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Tim Myers: McKeon will win but not without losses

Posted: September 15, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2012 2:00 a.m.

For the umpteenth time, I make my living analyzing and summarizing numbers, so that even in areas not relating to work, I always find myself falling back to that default analysis. Therefore, when looking at the raw numbers, I can only conclude that Howard “Buck” McKeon will find himself somewhat comfortably elected to his 11th term in Congress come November.

After evaluating the results of the jungle primary this past June, the numbers support this conclusion. McKeon won a majority outright with 50.5 percent of the vote, even competing with two Republican challengers that combined to take less than 20 percent of the vote. Dr. Lee Rogers, an earnest podiatrist educated in Iowa (like me) captured less than 30 percent of the vote to earn the right to face the incumbent come November.

Thus, in order for Rogers to prevail, several or a combination of several unlikely things need to happen. First, Rogers would need to capture a significant portion of the Republican votes cast for the McKeon challengers. This will happen to some extent, since some Republicans went on record saying they would vote for Rogers, primarily to protest the performance of McKeon. Assume that Rogers captures half those votes (highly unlikely) and gets up to 40 percent of the vote.

To still achieve a narrow victory, Rogers would then need at least a 33 percent increase in Democratic turnout in the general election when compared to the jungle primary. The capture of significant Republican votes (unlikely) and this increase in turnout (also unlikely) probably translate into a McKeon victory of 55 percent to 45 percent. And before the protests start that Cemex, and the congressman’s ability to ignore this important issue, somehow trumps everything, I refer folks back to a recent city-sponsored survey that showed that 60 percent of a statistically sound sample possessed vague or no knowledge of the Cemex issue.

But despite what will seem a rather convincing victory, McKeon will in many ways find himself limping back into Congress with his influence greatly diminished.

When we first moved to the SCV in 1996, any local problem reported in The Mighty Signal nearly always included an assertion by one of the participants that they intended to call McKeon to sort things out. This included (and I am not kidding) a decision by a local high school softball coach to cut two star players from the team.

Compare that with recent events when the Albert Einstein Academy made much of a visit to the charter school by the congressman in the hope that his presence might influence the many entities that up until then denied it an elementary school charter. Seeing no movement from that Albert Einstein Academy recently started to obtain letters of support from other elected officials besides the once-revered congressman.

But a loss of “fixer” status would seem to be the least of the congressman’s worries. Since 2009, candidates he either strongly endorsed or otherwise supported came up short against other candidates, from Suzan Solomon’s loss to Joe Messina in the Hart district board race of 2009 to the historic dismissal of an incumbent mayor when Laurie Ender lost her position in April 2012.

But the ultimate humiliation occurred in June of this year when the congressman’s inherent name recognition failed to secure even a top two finish in the jungle primary for his wife, Patricia, where she came a dismal third to Scott Wilk and Democratic candidate Edward Headington. This defeat made particularly more poignant when McKeon operatives informally assured insiders that “polls” showed a comfortable first place finish for Patricia McKeon and a distant third place finish for Wilk.

One already sees the impact of this. Albert Einstein Academy, which sought McKeon’s help earlier this year in securing an elementary school charter, recently switched plans and tried (but maybe failed) to obtain the endorsement of Cameron Smyth, an elected official that people in the SCV still actually like.

And so McKeon will most likely return to the House come November, but not due to love or influence; merely the beneficiary of incumbent inertia.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident.


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