Keys To The House

California Congressional seats that were solidly Republican are suddenly up for grabs. Capital Public Radio's Keys to the House follows the battleground races and themes that could determine which party controls the House of Representatives.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Do Candidates Matter?

Campaigns spend millions of dollars in Congressional races, while candidates are scrutinized relentlessly. But, on election day, to what degree does a candidate's personality affect the vote? A school of political thought says "almost none."


Challenging for seats in this year’s California primary we had a lottery winner, a famous stem cell researcher, a beekeeper, two Marine colonels, multiple once-prominent state politicians looking for a way back into the spotlight.

All of which leads to a seemingly simple question we’re exploring today: What makes a good candidate? We’re going to challenge some of the most basic assumptions you may have.

We look at a couple of specific candidates, such as Democratic congressional candidate Katie Hill’s bid to upset Republican Rep. Steve Knight for his Los Angeles County seat. She has received national media attention, including a profile in the New Yorker and a two-part Vice series on HBO. Meanwhile, in Orange County, former Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim seeks to replace her former boss, retiring Rep. Ed Royce.


Darry Sragow, Democratic political strategist, publisher of the California Target Book

Melissa Michelson, political science professor, Menlo College

Paul Mitchell, vice president, Political Data Inc.