- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Rep. Scott Peters and his Republican challenger, Carl DeMaio, have emerged from California’s June 3 primary in strong financial shape, with each building bankrolls of more than $1 million to carry them into what is expected to be one of the closest and most expensive congressional contests in the nation.

Peters, who has represented a San Diego-based district for one term, raised nearly $555,000 since mid-May, giving him $1.9 million cash-on-hand, according to Federal Election Commission records. DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego City Council, wasn’t far behind. He raised more than $450,000, leaving him with nearly $1.4 million in the bank.

Candidates had until midnight Tuesday to file their fundraising reports with the FEC. The fundraising by Peters and DeMaio marked a rare instance in which both candidates had more than $1 million in the bank at the end of June.

Generally, the state’s incumbents have built upon their fundraising advantage in recent weeks, even in the races that are expected to be among the most competitive, the FEC records show.

They not only raised more money than their challengers, but they also were able to save more money for the general election because they were heavy favorites to advance beyond the state’s June 3 primary. The challengers, meanwhile, often were competing against one or more candidates from within their own party, which required them to spend more heavily to ensure they finished in the top two in the primary.

The state has about a half dozen races that should be competitive as a result of new districts that were drawn by an independent commission appointed in 2010.

Republicans have targeted four Democratic House freshmen for defeat this year: Peters, Ami Bera, Julia Brownley and Raul Ruiz. Each maintains a financial edge over their Republican challenger, the FEC records show.

Bera, who represents a district near Sacramento, took in about $440,000 since mid-May and has nearly $2 million in the bank. His challenger, Republican Doug Ose, raised about $330,000, of which, $100,000 came in the form of a personal loan. He has about $204,000 in the bank.

While that’s a large spread, outside groups also are spending heavily in the state’s 7th Congressional District, signaling that they believe the race will be highly competitive. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has paid for ads supporting Ose, who served three terms in the House before stepping down. The House Majority PAC, a so-called super PAC dedicated to helping Democrats, has weighed in with ads to help Bera.

Brownley, who represents a Ventura County-based district, raised about $392,000 and has more than $1.5 million in the bank. Republican challenger Jeff Gorell raised about $270,000 and has about $306,000 in the bank.

Ruiz, whose district includes most of Riverside County, raised about $321,000 and has $1.9 million in the bank. Republican Brian Nestande, a six-year member of the California Legislature, raised about $169,000 and has about $235,000 in the bank.

Democrats have targeted the San Joaquin County district served by Republican Rep. David Valadao as a potential pick-up opportunity. Valadao raised $359,000 and had about $1.2 million in the bank. His challenger, Democrat Amanda Renteria, a former Senate aide, raised more than $289,000 and has about $397,000 in the bank. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has spent heavily in the district on television ads supporting Valadao.

The biggest spender so far this election cycle has been Democrat Ro Khanna, who is trying to unseat seven-term Democratic Rep. Mike Honda. Khanna, with strong financial backing from Silicon Valley, has spent more than $3 million so far, about double Honda’s spending.

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