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Home POLITICS Democrats are setting their sights on 'Putin's favorite congressman': Mother Jones

Democrats are setting their sights on ‘Putin’s favorite congressman’: Mother Jones

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)Bill Clark/AP

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) won his first election to the House of Representatives in 1988 with 64 percent of the vote He has been re-elected 13 times since then. And even though he defeated his most recent rival by nearly 17 percentage pointssome Democrats now think this could be the final term for the Southern California conservative political has nicknamed “Putin’s favorite congressman.

Protesters, sometimes in numbers in the hundreds, meet in front of Rohrabacher’s office every Tuesday at 1 pm “He’s been our congressman for a long time,” laments Diana Carey, vice chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. “But because the district was predominantly Republican, my opinion is that it has been on cruise control.” Thanks to changing demographics in Orange County and newly energized liberal voters, Carey believes Rohrabacher’s seat is no longer safe.

Recently, Rohrabacher has been embroiled in the scandal of possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Like Trump, Rohrabacher, who claims to have once lost a drunken arm wrestling match with Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, believes the Russian government is being unfairly demonized. (During the 1980s, Rohrabacher was a staunch anti-communist who associated with anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan.) rest accusations of Moscow meddling in the 2016 presidential election by pointing out that the United States is guilty of similar actions. In May, the New York Times reported that in 2012 the FBI warned Rohrabacher that Russian spies were trying to recruit him. Two days before, the Washington Post reported on a June 2016 recording in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “I think Putin pays two people: Rohrabacher and Trump.” (McCarthy assured Rohrabacher comments were intended as a joke.)

In a 2016 conversation with House Republicans, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “I think Putin pays two people: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Washington Post

But of all the issues Rohrabacher and Trump align on, Russia may be the least pressing concern for voters who rally against him. So far, Rohrabacher has voted in line with Trump’s positions more than 93 percent of the time, according to five thirty eightincluded voting for of the GOP health care bill that would effectively end Obamacare. Rohrabacher pushed hard for the bill, warning fellow Republicans that allowing Trump to make the first major legislative effort would stunt the president’s momentum. “If this goes down”, he said in March, “we are going to emasculate our President Trump. You don’t cut your bull’s balls off and expect him to come out and do the job.” Health care is a hot topic in District 48, says Carey. “I’ve had conversations with people who are absolutely out of it, scared of losing coverage.”

Although Rohrabacher won his last race in a near landslide, his district went with Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. She narrowly won, but it was enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to single out the district as a higher goal to turn around in 2018. If Democrats hope to overtake Rohrabacher in the midterms, they have a lot of work to do, says justin wallin, an Orange County-based pollster who runs an opinion research firm. “I don’t think Dana has carved out a position for herself as a passionate supporter of any political figure except Ronald Reagan,” says Wallin, referring to Rohrabacher’s early days in the Reagan White House. “She tends to align herself quite naturally with that district in her perspectives, her personality and her political views. Her district sees him as independent, and when Dana takes a stand on something that seems outside of the mainstream, that can actually reinforce her favorable regard for her.”

Two Democrats have announced bids to run against Rohrabacher. One is first-time candidate Harley Rouda, a businessman and lawyer who gave $9,200 to Republican candidates for Congress and nothing to the Democrats between 1993 and 2007. The other is boyd-robertsa Laguna Beach real estate broker who owns promised to work to accuse Trump and who finished last among five candidates running for a seat on the school board in Hemet, California, in 2012. Both are aggressor Rohrabacher for his sympathetic stance towards Russia. The district will vote [Rohrabacher] out because I think there’s something to the Russia thing. I think I can raise money with that,” Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. In to online adRouda calls Rohrabacher “one of the most entrenched members of the Washington establishment” and vows to be “tough on Russia” if elected.

“They’re both waving the Russian flag, and I don’t think that’s going to push them over the edge,” Wallin says. Carey declined to comment on either candidate, though she says a third challenger will announce an offer this summer. Meanwhile, the DCCC has yet to endorse anyone. “Unless something dramatic happens, I’d say it’s much safer than other districts in the area,” Wallin says.

However, Carey believes that as long as Democrats continue to organize with the same intensity they have shown so far, they can dye the district blue. “We have a lot of people who said they’ve never paid attention before, a lot of people with no party preferences who are really concerned about democracy,” she says. When asked if people in the district are still engaged, she replies, “So far, I think the energy is holding up. I tell people: ‘This is not a sprint, this is a marathon.’ But I think as long as Trump keeps tweeting, we’ll keep getting interested!”

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