Rep. Jim Costa was thought to be headed for a safe race. The California Democrat represents a district that supported President Obama by a 19-point margin in 2012—and while Costa had had scares in previous midterms, 2014 appeared to be in the bag. And indeed, Costa did keep his seat, but only after squeaking through one of the tightest races of the entire cycle, a vote count so close that it took 15 days for him to be officially declared the victor over Republican candidate and dairy farmer Johnny Tacherra.
So what happened? Costa nearly fell victim to a radically different midterm electorate. The total number of ballots cast in the race dropped 40 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to data compiled by Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report.
Costa’s story is a microcosm of the turnout problem that plagued Democrats up and down the 2014 ticket, but it’s particularly troubling for the party because Costa’s district is among the most heavily Latino in the country.