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Fundraising signals hot political races in June

Redistricting and a new primary election system combine to change the state's political landscape and may produce the most expensive House race ever.

October 17, 2011|By Jean Merl and Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times
  • Rep. Howard Berman talks with Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of State for political affairs. Berman will run against Rep. Brad Sherman in what many political experts believe could become the most expensive House race in history.
Rep. Howard Berman talks with Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of State for… (Alex Wong, Getty Images )

Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. — Many Southern California lawmakers in hot primary contests have been raising money at a brisk pace ahead of the June congressional races, reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village) — who will face off against Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) in what many political experts believe could become the most expensive House race in history — brought in more than $800,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to documents posted on the FEC website over the weekend. Berman reported having about $2.25 million in his treasury and has more fundraisers scheduled, including a Nov. 10 dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel hosted by entertainment moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

"We are just getting started," said Michael Berman, who is running his brother's reelection campaign.

Sherman raised $151,000 during the latest reporting period, but had more than $3.7 million in his war chest because he had been stockpiling funds for about four years in anticipation of a tough reelection challenge, his campaign said.

This year's redrawing of political boundaries, based on the 2010 Census, put the two Democratic congressmen in the same new district. Their total primary spending could top $10 million, experts said.

"We still have a massive cash-on-hand advantage," said Parke Skelton, Sherman's campaign consultant. But, he added, "I don't think this race is going to be won or lost because someone outspends the other one. It's going to be won or lost because someone has outworked the other one."

Early fundraising generally is viewed as an indication of a candidate's strength, and potential challengers often look at FEC filings when deciding whether to run.

This year's redistricting, which for the first time was done by a citizens commission rather than by lawmakers, pushed some incumbents into newly created jurisdictions where their parties hold less of an advantage. Others found that the remapping placed their homes outside their current districts — or in the same district as another incumbent.

Another wrinkle is the state's recently enacted "top two" primary system, in which all candidates will appear on a single ballot and the first- and second-place finishers will compete in the runoff, even if they belong to the same political party. That, combined with the redistricting, touched off an earlier-than-usual scramble for seats — and for campaign money.

In other expected intraparty fights in the region, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) reported raising $136,000 last quarter for her contest against Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) and Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-Compton) in a new district that stretches northeast from the L.A. Harbor area to South Gate. Hahn has more than $120,000 in her war chest. For the special election contest she won in July, she had raised about $1.5 million.

Richardson collected almost $72,000 during the same three months and had nearly $117,000 on hand. Hall reported taking in more than $158,000 and had about $126,000 left in his treasury. Hahn and Richardson have debts from previous campaigns.

In the race for a southeast Los Angeles County seat, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) said she had lost about $322,000 as a result of alleged embezzlement by campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee. Several other officeholders, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sanchez's sister, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), reported losses in connection with the Durkee case as well.

Linda Sanchez raised $237,000 during the last quarter and had $144,000 in the bank, according to the FEC reports. Her competitor, state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), reported collecting $13,000.

On the Republican side, Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton brought in $353,000 during the reporting period, bringing his cash on hand to $3 million; his expected main opponent, fellow GOP Rep. Gary Miller of Diamond Bar, raised about $55,000 and had slightly more than $1 million in the bank. The remapping put both men's homes in the same district.

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