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As many as a dozen of CA's Congressional seats are considered competitive and both parties appear willing to spend big money to win them.
All 53 of California’s Congressional seats are up for election on Tuesday and several factors could lead to the biggest shakeup in the state delegation in years.
Even before voters got their sample ballots, Californians knew they’d be sending several new faces to Capitol Hill. A citizens commission had drawn new district lines; some safe seats had disappeared. Seven members had announced their retirements, while those who are fighting to stay on are introducing themselves to voters in new neighborhoods.
That has Democrats and Republicans salivating.
Andy Stone with the Democratic House Majority PAC says there are "more competitive House races in California than there ever have been, certainly in recent memory."
Tom Del Baccaro, head of California's Republican Party agrees.
"Two years ago," he says, "there was only two seats in play. Now there’s 12."
Both parties see this year as an opportunity to change the national landscape. Andy Stone predicts Democrats could pick up seven seats in California, "which is over a quarter, almost a third of the way to the seats that we would need to take back the House of Representatives."
Scott Rasmussen is confident that the GOP will retain control of the House. But he says the Republican Party in California is in "serious trouble." The Republican pollster claims that demographic changes are shrinking the GOP in California, and the state isn’t as invested in the social issues that are growing the party elsewhere.
But state GOP chairman Del Baccaro has a secret weapon: money. He says super PACs "have changed everything."
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision cleared the way for the creation of Super PACs that can spend unlimited amounts of money. Democrats created a PAC to raise $8 million to spend on California House races. Politico reports that GOP PACs plan to spend at least $250 million on Congressional races nationwide.
But Rasmussen wonders how much they’re willing to spend in California.
"Republicans have not done well there," he says, "so national Republicans put less effort in there. It doesn’t become terribly important in the Republican nominating process for the White House, and as that leads to more neglect, it just reinforces the problem."
National Republicans are sharing resources with candidates who are good fundraisers, like State Sen. Tony Strickland, running for Congress in Ventura County against Democrat Julia Brownley. Strickland has raised more than a million dollars so far.
The key, says Del Baccaro, is to avoid spending money where you don’t need to. He points to Congressman Gary Miller’s decision to run in San Bernardino County, leaving his Orange County district to fellow GOP member Ed Royce.
"They avoided a big battle royale which saved us about $10 million of fighting." Miller’s campaign has also been helped by more than a million dollars from a real estate PAC.
Democrats, on the other hand, have two races where Democratic incumbents face off in the same district: Howard Berman versus Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley; and Laura Richardson versus Janice Hahn in the South Bay. And because the top two vote getters show up on the November ballot, it’s likely those expensive races pitting Democrat against Democrat will last for months.
The stakes are high for both parties this election. UC Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain says 2012 may be the last opportunity to shake up the state delegation for a long time, "because once these people get elected, and they get the advantage of incumbency, I don’t think we’re going to see a tremendous amount of turnover."
The two parties and the various PACs that support them will have to see how much money they can raise — and decide how much money to spend — on California's Congressional races.