Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Republicans spend up to $9 million on Calif. Congressional races; Democrats do same

A screen capture of a Democratic Committee television advertisement against Republican U.S. representative Mary Bono Mack. Both political parties have allotted $9 million to California races, including advertisements like this one.
Seeing an opportunity to preserve current Congressional seats or gain new ones in the wake of redistricting in California, the National Republican Congressional Committee has set aside up to $9 million for races in the state, and the committee's Democratic counterpart has allocated a similar amount. Here's where some of that money is being spent — and why.
The top priority for both parties is protecting vulnerable incumbents. The NRCC is spending money on TV ads in Sacramento to support Dan Lungren, in Fresno for Jeff Denham, and in San Diego to help Brian Bilbray hold onto his seat. 

Daniel Scarpinato with the Republican committee says three factors affect spending decisions: the quality of the candidate, poll numbers, and where Democrats are spending their money. He says the GOP is paying more attention to what is the other side is doing, "and how’s it going to affect our decisions."

Jesse Ferguson with the Democratic committee says redistricting has presented his party with an embarrassment of riches: "The map has changed and we have a tremendous number of opportunities across the state." It allows them to go on the offensive, targeting those same three Republican Congressmen the GOP wants to protect — Lungren, Denham, and Bilbray — plus try to unseat Mary Bono Mack in Palm Springs. (Story continues below video window.)

But Republicans have also stepped up their offensive game, targeting three Democratic incumbents: freshman Congressman John Garamendi near Sacramento, Jerry McNerney in the Central Valley and Lois Capps in Santa Barbara. 

Democrats are not spending party money to defend incumbents in those races — at least not yet. 

The Democratic committee is putting money into a Long Beach race for an open seat, backing Alan Lowenthal, who nosed out GOP challenger Gary Delong in the June primary by just three percentage points.

In two other open seats, dollars are pouring in from both sides. In Ventura County, the Republicans are sending money to Tony Strickland; Democrats to Julia Brownley. In the Inland Empire, the GOP is supporting John Tavaglione; the Democrats are backing Mark Takano. 

In addition to TV ads, Scarpinato says Republicans have found another effective way to get the video message out: advertise on the website Hulu: "You might reach more people on Hulu now than you might with a cable television buy."

Democrats are reserving TV time in Sacramento, as well as Palm Springs and even Los Angeles. But Ferguson says the party is putting a chunk of change on its ground game, getting voters to the polls. He stresses that it's a Democratic priority, "particularly in California because it’s not a state that President Obama has to spend a lot of his time and money to turn out the vote."

Of course, the combined $17 million — so far — from the Republican and Democratic committees isn’t the only money being spent on California races. Millions more are pouring in from political action committees. The flood of cash guarantees one thing: lots of TV ads for Congressional candidates dominating the screen for the final four weeks of the campaign.


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LA's Becerra in Kentucky for VP debate

L.A. Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra will be on hand as an official party surrogate at Thursday's VP debate.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are in Danville, Kentucky for this year’s only Vice Presidential debate. A Southern California Congressman is also on hand to offer his party’s take on the performance.

For reporters covering a debate, the action begins after the two candidates have shaken hands and God blessed America. A room adjacent to the debate hall is filled with prominent Democrats and Republicans waiting to give their take on the night’s events.

Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles is one of those folks in Kentucky. He says obviously the candidates can’t be out there to respond to everyone, so they ask people like him to be on site and play Spin the Press.

Becerra says surrogates get a summary of some of the issues that are likely to come up in the debate and statements the candidate has made in the past. But he says he doesn’t need a list of talking points: "I’ve been around just long enough that I know most of these issues well enough that I usually can express myself with my own words without having to rely on someone else trying to feed me them."

Becerra says he expects to spend quite a bit of time speaking with Spanish-language media covering the debate. 


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Proposition wars: Molly Munger goes on the attack against Gov. Brown's measure

Civil rights attorney Molly Munger is the author and main financial backer of Proposition 38. She is also financing an ad campaign attacking Gov. Brown's competing measure, Proposition 30.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Propositions 30 and 38 — the competing measures on the November ballot that promise to fund California schools — had been running polite campaigns, with neither side attacking the other. But the Prop 38 campaign has broken that tenuous peace with a TV ad that aims to cripple its counterpart.

Teachers unions are backing Prop 30 — Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to temporarily raise the sales tax and income taxes on high earners to prevent billions in education cuts next year. The PTA endorses Prop 38 — a sliding-scale income tax hike that would funnel money into a fund for public schools and early childhood programs.

Many supporters in each camp have been planning to vote for both because if either proposition passes, that’s better for schools than if both fail. But Prop 38 author Molly Munger forced people to choose sides this week when she launched an ad condemning the Governor’s tax plan.


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Just 75 people participated in OC early voting Tuesday

Workers sorts mailed in ballots at the County of Orange Registrar of Voters in Santa Ana, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.
AP Photo/Chris Carlson

While groups like Why Tuesday fight hard to advocate alternative ways for voters to cast their ballots, some areas like Orange County have instituted early voting. Unfortunately only few voters showed up yesterday Orange County Registrar of Voters’ office to take advantage of the convenience. All Orange County registered voters can vote early.

"Voters came to our office in Santa Ana and we assisted 75 at our front counter," the OC Registrar of Voters’ posted on their website. "The majority of these voters requested a ballot to vote immediately because they will be traveling and out of town on Election Day."

Starting October 22, early voting expands to several locations around Orange County:

200 S. Anaheim Boulevard, #217 
Anaheim, CA 92805
Located at the City Clerk counter on second level. Park on level 2B of the City Hall East parking structure and cross at the pedestrian bridge. 


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Live from Philippe's: What's your issue this election season?

KPCC's Franks Stoltze interviews Michael Lewis at Philippe: The Original in downtown L.A.
Anibal Ortiz

Update 12:15 pm: Lunch rush

The lunch crowd is here in force, shuffling the sawdust around Philippe's floor and upping the chatter quotient. We're wrapping up for the day, but check our That's My Issue section for updates on our next stop. We've been looking at a few cafes and meeting spots around South Los Angeles who'd be willing to host us next time. Any suggestions? 

Update 12:00 pm: Gay Marriage

Michael Lewis, a former supporter of President Barack Obama, says he'll be sitting this election out. Lewis says he feels the President's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act caused him to reconsider his vote.

"My position is in alignment with the Bible," he says. "The Bible says that God wants a marriage between a man and a woman, so I withdrew my vote."

Lewis says he has a number of gay and lesbian friends, but says his beliefs have nothing to do with his feelings about individuals. "Nobody should judge anybody," Lewis says.


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