CA Congressional Elections 2010: The Real Races Become Clearer

All congressional campaigns in California recently had to submit end of year fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission.  Election 2010 is now less than a year away, and these most recent fundraising numbers help show which challenger candidates are serious competitors and which ones simply are not.  Following up our previous post on third quarter fundraising numbers in California, in this post we look at the race in each potentially competitive district.

CA-03 Dan Lungren (R)

Lungren was viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country going into this quarter, but a big quarter for him in this increasingly Republican-friendly environment nationally could have made his seat a lot safer.  He did not have that big quarter.  He raised $151,633 but spent $68,380 meaning that he only added (banked) $83,253 to his campaign account which leaves him with $526,904 cash on hand.  His Democratic challenger Ameriash Bera outraised him by raising $239,368 and ending the quarter with $739,685 cash on hand.  Democratic leadership is clearly impressed with Bera as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has added him to the “Top Race” category.  His campaign received contributions from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s Ameripac: The Fund for a Greater America, Congressman Mike Honda, and Congressman Steve Israel.  Lungren has a very serious race on his hands.

CA-04 Tom McClintock (R)

Democrats had hoped to make this seat competitive.  Last quarter McClintock raised $222,343 and added $145,241 of that to his cash on hand which now totals $369,340.  McClintock does not have that much money, but he lacks a serious opponent.  Charlie Brown who ran against him previously recently accepted a position in the Obama administration and no other serious candidate has emerged.  McClintock is likely in for an easy reelection.

CA-11 Jerry McNerney (D)

Simply put, Republicans would love this seat as it has a slight Republican tilt usually.  However, McNerney is not going to give it up easily.  He raised $235,045 but only spent $64,121 so that he banked $170,924 and now has a solid $847,005 cash on hand.  Republicans lack a clear front runner.  Brad Goehring only raised $71,451 and spent even more ($92,497) meaning that he would have lost money last quarter.  However, he loaned his campaign $425,000 (he has loaned his campaign over $1 million already this cycle).  His fundraising is unimpressive, but his willingness to devote that amount of money makes him a contender for the nomination.  Autism activist Elizabeth Emken entered the race in October.  She raised $101,817 and spent $55,735 so that she added $46,082 to her total.  She also loaned herself $200,000 and ended the quarter with $246,081 cash on hand.  Additionally, David Harmer has also joined the race.  He recently ran unsuccessfully against John Garamendi in the special election in the 10th congressional district.  He decided to run against McNerney in the 11th district in 2010.  In the race for the 10th district, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) had him listed on their “Young Guns” page (for exciting challenger campaigns), but he is no longer listed there.  The race for the Republican nomination is likely to be very competitive, especially if both Emken and Goehring continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money.  The slight Republican lean of the district and the increasingly Republican-friendly national environment may mean that whoever emerges has a real chance of beating McNerney.

CA-26 David Dreier (R)

Democrats thought they had a chance to take out Dreier with Obama’s coattails in 2008 but could not.  Dreier raised $137,600 last quarter and sits on a solid $1,025,315 cash on hand.  Repeat challenger Russ Warner only raised $37,851 and, while sitting on $123,506, is not a serious threat–if he could not do it in 2008, he cannot do it this year, especially with such a fundraising disadvantage.

CA-44 Ken Calvert (R)

The Democrats have been targeting Calvert since 2008 when Bill Hedrick gave him a very close race without the help of national Democrats.  Hedrick is challenging Calvert again.  Calvert raised only $97,125 last quarter and has $519,432 cash on hand.  Even though Calvert only has a modest amount of money for an incumbent, he must think that he is in pretty good financial strength as he gave over $1,000 of his campaign funds to local charities.  Hedrick raised only $56,480 and only has $95,779 cash on hand.  Yet, as he proved last election, he can do well without a lot of money or national help.  Calvert may have a financial advantage, but he should be careful because he cannot ignore Hedrick.

CA-45 Mary Bono Mack (R)

The 45th district is likely to be an interesting race.  The Democrats got their dream candidate in Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, and he continues to have solid fundraising numbers.  However, he is running against incumbent Mary Bono Mack who can genuinely claim to be moderate and bipartisan after her vote for the Democratic cap and trade program.  Bono Mack raised $270,919 but spent a considerable amount ($147,842) and banked $123,077 for the quarter.  She has $893,754 cash on hand.  She has received support from various Republicans last quarter as Minority Leader John Boehner, NRCC chairman Pete Sessions, Congressman Phil Gingrey, and Congressman Glenn Thompson all gave to her campaign.  Pougnet raised $150,136 but spend $95,122 of it and has $402,313 cash on hand.  Bono Mack has more money, but Pougnet is likely to make it a race if he can continue to raise money.

CA-47 Loretta Sanchez (D)

Early in the cycle, Republicans thought that Assemblyman Van Tran could beat usually safe incumbent Loretta Sanchez.  More recently, there has been less talk about Van Tran because he has not had very good fundraising. Last quarter Sanchez raised $229,614 and banked a significant portion of it ($188,585).  She currently has $905,923.  Van Tran raised $99,992 last quarter, but he spent $67,444 of it meaning that he only banked $32,548.  He currently has $314,797.  Van Tran will need to increase his fundraising significantly if he is going to be competitive.

CA-50 Brian Bilbray (R)

Bilbray looked vulnerable early in the cycle.  However, his strongest challenger Dave Roberts dropped out which made the race significantly easier for Bilbray.  Bilbray raised $73,650 and spend $77,263 last quarter which means that he actually lost money.  He currently has $431,950 cash on hand.  Fortunately for him, his challengers’ numbers are less impressive.  Tracy Emblem only raised $11,707 while spending $30,446 last quarter, leaving her with $8,055 cash on hand.  Repeat challenger Francine Busby did better by raising $55,039 last quarter and ending the quarter with $155,126 cash on hand.  Bilbray is not doing a great job of fundraising but is unlikely to have any serious competition in 2010.

Overall Outlook

Democrats can seriously compete against Lungren, Calvert, and Bono Mack.  Lungren is in the most danger.  In a 2006 or 2008 atmosphere all three incumbents (and likely Bilbray and McClintock) would be in trouble.  However, 2010 is not going to be a repeat of 2006 or 2008 and is going to be a much better environment for Republicans.  While there is no clear front runner against McNerney and Van Tran has not been raising enough money, if the national environment continues to favor Republicans, either (or both) McNerney or Sanchez could have a very serious election.

*All fundraising numbers are rounded down to the nearest dollar.

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