If there were a club for candidates who raise more than $1 million, an increasing number of California congressional hopefuls would be joining.
Top candidates in some of the state’s hottest House races have been collecting contributions at a breakneck pace, according to campaign reports filed with the government this week.
Incumbents whose contributions for the June 3 primary have exceeded $1 million include Reps. Scott Peters (D-San Diego), who raised more than $1.9 million; Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) with nearly $2.2 million; Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), $2.3 million; Mike Honda (D-San Jose), $2 million; David Valadao (R-Hanford), nearly $1.5 million; Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), $1.6 million; and Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), nearly $1.5 million.
Peters, Ruiz, Bera, Valadao and Brownley, all in seats that could change party hands in the fall, are girding for challenges that are likely to get even more expensive as the election year wears on.
Some have identified Peters’ seat the most likely of any in the state to flip. Two of his Republican challengers also collected more than $1 million: former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, who raised almost $1.7 million, and another Republican, Fred Simon, who lent his campaign some $1.4 million.
Bera has drawn three Republican opponents, none of whom has yet come close to raising what he has collected.
Former Rep. Doug Ose reported raising about $973,000 since getting into the race last year. Of two GOP opponents, only Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert has shown any fundraising strength. He collected a total of $684,000. Former state legislator Ray Haynes reported only $3,150.
Swalwell and Honda are facing challenges from fellow Democrats. Reports showed Swalwell was well ahead of state Sen. Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, who has raised slightly more than $385,000.
But Honda’s chief opponent, former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, raised $3.8 million and reported more than $1 million of that still on hand.
Three races with open seats also have produced some million-dollar-plus candidates.
Among the huge field trying to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), three of the five or six hopefuls generally considered top-tier candidates reported seven-figure fundraising.
One is spiritual teacher and bestselling author Marianne Williamson, an independent who has raised more than $1.2 million, on top of the nearly $393,000 she lent her campaign.
Former Los Angeles controller and councilwoman Wendy Greuel, a Democrat, has brought in just over $1 million.
Others who have attracted significant amounts are defense attorney David Kanuth, who raised $905,107; Ted Lieu, a state senator from Torrance, who collected $844,711; and radio host Matt Miller with $758,497; all are Democrats.
Republican Elan Carr, a gang prosecutor, raised $386,446, which could be enough to get him one of the two places in the general election if the 10 Democrats on the ballot splinter the vote, some observers say.
Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP strategist whose nonpartisan California Target Book analyzes races, said he was “surprised that so many candidates have been able to raise so much money,” despite the fact that Waxman’s 33rd Congressional District is the second-wealthiest in the nation, after a New York jurisdiction.
“It’s truly a smorgasbord” of candidates who differ greatly from one another, Hoffenblum said, adding, “It’s a district with plenty of money and these candidates all have a different place to go to get it.... It’s anybody’s guess who will end up in the top two.”
Under the state’s relatively new primary system, all the candidates appear on a single ballot and only the first- and second-place finishers advance to the general election, regardless of any party affiliation.
Two other open seats in Southern California also are drawing significant amounts of money.
In the race to succeed retiring Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), former GOP state legislator Tony Strickland has received just over $1 million, far outpacing other Republicans in the race. One of the Democrats, podiatrist Lee Rogers, who challenged McKeon two years ago, reported raising almost $570,000.
In the Inland Empire, a seven-way race shaped up after Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) announced that he would retire this year. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a Democrat, led the pack in fundraising with more than $1 million.
He was followed by Colton attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, also a Democrat, who reported receiving almost $793,000. That’s in addition to the $100,000 she lent her campaign earlier.
Former Democratic Rep. Joe Baca of Rialto reported raising just under $171,000. But a secretive independent group that has not filed a required report with the FEC has been spending unknown amounts on mailers, automatic phone calls and billboards on his behalf.
None of the three Republicans or the fourth Democrat in the race has raised as much as Aguilar and Reyes.
Hoffenblum said the unusually high number of open congressional seats in California in 2012 and this year has “energized candidates and energized contributors.”
“People are fed up,” Hoffenblum said, noting that polls show Congress’ low standing with voters, “and they are willing to pony up to help make a change.”
The campaign reports were due at midnight Thursday, reporting contribution and spending details through May 14.