GOP incumbents losing fundraising fight with Dems in key California races

In a sign of Democrats’ enthusiasm over the chance to take back the House of Representatives, Democratic congressional candidates outraised Republicans in nearly all of California’s most competitive House races over the last fundraising period.

In some cases, Democrats raised three or four times more than their GOP opponents, new reports released Sunday show. And with four months of campaigning to go until election day, the trend is showing up in targeted districts from the farm fields of the Central Valley to the suburbs of Orange County.

“Anytime you outraise an incumbent, that is noteworthy and it also draws further money — it’s like a magnet,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University politics professor. “These numbers give Democrats a wind at their back and send a cold wind down the spine of Republicans.”

The news isn’t all dire for Republicans: Almost all GOP incumbents have more cash in the bank than their Democratic challengers, which will help them during the tough and expensive fight ahead. But the narrowing of the fundraising gaps suggests voters will see an onslaught of campaigning in the weeks leading up to Nov. 6.

For the period from May 17 through June 30, Democrats raised more than Republicans in all seven of the key GOP-held districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. In Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s Orange County district, Democratic businessman Harley Rouda took in just over $994,000, compared with $192,000 for the Republican incumbent, and ended the quarter with slightly more in his campaign coffers

An hour and a half north in Rep. Steve Knight’s Santa Clarita-area district, Democratic nonprofit executive Katie Hill raised $1.05 million, more than three times the $319,000 that Knight took in — although Knight still has a nearly $500,000 larger war chest.

Even in the heavily conservative first congressional district in the state’s far north, which is considered likely to stay red, Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, raised $40,000 less than Democrat Audrey Denney.

“California Democrats are seizing on the unprecedented grassroots support we’re seeing across the state to run competitive, well-funded campaigns,” said Drew Godinich, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “While Republican career politicians voted to rip away health care from hardworking families and raise taxes on Californians to fund tax cuts for corporations that ship American jobs overseas, Democrats are busy working to flip these seats.”

The party needs to flip at least 23 seats nationwide to take back the majority in the House of Representatives, and many strategists believe the roster of competitive Golden State races could make or break that dream.

The only Republican in any of the state’s dozen most competitive seats who raked in more money than the Democratic opponent was Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, who took in over $2.5 million, compared with Democrat Andrew Janz’s $1 million. Nunes has become a lightning rod for activists in both parties over his role in the House investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Republican operatives insist that the strong cash-on-hand showings for most of their incumbents show they’re ready to hold their own between now and November.

“The more money that flows from Nancy Pelosi and wealthy Bay Area liberals to these Democratic candidates, the more we understand where their true loyalties lie,” said Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “A vote for these far-left Democrats is a vote to repeal our tax cuts, abolish border enforcement and allow the government to take over our healthcare – facts no amount of money can change.”

But Democrats have more in the bank in the race against Rohrabacher as well as the two open-seat races to replace retiring GOP Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa, while GOP incumbents have more socked away in all of the other districts.


Some of the Democratic fundraising prowess was helped by wealthy self-funding candidates. Gil Cisneros, a lottery winner running in retiring Royce’s Southern California district, raised $1.44 million — $1 million of which was a personal loan from himself. He’s loaned his campaign a total of $4.5 million over the course of the race and has more than double the cash on hand of his Republican opponent, former State Assembly member Young Kim.

Rouda also gave himself a $300,000 loan and has given more than $1.6 million to his campaign in total.

A notable chunk of the Democrats’ haul also came from anti-Trump activists who had raised funds. Swing Left, one of a number of grassroots groups organizing to flip Congress, had raised funds during the primary campaign for the eventual Democratic nominee in several districts and delivered that pot of money after the primary.

Democrats also had seen strong fundraising numbers during the primary campaigns in several key districts — but not at this scale. And this week’s results will ease worries among some in the party that acrimonious primary races would sap their candidates’ coffers and undermine donations.


The list below shows California congressional fundraising, May 17 through June 30, followed by the total cash on hand for each campaign in GOP-held districts.

Districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016:

Jeff Denham (R) — raised $530,380 | Cash on hand $2,394,294
Josh Harder (D) — raised $1,069,533 | COH $1,058,890

David Valadao (R) — raised $354,399 | COH $1,625,258
TJ Cox (D) — raised $565,158 | COH $951,287

Steve Knight (R) — raised $319,099 | COH $1,301,165
Katie Hill (D) — raised $1,047,855 | COH $852,842

Young Kim (R) — raised $367,586 | COH $304,827
Gil Cisneros (D) — raised $1,440,725 | COH $760,427

Mimi Walters (R) — raised $386,378 | COH $1,524,411
Katie Porter (D) — raised $926,037 | COH $780,831

Dana Rohrabacher (R) — raised $192,101 | COH $479,366
Harley Rouda (D) — raised $994,294 | COH $482,623

Diane Harkey (R) — raised $227,778 | COH $170,482
Mike Levin (D) — raised $881,431 | COH $849,543

Other potentially competitive districts:

Doug LaMalfa (R) — raised $133,400 | COH $414,172
Audrey Denney (D) — raised $173,352 | COH $139,965

Tom McClintock (R) —raised $111,772 | COH $670,975
Jessica Morse (D) — raised $392,421 | COH $535,954

Devin Nunes (R) — raised $2,549,648 | COH $6,108,635
Andrew Janz (D) — raised $1,012,712 | COH $1,124,156

Duncan Hunter (R) — raised $91,010 | COH $352,477
Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) — raised $262,711 | COH $279,793

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