After trailing on election night, Congressman Jim Costa – a key figure in the development of the California high speed rail project – appears to have finally won re-election:
For the second time in the past three elections, Fresno Democrat Jim Costa has rallied from an election night vote deficit to win reelection to Congress.
Costa, 62, has a lead of more than 800 votes, and all that awaits is a final report later Wednesday from Fresno County, his strongest part of the 16th Congressional District.
For Costa’s opponent, Johnny Tacherra, to have a chance of winning, the unheralded Republican dairyman from rural Fresno County needed an overwhelming victory margin in the remaining votes from Merced and Madera counties — which to date had been his strongest parts of the district. Both counties finished their vote counts, and Tacherra, 39, actually lost ground to Costa. To have even had a chance of catching Costa, Tacherra would have had to win more than 80% of those votes.
In other words, this election battle is over and Costa has again narrowly prevailed.
The question is what happens from here. 2016 is likely to be a much better year for Costa. But what about 2018? I’m purely speculating here, but Costa may come under pressure from Democrats to retire before 2016 and open up the seat for a Democratic candidate to win it then and be in a better position to hold it in 2018. Costa, of course, could respond by saying that he’s now survived two tough re-election battles (2010 and 2014) and is the more reliable pick to hold the seat.
This is good news for the California high speed rail project. A Costa defeat would not have meaningfully hurt the project, but having Costa in Congress, with his knowledge of the project and his seniority, is a big plus for HSR. Democrats will take the Congress back sooner or later, hopefully in 2016, and when that occurs Costa will be in an excellent position to help guide further development of high speed rail.
Another Central Valley Democrat and strong HSR supporter, John Garamendi, had been considering a bid for the ranking member position on the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That would have put him in line to chair the committee when Democrats retake the House majority. But Garamendi ultimately decided to defer to Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, who had more seniority than Garamendi.
Finally, Peninsula Congresswoman Anna Eshoo lost her bid to be the ranking member on the House Energy Committee to New Jersey’s Frank Pallone. It’s not clear what impact this has on HSR exactly, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
Nancy Pelosi remains the Minority Leader and, should Democrats retake the House in 2016, she would again become Speaker. We can only hope such a glorious day arrives soon.