Money is flowing in early to the battle for five congressional seats in Southern California that are currently held by Republicans but Democrats see as especially vulnerable to flipping.
The Democratic Party needs to gain 24 seats nationwide in the November 2018 general election in order to take control of the House of Representatives, and it’s eyeing five districts in Southern California where Hillary Clinton won the majority of votes in November despite victories for Republican congressional incumbents.
Darrell Issa is the Vista Republican who represents the 49th District spanning Orange and San Diego counties. He has raised more than three times as much money in the first six months of 2017 — $1.2 million — as he did during the same period of the last election cycle, according to his most recent campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission. Candidates’ second quarter reports (April 1 to June 30) were due July 15.
Issa has also spent more than twice as much campaigning — nearly $740,000 — as he did during the same time period leading up to the 2016 general election.
Issa narrowly held on to his seat last November against Democratic challenger Doug Applegate, who is running again, along with two other Democratic challengers.
“It was such a close call last time that (Issa) really hasn’t stopped campaigning,” said Stephen Stambough, political science professor at California State University, Fullerton.
Meanwhile, Applegate and fellow Democratic challenger Mike Levin have raised $580,000 and $617,000, respectively.
At this point in the 2016 election cycle, Applegate hadn’t yet declared his candidacy. It wasn’t until after the June 2016 primary election, when he came within 5 percentage points of Issa, that money began to flow into his campaign.
“The Democrats didn’t pay attention to Applegate until it was almost too late,” Stambough said.
This time, the Democratic Party has its sights set on winning the 49th, along with the Southern California districts represented by Orange County Republicans Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, whose district also includes parts of LA and San Bernardino counties, along with Palmdale Republican Steve Knight.
Currently, 21 Democratic challengers have officially filed their intent to run against these five incumbents. Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker told The Orange County Register that he was pleased with the crowded field, saying it meant “divided loyalties” among Democrats and, presumably, divided fundraising and campaigning efforts.
Stambough from Cal State Fullerton said the amount of money those challengers can raise in their districts in these early days of campaigning will help the Democratic Party determine who to back. Strong candidates, he said, will not want for cash.
“Especially at this time when the Democrats are smelling blood in the water because of how unpopular [President] Trump is, no serious candidate is going to go without the money that’s needed to be able to mount a serious campaign.”