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Redrawn Districts in California Trigger Surge in Campaign Spending

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(Washington, D.C.)
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
California congressional seats have historically been painted with a partisan brush - only one seat flipped parties in the past decade. That all changed when voters decided to let an independent commission redraw the state's election map. The result is turning once safe districts into brutal battlegrounds. The new congressional map is attracting a lot of outside money. A Super PAC called House Majority PAC has announced it intends to spend eight million dollars to help Democrats win House seats in California. Some of the money will be spent to help Fairfield Democrat John Garamendi.
GARAMENDI: "There is a campaign finance war under way. No one is going to unilaterally disarm."
Garamendi currently represents the compact Tenth District, which includes Fairfield and Antioch. Now he's fighting to represent the new Third District, which stretches from Fairfield to Yuba City and even includes Clear Lake. Garamendi has been a vocal critic of the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, which allows corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to those independent Super PACS. Still, Garamendi says he won't refuse the help as he tries to retain a seat in Congress.
GARAMENDI: "We're all caught up in this war and it appears to be total annihilation is the end product of it, and the annihilation of a democracy. It's got to end."
While that outside spending will help Democrats like Garamendi it's going to make Republicans like Dan Lungren sweat. The four term lawmaker currently represents the Third District which included half of Elk Grove and the rural areas stretching to the Nevada border. Now the Gold River conservative is vying for the new Seventh District and trying to convince all of the more Democratic friendly Elk Grove to support him, instead of the large rural area he once represented. Even with the new map Lungren says he's not willing to rely on an outside Super PAC to carry his message.
LUNGREN: "I'd like to control my campaign and stress the issues. I would hope that my opponent would want to do the same thing. So when it really comes down to it, it will be between myself and my opponent."
This cycle Lungren is rematched against Democrat Ami Bera. Lungen was the winner in 20-10 and the G-O-P is claiming momentum after Lungren outpolled Bera by thirteen points in the primary. Now that the general election campaign is underway hundreds of thousands of dollars will start flowing to Bera, and that could tilt the race to the Elk Grove Democrat. Lungren says he'll be monitoring that spending closely.
LUNGREN: "Well if they tell the truth and are factual I don't have any problem with it. I'll do just fine. But I suspect that may not be what they're going to do."
Some analysts say as many as twelve congressional seats are in play throughout California. Democrats believe they have better chances in the Golden State than across the nation. Dave Wasserman analyzes U-S House races for the Cook Political Report. He says Democrats may be getting a little ahead of themselves thinking they can make drastic gains in California.
WASSERMAN: "We don't see that. We see a Democratic gain perhaps of about two to four seats out of California, which would still put them at double what Republicans have in the state. That's largely because the new map provides Democrats with some more targets and opportunities than Republicans."
While much can change between now and Election Day, Wasserman says California is showing some early trends that could hold.
WASSERMAN: "The divide in California that we see right now is not one between north and south politically, it's coastal verse inland. And Republicans are likely to do better in the Central Valley where they do have some opportunities to win congressional races than on the coast where Democrats have a number of opportunities to pick up seats."
Democrats need to add twenty five seats nationwide to regain control of the U-S House. California is key to their strategy, so they're dumping millions of dollars into the state. It's unclear whether the G-O-P will match that spending or focus its resources in traditional red states. Either way, voters in the Sacramento region are expected to play a pivotal role in deciding which party holds the gavels in the House.
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