As Congress adjourned on Wednesday for the summer, Republican Rep. David Dreier pushed fellow legislators to keep working on strategies to lower gasoline prices.

Record-high oil prices in past weeks and a free-falling economy have complicated spending for many people living under the crunch of a financial system that some economists say is already in a recession.

This week, the Automobile Assn. of America officials said gas prices dropped to $4.30 for regular unleaded. That figure is down more than 30 cents from record-high prices in June. But Dreier, whose district includes La Crescenta and Montrose, said the “Democrats have sat on their hands and done nothing.

“Now, they want to get out of town and abandon their work altogether.”

Dreier favors drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other domestic energy explorations, such as offshore drilling. Democrats, who have long opposed drilling in Alaska, say that irreparable harm would be done to wildlife in the remote region.

Campaign fundraising getting more hectic

With three months to go until the Nov. 4 election, fundraising for local state Assembly candidates is heating up.

Republican and Democratic candidates for the state Assembly 44th District, which includes La Crescenta and Montrose, have so far raised more than $313,000, with almost all of the money going to Democratic incumbent Anthony Portantino.

Candidates were required to file the amount of funds they received by Thursday with state officials. The filing was to include where the money came from and expenditures from Jan. 1 to Wednesday.

Portantino has so far raked in $309,733 and spent $261,828 this calendar year. He still has nearly $460,000 in his campaign coffers as he seeks reelection against Republican challenger Brian M. Fuller.

“[The amount] continues to show my district supports me and that I work to hard to represent them,” Portantino said.

He said he feels good about the fundraising effort and overall campaign.

Portantino was elected to the Assembly in 2006 after serving for 7 1/2 years on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and two terms as mayor.

He has served as president of the League of California Cities Mayor’s and Councilmember’s Department as well as on the Executive Board of the California Contract Cities Assn. He is also a past member of the Pasadena City College Bond Oversight Committee.

Portantino’s campaign does not plan to conduct internal polling in a district that voted him in with more than 58% of the vote in 2006 against Republican Scott Carwile.

Portantino acquired 47 donations for the calendar year, most of which were from business entities and small contributor committees throughout the country.

Donations also streamed in from unions, such as the California State Council of Service Employees, which contributed $7,200, and the California Machinists Non-Partisan Political League, which gave $500.

Portantino’s campaign has also benefited from more than $14,000 in various pharmaceutical and medical donations and $7,100 from Indian groups, including $2,000 from the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians who run the Cache Creek Indian Resort in Northern California.

Campaign filings also indicate Portantino received nearly $10,000 from food and liquor companies as well as $1,000 from Chevron Corp.

Unlike the Assembly run in 2006 — when he declined to abide by voluntary contribution limits — Portantino has accepted a ceiling on campaign fundraising, which states candidates cannot receive more than $3,600 from an individual contributor and $7,200 from committees.

“It was a different dynamic,” he said of the 2006 campaign. “My opponent was anticipated to spend beyond what the limit was. [Now,] why do it when it’s not necessary.”

Fuller also accepted the voluntary contribution limit amount, but his lack of funds might make the issue moot.

Based on his filings, Fuller has so far raised about $3,787 and spent more than $3,012 on his campaign.

His two biggest donations are from the state GOP, which contributed $1,162, and $500 from the La Cañada Flintridge Republican Committee. He also received individual donations and loaned himself more than $1,000.

Countering the vast sums Portantino has raised will be a tall order for Fuller, who runs his Internet technology firm in La Cañada.

“Frankly, to counter a cash machine you have to do guerrilla marketing,” Fuller said. “You have to maximize resources, get out the vote when it comes to meeting people. It’s all grassroots. Unfortunately, when you go up against an incumbent, the stats aren’t friendly to challengers. It’s really a Hail Mary, but nevertheless it’s really a civic duty.” After spending more than $3,000 on lawn signs and other office supplies this year, Fuller’s campaign is left with $775 in campaign funds.

He plans to take part in an Aug. 21 fundraiser to cull more money, and might join other Republican challengers, such as Jane Barnett — who is opposing Assemblyman Paul Krekorian in the 43rd District — in upcoming meetings.

Still, Fuller reflected a fatalistic sentiment about his chances to take a seat in a solidly Democratic district. “I’m an IT consultant guy. I’m just doing my civic duty,” he said. “Frankly, I would be pleasantly surprised and would be honored [if I won]. But I’m a realist. As much as I would love to represent the 44th District, the circumstances are formidable. I’ll make the most of it and get the word out.”

Republicans planning their summer fundraiser

The local Buck & Ballot Brigade, a group that helps elect Republicans to state and federal seats, announced this week they will be holding its annual summer fundraiser on Aug. 9. The event, to be held at a private residence in La Cañada, will feature state Assembly Republican Caucus Chair Bob Huff as its main speaker.

Tickets range from $30 to $125 for the fundraiser, which is slated from 5 to 8 p.m.

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