Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

In the Inland Empire, a Congressional candidate returns to her roots

Lesli Gooch appealed to potential voters this week at a meeting of Redlands Tea Party members.
Lesli Gooch appealed to potential voters this week at a meeting of Redlands Tea Party members.
Lesli Gooch for Congress/Facebook
Lesli Gooch appealed to potential voters this week at a meeting of Redlands Tea Party members.
Lesli Gooch, who is running for Congress in the Inland Empire, Tweeted this photo on March 25 with the message: "I was honored to show my support today and vote for @MikeMorrellGOP, our republican candidate, for #SD23"
Lesli Gooch

When Republican Congressional candidate Lesli Gooch Tweeted her pride at voting in last week’s special state senate election in San Bernardino County, it was the first time she'd ever cast a ballot in the area that she hopes to represent in Washington.

According to county records, Gooch registered to vote March 7, the same day she filed papers to run in the 31st Congressional District to succeed her onetime boss, Rep. Gary Miler (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

Her Johnny-vote-lately status has drawn anonymous attacks on Twitter, but Gooch is on solid legal ground because candidates for Congress are not required to vote or live in the district where they are running.

“Democracy has no zip code,” Gooch said in response to a question about her brief history of voting in San Bernardino County. She was previously registered to vote in Alexandria, Virginia according to county Registrar records.

Gooch does have Inland Empire roots. She grew up in the Woodcrest neighborhood in Riverside, graduated from Arlington High, and attended UC Riverside for part of her senior high school program. Gooch's campaign bio says her mother was an elementary school teacher and a professor at Cal State University San Bernardino.

Gooch has lived in the Washington D.C. area for several years while working as policy director for Miller, and as a lobbyist for housing, mortgage and government interests.  She moved to Rancho Cucamonga this year, her campaign consultant Jeff Corless said.

Republican Gooch is running in a district that is a top takeover target for the national Democratic party. Miller was re-elected in 2012 when four candidates split the Democratic vote, leaving Miller in the runoff with another Republican. Under California's so-called "jungle primary" system, the top two finishers in the primary advance to the runoff regardless of party affiliation. 

Democrats are determined not to let history repeat itself. This week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched an ad called "Battleground: Middle Class" attempting to link Gooch and rival candidate Republican Paul Chabot to the Republican budget proposal.

Corless called the ad comical and said Gooch was polling well with middle class votes. Chabot said he had not seen the ad, but added he was a Washington D.C. outsider, not involved with the budget plan.

Miller announced his retirement this year and has endorsed Gooch. She also won the endorsement of the San Bernardino County Central Committee over Chabot and Ryan Downing, a 25-year-old paid signature gatherer.

Four Democrats are running for the seat representing the west end of San Bernardino County where about 40 percent of registered voters are Democrats and 33 percent Republicans.