California Dems are winning money race in contests that could cut Trump’s power

Jim Brulte, chairman of the state Republican Party, could only shake his head at the campaign finance numbers released this week for California congressional races that could decide whether Democrats take back control of the House on Nov. 6.

“Our candidates have raised a historic amount of money,” he said at an Orange County campaign event Thursday. “It’s surpassed only by the historic amount of money the Democratic candidates have raised.”

Those numbers are startling, with a passel of first-time Democratic candidates raising, in some cases, millions more than the veteran members of Congress they are challenging.

In Orange County’s 45th Congressional District, for example, Katie Porter, a UC Irvine law professor who has never before run for office, took in $2.9 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. Her opponent, two-term GOP Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine, collected $960,679.

The 48th Congressional District is held by GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa (Orange County), who was first elected in 1988. He took in $421,422 over the past three months. His Democratic challenger, businessman Harley Rouda, reported $3.1 million in contributions.

Then there’s the 25th Congressional District in the sprawling exurbs of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Democrat Katie Hill, a former nonprofit executive, out-raised GOP Rep. Steve Knight of Lancaster (Los Angeles County), $3.8 million to $421,422.

And that’s just the money that’s flowing directly into the candidates’ campaigns. Independent expenditure groups and committees from both parties have been plowing millions of dollars into the targeted campaigns in local struggles with huge national implications.

For both Democrats and Republicans, the magic number is 23. If Democrats can make a net gain of that many seats across the country, they’ve got the House and the power to make President Trump’s life miserable for the next two years. If the GOP can stop them short of that number, the president keeps his hold on all the levers of political power.

And with Democrats targeting seven seats in California, the money is flowing in districts that have never seen anything like the cash or the competition.

Consider the Central Valley seat held by GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of Trump’s most loyal defenders in Congress. The 22nd Congressional District is typically one of California’s safest Republican seats — it includes the wealthier areas of Fresno and its suburbs, along with plenty of farm country, and registered GOP voters outnumber Democrats by 9 percentage points.

And yet, Democrat Andrew Janz, a Fresno County prosecutor, took in $4.4 million in the past quarter for a race where he’s seen as a long shot. Nunes wasn’t too far behind, however — he collected $3.1 million and has $5 million cash on hand for the sprint to election day.

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