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California no longer on sidelines in congressional races

California has at least 10 newly competitive seats, thanks to new district maps, and fundraising has been furious.

November 04, 2012|By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times
  • Candidates in Ventura County's new 26th Congressional District debate in October: Republican State Sen. Tony Strickland and Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley.
Candidates in Ventura County's new 26th Congressional District… (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)

It used to be that the nation's most populous state found itself on the sidelines when Republicans and Democrats squared off in congressional elections. California's carefully engineered districts were so safe for incumbents that only one of the 53 seats changed party hands during the last decade.

Then last year, a voter-authorized citizens commission took over the job of drawing district maps and shook up the political landscape. Now, the two parties and their allies are fighting it out in at least 10 newly competitive seats around the state.

Democrats need to pick up 25 seats around the country to wrest control of the House from Republicans — an achievement that most analysts say is unlikely. But vivid blue California offers Democrats some of their best prospects, and they think they have a good chance of defeating four GOP incumbents.

The Democrats are battling with Republicans over three open seats, and the GOP is trying to pick off Democratic House members in three districts.

Fundraising in a dozen California congressional campaigns has exceeded $3 million each and blown past $7 million in two races. But even those amounts are dwarfed by furious spending from groups outside the campaigns, a testament to how high the stakes are.

By the weekend, the political parties, interest groups and others not affiliated with the campaigns had pumped more than $53 million into House races in the Golden State.

jean.merl@latimes.com

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