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California

Congressional campaign fund filings show incumbents ahead of challengers

Andy Vidak, Jerry Hill, Steve Knight
Rep. Steve Knight (shown at right in 2014, when he was in the state Legislature, with State Sens. Andy Vidak, left, and Jerry Hill) has raised $432,640 as of June 30, much more than his three Democratic challengers.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The elections are more than a year away, but already, front-runners are emerging in some key California congressional contests, and most endangered incumbents are well ahead of their challengers in fundraising, campaign filings show.

Early fundraising can be a barometer of a candidate’s strength or vulnerability, and money raised soon after the start of a campaign — though it might not be spent for many months — can attract more donors and discourage competitors.

GOP allies of Rep. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) have stepped up to fill his coffers, which had been nearly empty, as other vulnerable House members also raked in significant contributions.

Knight’s lackluster fundraising during the first part of the year — he collected less than $41,000 between the November 2014 election and March 31 — added to the perception that his quickly changing north Los Angeles County district could be won by a Democrat.

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But he had a total of $432,640, more than half of it from Republican allies such as Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, the House majority leader, by June 30, according to the filings with the federal government. That total far exceeds what any of his three Democratic challengers have raised.

“Republicans in Washington have clearly taken pity on one-term wonder Steve Knight,” said Barbara Solish of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Knight said in a statement that his fundraising shows “my commitment to remaining California’s 25th District’s Representative is strong. I am humbled by the amount of support I received and look forward to building on this momentum.”

In three potentially crowded races to succeed incumbents who are not seeking reelection, strong fund-raisers are potential front-runners.

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Of the five would-be successors to retiring Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), county Supervisor Salud Carbajal posted the strongest total: $629,355. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider reported raising $225,304. Both are Democrats, and Carbajal has Capps’ endorsement.

Republican Justin Fareed raised $220,405.

Of the four rivals for the seat occupied by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), who is running for U.S. Senate, former state Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat, raised the most, $103,680. His closest competitor, community activist Heberto M. Sanchez, also a Democrat, posted $1,750.

Republican Lynn Schott reported $900, and Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman, a Democrat, entered the race after the reporting period ended.

Contributions in the race to succeed Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) point to growing prospects for a competitive contest between two Democrats: state Sen. Isadore Hall of Compton and Nanette Barragan, an attorney who is leaving the Hermosa Beach City Council to move to Hahn’s district, where she grew up.

Hall, who jumped in as soon as Hahn announced she would run for county supervisor rather than seek another House term and who has Hahn’s endorsement, has collected $368,607. He can use money he had raised while considering a 2012 congressional bid, giving him a total of $422,718.

Barragan got a later start but has garnered $164,820 for the contest in a district that stretches from Lynwood and South Gate into the harbor area. It is strongly Democratic and nearly 70% Latino.

Two other Democrats and one Republican also are running, but none reported raising significant money.

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Meanwhile, most of the dozen incumbents vulnerable to an election challenge were substantially outraising their opponents. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands), for example, collected more than his Republican challenger, military veteran Paul Chabot, $820,829 to $105,340.

Even some with no announced challengers yet posted strong numbers, including Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village). She has brought in $770,916 this year.

A notable exception was in the Bay Area race shaping up to be a costly replay of 2014’s high-dollar contest between two Democrats, Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose and former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont.

Khanna raised more than $1.25 million, while Honda collected $638,876.

The filings with the Federal Election Commission can be viewed on the commission’s website, www.fec.gov.

jean.merl@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeanmerl


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