He said that Issa's retirement, combined with massive Democratic spending in the 2018 cycle, have turned this into a "leaning-Democratic district."
And heading into the final stretch before the election, polls show that Democrat Mike Levin seems to have the upper hand against his Republican opponent. Levin, an environmental attorney, is making climate change a central part of his campaign.
“We've done a lot in California, very proactive, to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint. And at the same time we've grown the economy," he said. "So I always have to push back on those who don't think that you can grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time.”
Levin may be tapping into something coastal residents care about in a district where the now-closed San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant is located.
Levin has raised over $4 million and seems to have the wind at his back. Driving north on Interstate 5 at rush hour, it's not uncommon to see campaign volunteers gathered on overpasses, holding large "Levin for Congress" banners and waving to commuters.
UC Irvine political science professor Graeme Boushey said there’s strong support for progressive-tilting positions in California on issues like health care, immigration reform and gun control. He said that puts Republicans candidates in swing districts like the 49th in a tough spot.
“For them to tack to the left effectively risks alienating a base that they desperately need to turn out in this election," he said. "There remains very high Republican support for Donald Trump among these voters.”
Republican Diane Harkey, Levin's opponent, is endorsed by President Trump. She was asked to run for the seat by congressman Issa, and was reluctant at first.
"When he first called me, I told him he was nuts," she said. "I said absolutely not. I'm not going to be the one that runs in the flipped 49th."
But after thinking it over, Harkey decided to jump in. The former state assemblywoman said California is hurting itself by resisting so many of Trump’s policies.
“I think it's gone way too far," she said. "I mean the tax reform could have been much better to California had, in fact, we had two senators at the table and any Congress people negotiating for us.”
Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy — the House majority leader — helped push the tax bill through, and all but two of the 14 Republican members of Congress from California voted for it.