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Picking winners: National Democrats try to winnow the primary field, and not everyone is pleased

Picking winners: National Democrats try to winnow the primary field, and not everyone is pleased

LOS ANGELES — Imagine that you’ve never run for elected office. Imagine that you’ve never even considered it; your career, after all, has nothing to do with politics. But then America elects a president who strikes you as so dangerous — so antithetical to your values — that you start thinking about how you can fight back.

You notice that your congressman, who belongs to the same party as the new president, is considered vulnerable. You’re anxious. You’re angry. You’re unwilling to stand idly by. So you decide to make the leap and run against him in the upcoming midterm elections.

Now imagine that six or seven months later, after 16-hour days on the trail, seven days a week; after locking yourself in a windowless room and dialing for dollars until your “brain turns to mush”; after putting your job on hold, or quitting altogether; after demanding huge commitments from staffers, volunteers and donors; after convincing countless new supporters to take a risk on you; after missing your kid’s bedtime and barely saying hi to your spouse before you conk out at night, just for a chance to serve your country and make it a better place — imagine that after all of this your party comes to you from Washington and asks you to drop out before a single vote has been cast.

What would you say?

In California’s 39th Congressional District, which overlaps the traditionally conservative bastion of Orange County, Democrats Phil Janowicz and Mai-Khanh Tran recently faced this question — and came up with different answers.

Tran immediately refused. Janowicz eventually acquiesced.

Their stories lay bare the unexpected downside of so-called resistance politics.

Party intervention in contested primaries is nothing new. Groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have always endorsed, promoted and generally angled to get the most “electable” candidates on the ballot.

But in the age of Trump, the stakes, and tensions, are higher than before. So many Democrats are running this year — more than 500 at last count, the most for any one party since Republicans flipped 63 House seats in 2010 — that many make-or-break primaries are overflowing with the kind of untested outsider candidates that worry risk-averse party leaders.

At the same time, populist, antiestablishment sentiment is surging. So when the DCCC does intervene, as it did in March by launching a “scorched-earth campaign” against Houston Democrat Laura Moser, progressive activists tend to lash back; in Moser’s case, they propelled her through the first round of primary voting and into May’s runoff.

Nowhere, however, is this dynamic more apparent, or more consequential, than here in California. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried seven Republican-held congressional districts in the state, some of which hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee in decades. All seven districts instantly became midterm targets; that’s nearly a third of the 23 total pickups that Democrats need to retake the House.

At first the party’s Golden State strategy seemed simple enough. Let all of these enthusiastic new Democratic candidates duke it out for a chance to compete in the general against a wounded GOP incumbent. Tie said incumbent to Trump, who is484.html” rel=”nofollow noopener” target=”blank”>enormously unpopular in California</a>. Then si

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