Democrats Grapple With Candidate Glut In Southern California A big, blue wave of candidates in California could actually wipe out Democrats' hope of winning a House majority by eliminating the party's chances flipping some key GOP seats in the state.

Too Many Candidates? Democrats Grapple With Oversupply In Southern California

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a lot of Democratic enthusiasm about this year's elections, and that means a lot of Democrats running for Congress across the country. But in Southern California, the party may have too much of a good thing. NPR's Scott Detrow explains.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: In 2016, Doug Applegate was the only Democrat to run against Republican Darrell Issa in California's 49th congressional district, which stretches north from San Diego. This time, things are a little different.

DOUG APPLEGATE: If you look at San Diego County and Orange County, I think we got 30,000 - excuse me - 30. Thirty candidates running for three open seats and a bunch of incumbents, and it's chaos.

DETROW: Including Applegate, four Democrats are running to replace Issa, who's retiring. And in a nearby Orange County seat, twice as many Democrats have entered the race. Crowded primary races can often point to a big November wave. But in California, they can create a problem. The state's unique primary advances the top two finishers, no matter what party. And many Democrats are like Terra Lawson-Remer. They're worried with fewer Republicans on the ballot, Democrats could be left in the dust.

TERRA LAWSON-REMER: Because they can consolidate the pie, even if they have a smaller pie, each individual gets a bigger slice of their smaller pie. We split the pie among all our fractious candidates, and no Democrat can get through to November.

DETROW: Lawson-Remer helps run Flip the 49th, a grassroots superPAC. The group sees the glut of Democrats as a real problem. Many of the candidates share the same view, which is also a problem. Here's Applegate.

APPLEGATE: Nobody's been able to spend a million bucks and come within 10 points of me.

DETROW: And here's candidate Mike Levin.

MIKE LEVIN: I know we're running the strongest campaign. I know we're viable. We'll be on the ballot in June. We're going to win and be on that ballot in November, and we're going to win there, as well.

DETROW: Sara Jacobs argues Democrats need younger candidates and women.

SARA JACOBS: We have to give them something exciting to vote for. If we're going to be able to win, we need women and we need young people to come out to the polls.

DETROW: At the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Drew Godinich is mindful that for years it was hard to find any Democrats to run in Orange County and San Diego.

DREW GODINICH: So I'm always going to take the alternative where we have a number of well-qualified people who are really litigating the case for the first time in these districts.

DETROW: Still, the party may step in at some point to try to clear the field.

GODINICH: At the end of the day, all options are on the table to help ensure that there's a Democrat on the ballot in November.

DETROW: But after this week in Texas, those options may be limited. National Democrats came out hard against one Texas House candidate, Laura Moser, who they viewed as too liberal and unlikely to win this fall. The move backfired. Moser gained momentum and advanced to a runoff, delighting establishment critics like Nina Turner. She runs Our Revolution. That's Bernie Sanders' political action committee.

NINA TURNER: The mainline Democrats, the establishment Democrats of this party cannot continue to put their thumbs and bodies on the scale to get an artificial result.

DETROW: If the DCCC tries to muscle out a candidate in one of California's overcrowded races, the same thing could happen again. So for now, party officials are holding back, at least publicly, and hoping that too much enthusiasm doesn't cost Democrats control of the House. Scott Detrow, NPR News.

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