RIVERSIDE- Officially, there are two names on the ballot in the race for a House of Representatives district covering much of western Riverside County.
But to win another two-year term, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, will have to overcome not only Democratic challenger Will Rollins, but at least two PACs targeting him in the Nov. 8 general election that might be flooding voters’ mailboxes, social media and TV screens with ads.
But Progress Action Fund and The Welcome Party think Calvert can lose in a newly formed district with a near-even split among GOP and Democratic voters.
Calvert “knows he’s in trouble,” said Joe Jacobson, Progress Action Fund’s executive director. “Calvert is trying to now position himself as a moderate. And we just think that is absolutely ridiculous (and) nobody should believe (that).”
In an emailed response, Calvert said: “It’s no surprise that extreme liberal groups are trying to defeat me because of my opposition to President Biden’s inflationary agenda.”
Calvert is running in the redrawn 41st Congressional District, where Democrats outnumbered the GOP by 323 voters as of May 23. He’s also going from a district that Trump won by 7 percentage points to a district Trump won by just 1 point, according to elections expert Dave Wasserman.
The 41st, which stretches from western Riverside County to the Coachella Valley, includes GOP-friendly cities such as Canyon Lake, Indian Wells, Norco, Menifee and Wildomar.
But it also has increasingly blue Corona and a strong LGBTQ community in Palm Springs. While Calvert voted this summer to codify federal protections for same-sex marriage, Rollins, who is openly gay, plans to use Calvert’s past opposition to same-sex marriage and his other votes on LGBTQ matters against him.
412 Church Temecula Valley Pastor Tim Thompson, a Christian conservative activist who has denounced state COVID-19 mandates and how public schools address the LGBTQ community, sex education, and lessons on race and U.S. history, will figure prominently in Progress Action Fund’s attacks, Jacobson said.
Calvert and Thompson, who hosts a YouTube-broadcast show that features conservatives and GOP elected officials, are “basically working hand-in-glove on making sure that LGBTQ people aren’t treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson added: “I think the voters of the district can see right through Calvert because you can’t just wash away 30 years of prejudice or bigotry and a relationship with somebody as notorious as Tim Thompson by just changing your opinion (with a) snap of the fingers.”