Not as risky as a member of Trump’s own party endorsing impeachment, but pretty risky. Katie Porter represents CA-45, a district that until last November had gone red in every House election since 1983. It’s in Orange County, traditionally a Republican stronghold. But Trump has changed that: All seven districts in California’s “orange curtain” turned blue in the 2018 midterms, with Porter knocking off incumbent Mimi Walters by four points. Two years before that, the district favored Hillary over Trump by five points. CA-45 has gotten bluer in the Trump era, in other words, but remains plenty red enough to send Porter packing next fall. Especially if local Republicans are galvanized to beat her.
Which is why, I assume, the clip below has the air of a hostage video. Porter knows she’s taking her political life in her hands by waving the impeachment flag in front of righties back home. She’s gambling, I think, that a show of accountability in the form of a video statement will help soothe angry GOPers while inspiring the Democrats who supported her last year. Heidi Heitkamp made the same calculation in the 2018 North Dakota Senate race after voting no on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, cutting an ad to explain her vote in detail to voters. Accountability! Principle.
She lost that race by 11 points.
Today I wanted to speak directly to the people of CA-45. There's been a lot of noise in D.C. and in the press about impeachment, so I wanted to share my thoughts with you. pic.twitter.com/ceri6lHwbY
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) June 18, 2019
This is a problem for Pelosi, notes the Times. She’s been using freshmen like Porter as a way to keep the impeachment fans in her caucus at bay. “It’s fine for liberals from safe blue districts like AOC to be gung ho for impeachment,” she’ll say, “since they’ll pay no price for it at the polls. But what about Katie Porter? If we impeach Trump, all of the Dems from red districts who stole Republican seats last fall will be washed out of office next year, taking the new Democratic majority with them.” Now here’s Porter herself saying, “No, really, go ahead, impeach him.” Will there be more?
The number of House Democrats favoring at least opening an impeachment inquiry now numbers above 60, roughly a fourth of the caucus. Two more liberal Democrats added their names to the impeachment rolls in recent days, as well: Representatives Dan Kildee of Michigan and Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, whose Manhattan district runs alongside that of Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee chairman.
But so far, only one other freshman Democrat representing a swing district, Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, has endorsed the idea. Representative Harley Rouda of California, whose Orange County district sits near Ms. Porter’s, has said that if the Trump administration does not end its blockade of congressional subpoenas by the end of June, he will follow suit.
It’s a risky play by Porter but a canny one, I think, given the larger political environment in which she operates. She’s just 45 years old and a former law professor who worked for Kamala Harris’s AG office overseeing a mortgage settlement with major banks. She may have her eye on running for state AG herself one day; if she wins that race, governor or senator is within the realm of possibility. To win statewide in California, though, you can’t be a mushy centrist Democrat from Orange County. You need something splashy on your liberal resume to distinguish you from the 500,000 other ambitious young Democratic pols in CA looking to make a name for themselves and advance. Porter’s found her splashy credential here, endearing herself to lefties by endorsing Trump’s impeachment despite the obvious political risk it creates for her next year.
But that risk is itself probably overstated. As noted above, her “red” district broke for Hillary in 2016; Democratic turnout is destined to be sky high again in 2020 to try to dislodge Trump, which will favor Porter downballot. Her impeachment call might even bait Trump into making an appearance in her district (remember how eager the Trumps are to see Justin Amash defeated), which will also goose anti-Trump turnout. Even if it backfires and she ends up losing, she probably figures that she’s destined to lose sooner rather than later anyway given the district’s partisan lean and might as well sacrifice her seat for a cause that’ll help make her name in California state politics. Worst-case scenario: She’s tossed out of office and ends up as a legal analyst for CNN or MSNBC while she waits for a statewide office somewhere to open up. Not so risky.