Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) on Thursday said his vast field organization made the difference in his razor-thin reelection victory against a vigorous Republican challenge.
"We won because our of grass-roots operation," Bera said in a telephone interview the day after former congressman Doug Ose conceded the election.
The first-term congressman was behind in the election night tally but began closing the gap as the final ballots were counted over the two weeks since the Nov. 4 election.
The final tally, released Wednesday, gave Bera a 1,432-vote margin in what turned out to be the most expensive House contest in the nation.
Spending topped $20 million, including some $7 million by the candidates' campaign committees, plus almost $13.5 million from the two political parties and other groups who paid for television ads, mailers and other operations independently of the candidates' campaigns.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for example, spent $4.6 million on TV ads for Bera and paid for 17 campaign field staff members and two field offices in the Sacramento-area district.
Bera cited several issues he said showed a "clear contrast" between him and Ose, an experienced lawmaker who was widely considered the most moderate of the three Republicans on the June primary ballot.
Bera listed middle-class interests, climate change, jobs and affordable college education as key issues, adding he believed "people recognized that I worked on trying to be as bipartisan as possible, reaching across the aisle...whenever I could."
But he said credit for the victory lies in large part with his more than 1,000 volunteers -- whom he said "made almost a million phone calls and probably knocked on almost 500,000 doors."
"This was the most expensive race," Bera said, "but when you have neighbors talking to neighbors," it can make the difference between victory and defeat.