It probably won’t be a sweep

IT PROBABLY WON’T BE A SWEEP…. Someone remind me, why does the special election in New York’s 23rd matter infinitely more than the special election in California’s 10th, which is also hosting an election today?

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a fixture in state and national politics for 35 years, is expected to maintain the Democratic Party’s hold Tuesday on a congressional seat that stretches from the eastern San Francisco Bay area through the California delta.

The special election in California’s 10th Congressional District will fill the seat once held by former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat who was named earlier this year to a State Department position.

Garamendi is running on a progressive platform, vowing to be a close congressional ally of the Obama administration. He’s facing Republican David Harmer, the son of former California Lt. Gov. John Harmer, who’s basing his campaign on an anti-spending agenda. Garamendi is considered the heavy favorite.

Now, I’ll gladly concede that California’s 10th doesn’t seem nearly as entertaining as New York’s 23rd. The latter has featured a competitive, three-way contest, and has become symbolic of the larger Republican struggle between the party establishment and its unhinged, increasingly radical base.

But as a practical matter, California’s 10th and New York’s 23rd are worth the same thing: a single vote in the U.S. House. Same kind of election, on the same day, with same value. One lacks a cast of wacky characters, but neither is necessarily more important than the other.

I suppose the pushback from most political observers would be, “California’s 10th doesn’t matter as much since it’s a Democrat likely to win in a Democratic district.” That’s true, but Democrats haven’t won in New York’s 23rd since the mid-19th century. The last time a Dem won in this district, California had only been in the Union for two years.

One gets the sense that a Doug Hoffman victory in New York’s 23rd will signal a national shift of great importance, but a Garamendi victory in California’s 10th is a small blip on the radar. That doesn’t make sense.