Ever since taking office years ago, Congressman Jeff Denham has done a poor job of representing his district. Yet, he was able to win reelection over challenger Michael Eggman in the last two elections, mostly because Eggman made critical mistakes. Will the next Democratic Party candidate make the same mistakes?
The biggest mistake Michael Eggman made in running for Congress was his strict adherence to the Democratic Party platform. The platform works well in some parts of the country, but is vehemently opposed by voters in states dominated by Republicans.
In the Valley, voters dislike parts of the Democratic Party’s platform. The insistence that a “one-size-fits-all” platform is good for all of its candidates goes far to explain why the party is in the minority in a large part of the United States. The policy has been fatal for the candidacy of Democrat candidates throughout much of the Valley.
The successful candidate will need to tailor his or her platform to what the citizens of the Valley want. This means that candidates need to find out what positions resonate with local voters and emphasize those issues. Parts of the Democrats’ platform actually alienate voters; a dictatorial party leadership appears to think it knows best for the entire country and withholds support for candidates who don’t toe the line.
Denham’s Formula for Success
Any candidate for Congress would be wise to understand the opposition; Michael Eggman apparently did not. Congressman Jeff Denham is a slick operator. He tells the voters what they want to hear, then votes the party line in Congress. He promises and doesn’t deliver. His opposition has not held him fully accountable for his votes.
Mr. Denham’s main accomplishment has been delivering for Indian gaming enterprises and in shutting down the government during budget disputes. He has talked up delivering an improved life for veterans, but dozens of homeless vets live on the streets within his district.
In Michael Eggman’s campaigns, he failed to adequately demonstrate how the incumbent’s record hurt the district. He failed to point out that Denham brings home very little money to his district except in the form of ag subsidies. Generic political attack ads attempted to generate a negative image of Mr. Denham, but the incumbent was able to go negative against a political unknown because of the locally unpopular Democratic Party platform.
Campaign in Person
An incumbent politician has a tremendous advantage over an unknown challenger. Denham is a horrible representative, but voters are usually not willing to take a chance on ending up with someone possibly worse. Eggman campaigned ineffectively. He received little press and didn’t present voters with sufficient opportunity to meet him in person.
Few candidates win public office without meeting the voters or establishing name recognition. Spending large sums of money on television advertisements may establish name recognition, but provides diminishing returns as viewers tune out ads. An in-person visit, coffee klatch, or public event often changes minds and is more effective than one minute TV commercials. Anyone wishing to unseat Mr. Denham will need to campaign full time on the road.
Incumbents can be Beaten
Former Modesto City Councilman Bill Conrad used to say that an incumbent has a 20 percent voter advantage over political challengers. Challengers can win only if the candidate learns about the concerns of local constituents, and works hard. Given the poor representation provided by Congressman Jeff Denham, a victory should be easier than in many political contests, but it still won’t be easy.
Sandy Almansa says
I think the voters are also responsible for not holding him accountable, by not being engaged enough to be familiar with Denham’s lie-to-your-face record of doing whatever he wants instead of what his constituents want him to do. The AHCA vote is just the most recent vote in a long line of votes mis-placed after lying to his constituents.
Things have changed. More of us are awake, activating, educating and making sure people know what is going on in politics and with their elected officials. Mr. Denham has forgotten that he works for us, and we must hold him accountable by voting him out. #DENHAMOUT2018 #JEFFDENHAMSELLOUT
Bruce Frohman says
Dear Ms. Almansa,
Your comment is spot on. However, not all voters are rational (vote in their own self interest) or take the time to find out what is really going on. Ultimately, voters are responsible for how they vote. And while candidates should be held responsible for what they say and do, trusting voters often overlook what elected officials do and rely only on what they say. That is why Donald Trump retains his support regardless of what he does.
Jeff Denham is a tall, good looking blond man. His appearance instills trust. He would not lie, would he? Those who vote based on personal appearance and based on what he says will vote for him forever.
Given low voter turnout, a concerted effort to oust Mr. Denham could be successful. But only if a good opposition candidate emerges who does more than repeats talking points from a political party platform.
Jeff Carlock says
I’m curious as to which parts of the Democratic party platform you’re saying are toxic in the Valley. Abortion rights? Environmental protection? And then again, when has the dictatorial party leadership ever refused to support a local candidate who had unorthodox positions? My impression is that the Democratic party accepts practically any candidate it thinks can win a seat – and in 2018 the party will surely lavish support on whoever runs against Denham. So, on which issues do you think it’s critical for that candidate to loudly proclaim that he or she disagrees with the national platform? (Not arguing here, just wondering.)
Bruce Frohman says
Dear Mr. Carlock, Thank you for your well considered comment.
I deliberately refrained from specifying which part of the Democratic platform is abhorred in Denham’s district because I don’t want to engage in a debate about platform issues. If a candidate finds out what voter preferences are, voters will vote for him.
Denham knows what voters want, people vote for him, and then he does what he wants. Eggman must have been out of touch with voter preferences because he lost while sticking closely to the Democratic Party platform. I interviewed him for an entire hour and he was perfect at espousing platform talking points. If anyone has a better theory about why Eggman lost and how Denham can be unseated, please add a comment!
Regarding Democratic Party support, if a candidate deviates from the party platform, the Party may decide to provide no support. The Party is more concerned about controlling its members than winning seats. How else can you explain the pervasive partisanship on Capitol Hill? If one casts a vote the opposition needs, there may be no campaign money come next election.
This method of doing business is why both Republicans and Democrats are seeing larger percentages of voters moving into non partisan ranks.
Billy McDonald says
I think you are stating a myth. Name one democratic candidate for congress in the general election that received zero dollars from the DCCC.
Bruce Frohman says
You pose an excellent question to which I have no answer. Now, please answer this: Do all Democrat candidates receive the same amount of money for the party? Do some candidates receive much more assistance than others? If so, why? Why do candidates for some seats receive little assistance?
Mike Barkley says
Yup. Refuting Jeff Denham is like refuting Sean Spicer, where do you start? it’s 99% BS, and when you do, by the time you’ve finished people have turned off and gone their various ways and there’s a whole new pile of BS to sift through.
How do you get Rule #1 across to the voters?
Rule #1: You cannot believe ANYTHING Jeff Denham says.
Bruce Frohman says
As long as lying is profitable, politicians will continue to do so.