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Democratic lawyer announcing challenge to GOP Rep. Steve Knight

There is another Democratic challenger going after freshman Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster), who represents a potential swing district stretching from Simi Valley to Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County.

First-time candidate and attorney Bryan Caforio, who lives in Valencia, will announce his candidacy Thursday, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

The 32-year-old UCLA and Yale Law graduate clerked for Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and works as a trial lawyer at Susman Godfrey LLP in Los Angeles. He said he moved recently from Los Angeles into the district.

Caforio said in an interview that he will campaign on improving the economy for the middle class and protecting Social Security, common themes for Democratic candidates. He specifically criticized Knight for writing a letter asking the Department of Labor to reconsider an overtime pay rule, and said Knight is going "the wrong way" and has "all the wrong priorities" on the issues.

Knight is among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the House — national Democrats have labeled him a top potential takeover while the National Republican Congressional Committee has identified him as one of the members in need of extra campaign assistance to preserve the GOP majority.

Voter registration in the 25th District, which stretches from Simi Valley past Santa Clarita and into the Antelope Valley at the edge of the Mojave Desert, is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, while 20% of voters list no party preference.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by two points in 2012.

Knight's fundraising has fluctuated throughout the year, fueling Democratic hopes for opportunity.

He raised about $28,150 during the first quarter of the year but picked up the pace when Republican allies, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, provided a surge of donations to the campaign, according to campaign finance records. Last quarter he reported raising just over $77,000 and had $359,804 in cash on hand at the end of September.

Caforio's nascent campaign has raised $50,000, according to a press release that will be issued Thursday morning. Democratic media firm Kully Hall Struble is working with the campaign.

Other Democrats who have declared their candidacy have struggled to raise funds. Lou Vince, a police lieutenant and member of the Agua Dulce Town Council, and Maria Gutzeit, a Santa Clarita Water Board member and a chemical engineer, both reported having less than $10,000 in cash on hand at the end of last quarter.

Any Democrat vying for this seat, especially a first-time candidate, will need money to introduce himself to voters and compete against Knight, who is well-known in the district.

"He starts with an enormous amount of name ID. He is comfortably ahead of a lot his opponents," Knight's political consultant, Matt Rexroad, said in an interview this fall.

Before coming to Congress, Knight served on the Palmdale City Council and represented the north Los Angeles County area in both the state Assembly and Senate. Knight's father, the late William J. "Pete" Knight, was a former Air Force test pilot and Republican state senator in the Antelope Valley. The congressional candidate's campaign site features a photo of the younger Knight standing in front of a mural of his father.

“I have a history of taking on the toughest fights,” Caforio said, referring to his career in commercial litigation, including suing Swiss Bank UBS on behalf of an investor.  

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already is lending a hand: Its first radio ads in California will go live Thursday, attacking Knight for votes this week against a procedural move by Democrats to force a vote on gun control legislation.

The committee already paid for online attack ads earlier this year, featuring footage from an April confrontation between Knight and an immigration protester in Simi Valley. The congressman told the protester not to touch him, or else he would "Drop your ass."

Follow @jpanzar

Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics.

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