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Fundraising frenzy over 5 SoCal congressional seats

US Representative Darrell Issa arrives for a meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York.  / AFP / Bryan R. Smith        (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
In this file photo taken Dec. 14, 2016, US Representative Darrell Issa arrives for a meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York. The Democratic Party is targeting Issa, who represents parts of Orange and San Diego counties, for defeat in the 2018 election.

This story has been corrected. 

Money is flowing in early to the battles over five congressional seats in Southern California that are currently held by Republicans but are seen by Democrats as especially vulnerable to flipping.

The Democratic Party needs to gain 24 seats nationwide in the November 2018 general election in order to take control of the House of Representatives, and it’s eyeing five districts in Southern California where Hillary Clinton won the majority of votes in November despite victories for Republican congressional incumbents. 

Darrell Issa is the Vista Republican who represents the 49th District spanning Orange and San Diego counties. He has raised more than three times as much money in the first six months of 2017 — $1.2 million — as he did during the same period of the last election cycle, according to his most recent campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission. Candidates' second quarter reports (April 1 to June 30) were due July 15. 

The data shown here and in the tables below come directly from the candidates’ July quarterly finance reports. Data that appear on the candidates’ summary pages on the FEC website may vary. But FEC press officer Judith Ingram said the candidates’ individual filings were the most accurate source. However, it should be noted that candidates do sometimes amend their reports for mistakes after filing deadlines.  

Issa has also spent more than twice as much campaigning — nearly $740,000 — as he did during the same time period leading up to the 2016 general election. 

District 49 Total funds raised Nov. 9, 2016 - June 30, 2017
Darrell Issa - R (incumbent) $1,230,383
Mike Levin - D $616,995
Doug Applegate - D $580,639
Paul Kerr - D no data

Source: Federal Election Commission

Issa narrowly held on to his seat last November against Democratic challenger Doug Applegate, who is running again, along with two other Democratic challengers. 

“It was such a close call last time that (Issa) really hasn’t stopped campaigning,” said Stephen Stambough, political science professor at California State University, Fullerton.

Meanwhile, Applegate and fellow Democratic challenger Mike Levin have raised $580,000 and $617,000, respectively.

At this point in the 2016 election cycle, Applegate hadn’t yet declared his candidacy. It wasn’t until after the June 2016 primary election, when he came within 5 percentage points of Issa, that money began to flow into his campaign. 

“The Democrats didn’t pay attention to Applegate until it was almost too late,” Stambough said.  

This time, the Democratic Party has its sights set on winning the 49th, along with the Southern California districts represented by Orange County Republicans Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, whose district also includes parts of LA and San Bernardino counties, along with Palmdale Republican Steve Knight. 


District 39 Total funds raised Nov. 9, 2016 - June 30, 2017
Ed Royce - R (incumbent) $1,264,323
Mai-Khanh Tran - D $273,148
Phil Janowicz - D $180,284
Sam Jammal - D no data

Source: Federal Election Commission

Currently, 22 Democratic challengers have officially filed their intent to run against these five incumbents. Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker told The Orange County Register that he was pleased with the crowded field, saying it meant "divided loyalties” among Democrats and, presumably, divided fundraising and campaigning efforts. 

District 48 Total funds raised Nov. 9, 2016 - June 30, 2017
Dana Rohrabacher - R (incumbent) $565,468
Harley Rouda - D $319,336
Hans Keirstead - D $138,504
Laura Oatman - D $121,413
Brandon Reiser - Lib $6,900
Tony Zarkades - D no data
Boyd Roberts - D no data
Stelian Onufrei - R no data
Omar Siddiqui - D no data

Source: Federal Election Commission

Stambough from Cal State Fullerton said the amount of money those challengers can raise in their districts in these early days of campaigning will help the Democratic Party determine who to back. Strong candidates, he said, will not want for cash. 

“Especially at this time when the Democrats are smelling blood in the water because of how unpopular [President] Trump is, no serious candidate is going to go without the money that’s needed to be able to mount a serious campaign.”

District 45 Total funds raised Nov. 9, 2016 - June 30, 2017
Mimi Walters - R (incumbent) $1,110,907
Katie Porter - D $311,571
Dave Min - D $304,208
Ron Varasteh - D $251,755
Kia Hamadanchy - D $200,010
Eric Rywalski - D $22,493

Source: Federal Election Commission 
*This table was updated on July 18 to include total funds raised by Katie Porter.

District 25 Total funds raised Nov. 9, 2016 - June 30, 2017
Steve Knight - R (incumbent) $442,151
Bryan Caforio - D $237,491
Katie Hill -D $221,033
Jess Phoenix - D $77,001
Daniel Fleming - D no data
Kelan John Farrell-Smith - D no data

Source: Federal Election Commission

Alex ​Derosier contributed reporting. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the campaign finance reporting period. The actual reporting period for the amounts listed is Nov. 9, 2016 - June 30, 2017.