California’s congressional candidates have spent $91.7 million on their campaigns already. Here are the cheapest and most expensive races


California political races are notoriously expensive: Congressional candidates on the state ballot have spent $91.7 million overall so far during the 2016 campaign.

While there’s always a spending push in the final days, the amount most candidates are likely to spend on their campaigns has become pretty clear.

In 31 districts, candidates have spent less than $70,000 on their race. Six candidates, all challengers of well-known incumbents, haven’t even raised or spent the $5,000 needed to meet the reporting requirements.


Just 26 House candidates, mostly incumbents or those in closely watched races, have spent over $1 million.

These figures are all pulled from Federal Election Commission financial reports and reflect cumulative spending as of Oct. 19. In addition to the amounts spent by the campaigns, millions more have been spent by independent expenditure committees hoping to change voters’ minds.

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Most expensive competitive contest: $5.7 million

The intra-party rematch between Rep. Mike Honda and Fremont Democrat Ro Khanna is being closely watched, and had cost $5.7 million by Oct. 19, making it the most expensive competitive race in the state. (One noncompetitive race has actually spent more — stay tuned for why.)

Honda and Khanna, in a tight race due to changing demographics in Silicon Valley’s 17th District, have battled in pricey competing television ads for months. Khanna, who finished slightly ahead of the eight-term congressman in the primary, has spent about $1 million more than Honda. Still, Honda had $200,000 more on hand than Khanna going into the last weeks of the race.

At $4.9 million, the second most expensive contest in California is the unexpectedly tight race in the 49th District between Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate.

Issa, the richest member of Congress, has spent $3.9 million, significantly outspending Applegate’s $975,049.


Applegate has worked to tie Issa to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and has painted him as more interested in his national image than in local concerns, though he’s managed to do it without his campaign spending much itself. Issa has emphasized his willingness to work across the aisle, including praising President Obama in a mailer even though he has spent years attacking Obama.

Rep. Ami Bera shakes hands with his Republican challenger, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
Rep. Ami Bera shakes hands with his Republican challenger, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
(Jose Luis Villegas / Associated Press)

Another closely watched contest, the 7th District race between Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) and Republican Sheriff Scott Jones, is the third most expensive in the state at $4.48 million.

Bera’s campaign has outspent Jones’ by a 3-to-1 ratio in a race that could be Republicans’ best chance to pick up a seat in California. Since the summer primary, Bera and Jones have accused each other of ethical wrongdoing in television, radio and online ads.

The most expensive race for an open seat has cost more than $4 million already. The 24th District in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties has been flooded with ads. It’s the most competitive seat between a Democrat and Republican that doesn’t involve an incumbent. Democrat Salud Carbajal had outspent Republican Justin Fareed by $678,964 as of Oct. 19.

Least expensive: $374,472

The least expensive races in the state come from a pair of first-term House members.

The 35th District race between Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and San Dimas Republican Tyler Fischella is the cheapest congressional race in California, with combined spending of $374,472 so far.


Torres has done the bulk of the spending, including nearly $80,000 in contributions to the state and national Democratic Party and other candidates. Fischella has spent $2,574.

Though Torres is a first-term incumbent, which is the type of incumbent often considered the most vulnerable, the demographics of the Inland Empire district indicate the seat will likely stay in Democratic hands.

The 11th District race between Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Clayton Republican Roger Petersen comes in a close second for the least spending.

DeSaulnier has spent the majority of the $408,670 total cost of the Contra Costa County contest, with at least a fourth of his spending going to the party or other candidates. Petersen reported spending just $6,979.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(J. Scott Applewhite / AP )

Spending the most for others: At least $3.5 million

A few of the top spenders this campaign aren’t in tough races and are members of House leadership, so they are raising and spending money for their colleagues.


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) has spent the most of any single California member this election, with $7.5 million coming out of his campaign coffers, technically making his campaign the most expensive.

But at least $3.5 million of his campaign money has gone directly to other candidates or outside groups. Some of the other nearly $4 million he’s spent has gone toward traveling the country, and the state, working to shore up Republicans’ majority mostly through fundraisers.

McCarthy’s opponent, Democrat Wendy Reed, has spent just $28,016 to oppose him.

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Read more about the 55 members of California’s delegation at



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