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Re-elected Mike Levin targets climate action, veterans

After winning re-election in his swing district of coastal San Diego and Orange counties, Rep. Mike Levin is now gearing up to face environmental issues and veterans affairs in a divided Congress.

“It’s a great honor to continue representing the community,” Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, said in an interview. “I think very seriously every day about what I can do to move forward, whether it’s the environment, nuclear waste, the rail corridor or veterans’ issues.

The much-watched race for the 49th congressional district was decided this week after months of fierce campaigning on issues including the economy and abortion rights.

On Friday, the Democratic incumbent led by 5.2 percentage points over his Republican opponent Brian Maryott. Maryott conceded the run earlier in the week.

The contest — one of the few battlefield races considered key to deciding which party would control Congress — had attracted $20 million in campaign spending, as well as a visit from President Joe Biden the week before the day. of the ballot.

Although Republicans won the 218 seats they needed to retake the U.S. House of Representatives, losses in those districts ensured a narrow GOP majority that could limit the party’s options in the tightly divided House.

Thad Kousser, chairman of political science at UC San Diego, said Levin’s record on local issues also made him a tough target for his challenger.

“That’s the kind of seat and starter that it would take a red wave to dislodge,” Kousser said. “Mike Levin didn’t expose himself to a lot of attacks. He had no scandals. There were no unforced errors that benefited the opposing side.

Although the two candidates brushed aside each other’s positions and records, they appeared to be inspired by voter fatigue with partisan polemics and mostly refrained from personal attacks.

They answered voters’ call for politicians to work across the aisle: Levin promised bipartisan legislation on local concerns, and Maryott noted in a statement that while his campaign slogan, “people before politics” was arguably “a little lackluster”, that should be the goal of elected officials.

Maryott did not respond to a request for comment, but this week his concession message continuing in this spirit has earned praise from readers. In a tweet, Maryott said he congratulated Levin on his re-election, calling his opponent “very gracious in victory” and adding, “I also want to send my best wishes to Mike’s family, staff and volunteers. .”

“A real class,” replied one Twitter user. “Work with him and reduce partisanship,” wrote another.

Despite ongoing changes to House leadership, Levin said he expects to make progress on plans to secure the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel at the San Onofre nuclear plant and to reopen the coastal rail line connecting Orange and San Diego counties, which recently closed due to unstable bluff conditions.

“Both of these remain top priorities for me, and neither is partisan at all,” said Levin, a former environmental lawyer. “We all want to see the rail corridor fixed for the long term. We will continue to work across the aisle to clear nuclear waste from our shores. »

Levin also plans to continue his efforts on veterans’ issues, including housing, homelessness and career transition to civilian life.

Levin and Maryott have already competed twice, in the 2018 primary election and the 2020 general election, when Levin took his seat by a margin of six percentage points.

This year, however, the race was more Republican-friendly, after redistricting reduced the district’s Democratic advantage from 6 to 3 points. With the district more conservative and inflation pervasive, public and internal campaign polls predicted a close race. And within the year, the nonpartisan Cook Report reassigned the contest from “probably Democrat” to “skinny Democrat” and ultimately to “skip” weeks before the election.

In response, both candidates made themselves ubiquitous in the district, canvassing neighborhoods, hosting campaign events and greeting voters on the streets.

Maryott campaigned in corners near North County schools and malls in what his campaign called “drive-thru events.” Levin staff and volunteers swept neighborhoods and scoured phone banks of potential voters.

Republican Brian Maryott and Representative Mike Levin greet each other before a candidates forum at MiraCosta College on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 in Oceanside.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Amid dissatisfaction with the economy and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, Republicans had predicted a ‘red wave’ that would allow them to overthrow the Senate and make double-digit gains in the room.

That failed to materialize, however, as the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal abortion protections galvanized Democrats and independent voters, and former President Donald Trump teased a third race. at the White House, after a loss in 2020 that peaked on January 6. 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Although Trump didn’t campaign for Maryott, the shadow the former president cast over midterms may have influenced some close races, said retired political science professor Gary Jacobson. UCSD and congressional elections expert.

“This overall election was unusual, and we’re going to sift through the reasons for that — pointing to Roe v. Wade, pointing to Trump’s intervention in the campaign,” he said. “Trump is still a big mobilizer on both sides. Democrats felt it was important to vote in a way that repudiated the big lie Trump spread about a stolen election and punished Republicans for not repudiating it. that.

This year, Jacobson added, voters have conformed to their partisan preferences from the last presidential election — a departure from long-standing trends.

His research, he said, found that the share of midterm voters who stay with the same political party whose presidential candidate they supported has increased over the past decade. This year, he said, more than 95% of them stayed with their party of choice as of 2020.

Voter registration offices in both counties will continue to release unofficial final results in the coming days, and the election will be certified by Jan. 8.

California Daily Newspapers

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