in Bessemer Venture Partners' San Francisco office, where he focuses on investment in software, mobile and telecommunications. He moved back to the district, where he grew up, a month ago and will step away from his role with the company during the campaign, he said.  Harder has master’s degrees from Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a bachelor in economics and politics from Stanford University.”

According to Wikipedia:
California's 10th congressional district is a congressional district in the U.S. state of California. Currently, the 10th district encompasses an area of the northern San Joaquin Valley….The district consists of Stanislaus County, and portions of San Joaquin County. It is centered on Modesto. Cities in the district include Oakdale, Manteca, Modesto, Tracy, and Turlock.

The 10th District of California does not include San Francisco.  In fact, the liberal metropolis is about an hour and a half away from the closest point in the district.  San Francisco has different values, a different vibe, a different economy and different needs than the folks who live in San Joaquin County.

Perhaps that’s why Nancy Pelosi can get herself reelected time after time after time in San Francisco but only gets an approval rating of 34 percent from the 10th District.  Of course, everybody knows Nancy Pelosi in Jeff Denham’s district.  They just don’t like her politics very much.

I was perusing Facebook the other day and came across this interesting insight into the Democratic race to take on Jeff Denham.

Apparently, San Francisco liberals don’t love it when Democratic activists come from the 10th District to ask a few questions of their favored candidate.

Here is how the Washington Free Beacon covered it:
“A liberal activist says he was the victim of "blatant racism" while attending a San Francisco fundraiser for Democrat Josh Harder, a frontrunner to be the party's candidate in one of the California districts being targeted in 2018.

Anthony Castillo, a resident of the district Harder is running to represent, says he drove two hours up to San Francisco late last month with the intention of learning more about Harder but was instead "silenced by a room full of white people."

Castillo says the largest man in the room was openly hostile to him and when he complained about the aggression to the event's hostess he was grabbed by the arm and thrown out of the house.

"It seemed unbelievable that I—a lifelong resident of CA10, a dedicated community organizer and volunteer, a proud member of our vibrant Hispanic community—was silenced by a room full of white people who allowed the largest white man in the room to harass and intimidate me," Castillo said in a Facebook post.

"These rich, white, ostensibly concerned Democrats watched as I was dragged from the event by its host, who continued to humiliate and accost me, even as I tried to leave," he said.

Castillo declined to disclose either the name of the hostess or the man who he says was hostile to him. He told the Washington Free Beacon that all he wants is "an acknowledgment and apology."

Castillo says the entire crowd targeted him after he attempted to ask Harder questions at the "Cocktails and Conversation" event and he was told he would have to wait for a question-and-answer session.

Here is part of Castillo's account, which was posted to Facebook:

As I waited my turn, I listened quietly to the next speaker while taking notes on my phone. From the corner of my eye, I could see the man who had yelled so belligerently walk slowly forward, until he was just inches away from my face. I looked up to see this man staring at me with open hostility, his blue eyes wide and unblinking, his mouth slightly open.

I asked him again to please stop, and was taken aback when the crowd of almost entirely wealthy, white Democrats, shushed me again. This man was well over 6 feet and well over 200lbs, the biggest guy there, by far—and he was right in my face, openly and aggressively harassing me.

"I’m not staring at you," he taunted. More white faces whipped around to look at me, and more voices yelled for me to be quiet. One woman who identified herself as the owner of the house, asked me repeatedly to calm down as if I were the threat in this situation.

I asked her to ask the big white guy to stop trying to intimidate me. The crowd began shouting and yelling at me, as if I had threatened this man, as if I were at fault for his behavior. The hostess came up to me from behind and [seized] me by the arm and threw me out of the house.

As Castillo was exiting the property, he says he was followed by the event hostess, who repeatedly screamed, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO I AM! I RAISE MONEY FOR MUSLIM WOMEN!"

Castillo explained that this is not the first time he had heard the "I am not a racist because I have helped minorities before" defense.

"Although I don’t know her, I’ve heard her message many times before, as has every person of color: I’m not being racist toward you, I am not a racist because I have helped minorities before," Castillo said. "As if that could possibly excuse her treatment of me."

Castillo said he had not experienced such "blatant racism" in over a decade, and that Harder's inaction made clear he was "nothing more than a useless, silent bystander who allowed the rich and powerful to dominate and dictate how events would unfold."

"As a dark-skinned Latino, I have experienced the full spectrum of racism over the course of my life, but I have not endured such open hostility, such blatant racism—to the point where I felt unsafe—in over a decade," Castillo said.

"That night I learned who Josh Harder was, and about his potential to stand up for CA10 against the rich and powerful in Washington," he said. "If you can’t speak up for what’s right when you are among friends, you are not going to do it in Congress."

Castillo says that he anticipates Harder's campaign will attempt to blame him for the incident.

"Not sure how this will play out," Castillo said. "My guess is that Harder's campaign will blame me, which is in no way acceptable."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not respond to a request for comment. It has listed California's 10th Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Jeff Denham, as one it hopes to flip in 2018.

Attempts to reach the Harder campaign were also unsuccessful.

Harder, a 30-year-old venture capitalist, has hired as campaign manager Josh Lord, who also managed the unsuccessful 2016 attempt by Democrats to unseat Denham.”

Obviously, I wasn’t at the Harder event, so I can’t vouch for how all of this went down.

What I can say is that all politics is local.  And the candidate of liberal San Francisco might be able to raise a lot of money, but if he can’t interact with the local Democratic activists in a meaningful and productive way, that it doesn’t bode well for that candidate.

This belies a bigger problem in California and for the Democratic Party.  Liberal progressive white people don’t have the same desires or needs that motivate Hispanic activists or other members of the Democrats disparate party wings.  And the more that these different groups retreat into tribalism, the worse off they are.

It might be that Josh Harder and his friends are racists who secretly look down their collective noses at the other elements of the Democratic coalition. Or it might be that Mr. Castillo is spoiling for a fight and wanted to call anyone who doesn’t look like him a racist.

And it might be that either both of these things are true or that neither are true and it was all a big misunderstanding.

In any event, Jeff Denham will win his reelection if he continues to do the things he has been doing, working hard to represent his constituents and doing his job to the best of his ability.  And running against Nancy Pelosi, who may poll well in her hometown, but polls poorly in the 10th District of California.

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