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Someone get Ed Royce a stiff drink — or if he’s already read this before the staff comes in, pry him off of the ceiling.
The Democratic National Convention has discovered 39th Congressional District candidate Jay Chen — and it is giving him the star treatment.
I was already planning on writing about Jay this evening when I found a press release in my inbox. I’ll just start by reproducing that in full:
Jay Chen addressed a packed audience of veterans and military family members today at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was one of three congressional candidates who are also veterans who were chosen to speak as part of the “Rising Stars” portion of the event.
“It is essential that we elect more veterans to Congress. Today, less than 1% of our population is serving in the military and the burden needs to be shared, especially within the ranks of our elected leaders. We need elected officials who know firsthand the sacrifices that our veterans and military families are making for our country and will treat them with respect. Simply being pro-war does not make our country safe or our troops strong” said Chen.
Chen, an intelligence officer in the United States Naval Reserves, is running for Congress in the 39th Congressional District of Southern California and is a school board member in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. He was introduced to the audience by retired General Claudia Kennedy, the first female to reach the rank of three-star general in the U.S. Army.
“Our military faces many challenges,” said Chen. “While we have ended the war in Iraq and are winding down the war in Afghanistan, we must ensure that our returning warriors will have good jobs and health care when they return. I pledge to fight for our troops and fight for a strong and smart national security policy!”
Chen is at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte in part to make contacts — contacts that might lead to the campaign donations that may put him over the top in this sleeper race. As you can see, “Rising Star” status suggests that things may be going pretty well for him. A well-spoken, good-looking, courteous, and knowledgeable young Taiwanese-American businessman and School Board member is just the kind of thing that the Democratic Party is inclined to keep an eye out for — especially when a significant voter registration effort directed as Asians in Rowland Heights, Walnut, and Diamond Bar could vault him past Ed Royce. (Disclaimer — as a State Senate candidate, I could be helped by such expenditures — or conceivably hurt by them. That’s not my concern for this article. I favor them regardless on general principles.)
Now, Ed Royce does have the advantage of being the member of the House of Representatives most directly responsible for the collapse of the economy due to the financial services scandal, regulated (OR RATHER NOT REGULATED!) by the committee he chairs — but, perhaps surprisingly to some, this is failing to excite the hearts of donors who might presumably like to keep the bank-nuzzling debate-averse Muslim-hater around Congress.
Here’s the basic problem for Royce and his would-be donors. Chen already had $350,000 cash on hand left (out of more than $500,000 raised) as of the end of June. I don’t know what his next report is going to look like, but my sense is that it may be considerably higher — and that was before his apparently impressing bigwigs in North Carolina. (He can double-team them, too, as his wife is a convention delegate.) Royce had $2,000,000 left on hand, but that was after he had spent $2.5 milllion so far in the election cycle. His fundraising actually trailed Chen’s in the most recent reporting period.
So, let’s say that Chen can get to $750,000 or $1,000,000 raised. That will be enough so that no matter what Royce does, he will be able to get out his message. Royce having another $500,000 isn’t going to change things much. Chen has novelty and an interesting story on his side — Royce is both stale and a stranger to much of his new district. With everyone clamoring for money like demented baby birds, are big donors really going to want to sink their expenditures into CD-39?
Royce spent over half of his warchest on a primary where Chen spent only a token amount trying to set a narrative that Chen couldn’t compete with him — and he beat Chen under those one-sided conditions by 36% in very light voting. If he comes after donors now, claiming to be vulnerable, they will either think he’s lying or realize that the primary result was pure bamboozling. Essentially, if Royce is in trouble after how he performed (and how he spent) in the primary, he’s probably just a lousy campaigner. At some point he has to be able to take a 5 to 1 advantage and make use of it!
So, if Royce isn’t going to raise a lot, then that means that Chen might, because his donors know that his opponent isn’t going to get much richer. Maybe Chen wins anyway if he has half as much to spend as Royce; if he has 75% as much (meaning $1.5 million), he’s in really good shape. And, maybe the Democrats get their Asian version of Julian Castro, who might wow a crowd a convention or two down the line. Worth $500,000? I would not be surprised.
One early indicator of whether Chen is really catching fire would be if the cameras focus on him on the convention floor — say, hooting and hollering during Kamala Harris’s speech. Hmmmm, I wonder …
Um, whoever was getting Ed Royce that drink? Better make it a double!