Craig Huey,  Janice Hahn

CA-36: Special Election Day for Craig Huey and Janice Hahn – Will Huey Pul Off the Upset Victory?

Los Angeles City Council Member Janice Hahn and GOP Congressional Nominee and businessman Craig Huey

Hard to say but Craig Huey has exceeded all expectations in this race.

Republicans are hopeful they can pick off a Los Angeles-based House seat long held by Democrats in Tuesday’s special election.

The odds are against their candidate, businessman Craig Huey, but he’s surprised observers on both sides of the aisle by making the race closer than expected.

Both Democratic and GOP strategists tell The Hill they believe he’s trailing Democratic candidate Janice Hahn by 5 points. And a new poll out Monday, conducted by the Dem-leaning Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos and SEIU, shows Hahn leading Huey by 8 points — a small margin in a heavily Democratic area.

Huey has spent extensively to get to this point. He’s dropped about $1 million into the race, most of it his own money.

Meanwhile, Hahn, a Los Angeles City Councilwoman, has failed to reunite the district’s liberal base after a divisive primary. She’s spent close to the same amount, but it’s money she’s raised — not loaned — her campaign.

The district favors Democrats: President Obama won 64 percent of its votes in 2008, and the party has an advantage in voter registration.

Also working against Huey is the Republican Party’s subpar record in special elections. The most recent example was Republican candidate Jane Corwin’s loss in May’s special election in New York. In an embarrassment for the party, the GOP candidate failed to win the Republican-leaning district.

GOP operatives are downplaying Huey’s chances, trying to set expectations low so that a win would be seen as a shocking result.

Regardless of the result tonight, the CA-36 Congressional District will be changing to a more GOP friendly one (more Republicans registered) in just a month when the California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission draws the new maps for the 2012 election cycle. So, this campaign between these two will continue regardless of tonight’s result.

Also, according to the latest maps (always subject to change in August), there will be a new California Assembly District in the area where Craig Huey lives. This district will slant GOP. So, Huey could run for this office and most probably win easily with his high name identification in the district.

But for today, it comes down to turnout which are notoriously low in special elections, particularly in the summer. If Huey can turn out HIS voters and some Democrats stay home, he wins.

“We expect it to be close — it’s all going to come down to turnout; it’s going to be a very low-turnout election,” said Huey spokesman and adviser Dave Gilliard on Monday. “We’re excited about the possibility that we can pull this off tomorrow.”