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Bill Clinton leads rallies for House candidates in tight races

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Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Democratic congressional candidates at a rally on Oct. 29, 2014 at Oxnard College. From left are Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, Rep. Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Clinton and Rep. Julia Brownley of Westlake Village.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Democrats on Wednesday in some of California’s most hotly contested House races.

At a morning rally at Oxnard College, Clinton told a gymnasium full of party faithful and students that they must vote in the Nov. 4 midterm elections or risk their very futures with a Republican-run Congress.

“I’m pleading with you,” Clinton said during a nearly half-hour speech in which he argued that economic, women’s-rights and other recent gains could be wiped out by an apathetic electorate.

“It’s your life and your future and you have to go vote,” an animated Clinton exhorted the crowd, which whooped and hollered in response.

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Clinton praised first-term Reps. Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, as well as Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who is in a heated race to succeed retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

All three joined Clinton on the stage with 10 American flags as a backdrop in front of a deep-blue curtain.

College student Kevin Espiritu, 21, said the rally provided his first opportunity to see a U.S. president in the flesh.

“I’m pretty stoked,” he said during an intermission in the rally before Clinton spoke. “This is big for me,” he said, adding he is planning to vote Tuesday.

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After the Oxnard rally, Clinton headed to UC Davis to attend another get-out-the-vote program. That one featured first-term Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, believed to be in one of the closest House contests in the country, and Rep. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove.

Garamendi headed Clinton’s 1992 presidential election campaign in California and served as his deputy Interior secretary.

Clinton, increasingly popular in the years since he left the White House, has been crisscrossing the country in recent days, trying to inspire Democrats to cast ballots in the midterm elections.

He headlined get-out-the-vote rallies Wisconsin, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and Colorado before coming to California. Democrats are expected to win most, if not all, statewide races here and party leaders are worried their voters won’t find much reason to participate in the election.

Democrats have tried to counteract the typical drop-off of their voters in years without a presidential election by setting up early, methodical field operations aimed at boosting turnout.

The party’s tracking of returned vote-by-mail ballots indicate the strategy may be paying off. In Brownley’s district, ballots sent in by Democrats as of Wednesday outnumbered those by Republicans by more than 1,000 votes, a reversal of the pattern exhibited in 2012 and 2010.

Follow @jeanmerl for the latest in Southern California politics news.


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