7th Congressional District (suburbs to the south and east of Sacramento):
Democratic Rep. Ami Bera versus Republican Doug Ose, a former congressman. Bera won this district by just 2 percentage points in 2012.
Big money from outside interest groups are flowing into this race, making it clear the district is up for grabs, just as it was two years ago.
Among the groups helping Ose with television ads are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $600,000; Karl-Rove backed CrossRoads GPS, $900,000; and the American Action Network, $750,000. The outside spending should reduce the substantial fundraising advantage Bera enjoyed after the June primary. On the Democratic side, the House Majority PAC has said it has reserved nearly $1 million worth of air time.
The campaign arms for House Republicans and House Democrats also have reserved big ad buys.
Bera is trying to distance himself from Washington. He’s emphasizing that he gave up his pay during the government shutdown last fall and has reimbursed the treasury for the nearly $5,000 he accrued in pension benefits last year.
Ose served three terms in Congress before declining to seek re-election in 2004. He’s calling for tax cuts and repeal of the health insurance law that Democrats pushed through in President Barack Obama’s first term.
52nd Congressional District (San Diego):
Democratic Rep. Scott Peters versus Republican Carl DeMaio.
Peters serves a congressional district in which Republican voters outnumber Democrats by about 6,000. He is one of the few Democrats serving in Congress to get the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
DeMaio served on the San Diego City Council from 2008-2012. He helped lead ballot campaigns to privatize services, defeat a sales tax and reduce public pensions before narrowly losing a race for mayor. He also is openly gay and has challenged the GOP to be more inclusive on social issues. He has been the most adept fundraiser among the California Republicans who are challenging Democratic incumbents.
The campaign arms for House Republicans and Democrats have each reserved more than $1 million in air time in the San Diego market.
21st Congressional District (Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties):
Republican Rep. David Valadao versus Democrat Amanda Renteria.
Valadao represents a largely rural district that skews Democratic. The freshman lawmaker is the lead sponsor of legislation that would set aside environmental laws and allow more water to be pumped for irrigation. While the bill had no chance in Congress, it’s popular with many constituents.
Valado is one of the few Republicans in the House openly supporting comprehensive immigration reform, a nod to the composition of a district in which Hispanics make up nearly half of registered voters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $300,000 to boost Valadao before the primary, but outside interest groups have largely stayed away in the general election.
Republicans are growing increasingly confident of retaining the district, pointing out that national Democrats had delayed a round of television ad buys. The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says the GOP’s interpretation of the delay is “nonsense.”
26th Congressional District (Ventura County)
Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley versus Republican Jeff Gorell.
Democrats enjoy a 6 percentage point edge among registered voters, but Republicans have a candidate with strong name recognition who has served as a local prosecutor and as a member of the state Assembly. Gorell also is a war veteran who served in Afghanistan.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has weighed in with ad buys critical of Gorell and the House Majority PAC has spent about $46,000 on fliers, showing that Democrats are taking the race seriously. In all, the DCCC has reserved nearly $1 million worth of air time in the expensive Los Angeles-area market.
Republican groups have so far stayed out, which is not a positive sign for a candidate going up against a well-financed incumbent.
31st Congressional District (San Bernardino County)
Republican Paul Chabot versus Democrat Pete Aguilar.
Republican Gary Miller retired, giving Democrats one of their best chances nationally to flip a Republican-controlled seat.
Chabot emerged from the primary as the top vote-getter, even though three other candidates in the primary spent more money. Chabot is emphasizing his military service, which included a tour in Iraq. He also once worked in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has taken out ads criticizing Chabot, but national Republicans have so far not reciprocated with their own spending.
Meanwhile, Aguilar has amassed enough money to allow him to air positive television commercials about his life story, which includes serving as the mayor of Redlands. Democrats have a 6 percentage point edge over Republicans among registered voters in the district.
36th Congressional District (Riverside County, mostly the Coachella Valley):
Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz versus Republican Brian Nestande.
Ruiz, a former emergency room doctor, defeated Republican Mary Bono in 2012. He now faces her former chief of staff, who serves in the state Assembly. Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 5,000 in the district, but Ruiz held a huge fundraising edge after the primary.
Strategists say a key factor will be whether Republican-aligned groups weigh in to counter Ruiz’s financial edge. The campaign arm for House Republicans reserved about $500,000 in air time in the Palm Springs market, but it’s unclear whether they will follow through as the election approaches.
Other interest groups appear to be staying clear.
3rd Congressional District (eight counties north and west of Sacramento.)
Democrat Rep. John Garamendi versus Republican Dan Logue, a former county supervisor and member of the state Assembly. Garamendi won 53 percent of the vote in the primary and has a substantial fundraising edge.
10th Congressional District (Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties):
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham versus Democrat Michael Eggman, an almond and honey farmer.
This is one of the more closely divided districts in the state with Republicans enjoying just a 2 percentage point edge in over Democrats in voter registration, but Denham looked strong in the primary, winning nearly 59 percent of the vote.
24th Congressional District (Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties):
Democratic Rep. Lois Capps versus Republican Chris Mitchum, son of the late actor Robert Mitchum.
Chris Mitchum emerged from a jumbled primary that included nine candidates, five of them Republicans. He will be greatly outspent, and outside groups seem to be staying out of the race. That said, the district did become somewhat friendlier toward Republicans after redistricting, with Democrats maintaining a 3 percentage-point edge.
TOP SAME-PARTY RACES:
4th Congressional District (primarily Placer and El Dorado counties, but stretching as far south as Yosemite National Park):
Rep. Tom McClintock, one of the nation’s most conservative Republican lawmakers, faces fellow Republican Art Moore, an Iraq war veteran.
McClintock easily won the primary and had a huge fundraising edge going into July. But Moore could make it a race if he can hold his own among Republicans and dominate with Democratic voters and independents.
17th Congressional District: (Santa Clara County and part of Alameda County):
Rep. Mike Honda, serving his seventh term representing a district in the heart of Silicon Valley, faces fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, an intellectual property lawyer who stunned observers by raising $2.8 million going into the July fundraising quarter and spending even more.
Honda is supported by a host of Democratic-aligned groups, such as unions and Planned Parenthood, as well as the vast majority of California’s Democratic hierarchy.
Khanna is backed by some of Silicon Valley’s most influential movers and shakers, including Google’s Eric Schmidt and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer.
The race has attracted a lot of national attention, but not because the candidates differ on many issues. Instead, the interest is in watching a long-term incumbent who is steeped in the traditional ways of political power try to fend off someone from his own party who has a strong grounding in a technology sector that plays an increasingly important role in the nation’s economy and politics.
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