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Following the creation of California's Citizen's Redistricting Commission, California politics has become a lot more interesting.  The old Congressional lines, which had an almost perfect success rate when it came to protecting incumbents of both parties (from 2002-2010 only one incumbent, Republican Richard Pombo, was defeated in a general election) were completely thrown out, and all new Congressional districts were drawn.  As a result, a state that had very few competitive races has suddenly become a major battleground.  

Both the Republican and Democratic parties suddenly have new pickup opportunities as well as formally safe incumbents who need to be defended.  Additionally, several incumbents now are forced to introduce themselves to new voters and fend off challengers both within their party and from the opposition.  The retirement of several long serving Congressmen, as well as the creation of seats with no incumbent, has given ambitious candidates a rare opportunity to win a coveted seat in Washington.  Additionally, redistricting has thrown two pairs of incumbents into the same districts, leading to major inter-party battles.   The passage of California's new top-two system has only complicated things: party primaries have been done away with and all candidates face off on one ballot in the June 5th primary, with the top two vote-getters facing off in the November general election.  While previously an election in a heavily Democratic or heavily Republican seat would all but end following the June primary, now two strong candidates of the same party can find themselves fighting all the way until November.  

What follows is a guide to the 2012 elections in the Golden State.  Because many of the most interesting races will likely be Democrats vs. Democrats, or Republicans vs. Republicans (though there are some very intense Dem vs. GOP races here) I've decided to rate each race differently than usual.  I'm modeling my ratings off Burnt Orange Report's Guide to Texas's 2012 Congressional Races: I'm rating each race by how competitive it is rather than what party is favored (though I say that in the write ups).  Each race is rated on a five ★ scale.  

A ★ race is the most boring race there is.  The winner is all but predetermined and short of a massive scandal or horrific gaffe, there is no need to take a second look at this race.

A ★★ race has the potential to be competitive, but has one candidate who is heavily favored.  

A ★★★ race is competitive, with at least two candidates having a reasonable chance to win, but one candidate is still the clear favorite.

A ★★★★ features a very competitive race.  There often is no apparent favorite, or if there is s/he faces a very strong opponent who has a good chance to win.  

A ★★★★★ race is reserved for the most competitive races in the state.  These are the elections where millions will be spent from both inside and outside the district, blood and tears will be spilled, and careers will be made or destroyed.  

I don't have any mathematical or scientific formula for rating these races: they're based on my opinion of how competitive the race is.  However, with all first quarter fundraising in, I do heavily factor in fundraising.  Money isn't everything in politics, but if I feel a candidate isn't raising enough money or is raising a good chunk, that will be a big factor in how I rate their race.  

Also, a big shout out goes to David Jarman and the rest of the Daily Kos Elections team for their great California Cheat Sheet, which I make heavy use of in analyzing these races.

Now to the fun part!  

California's 1st District: OPEN, Redding, Chico.
President: Obama 42%, McCain 53%
Governor: Brown 37%, Whitman 53%
Senate: Boxer 31%, Fiorina 58%

This open Republican seat features a clash between two long-serving elected officials.  State Senator Doug LaMalfa is the establishment favorite, boasting the endorsements of retiring incumbent Wally Herger, House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, the Assembly and state Senate GOP leaders, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the California Farm Bureau.  La Malfa's fundraising has been very successful, raising $240,000 since he entered the race and, with the help of personal funds, a $330,000 war chest.  

LaMalfa's main challenger is former state Senator Sam Aanestad, who succeeded LaMalfa in the Senate and unsuccessfully tried to primary then Lieutenant Governor Able Maldonado in 2010.  Aanestad has the endorsement of Congressman Tom McClintock, a useful boost considering McClintock currently represents 35% of the district.  Aanestad has been attacking LaMalfa from the right over the latter's support for federal farm subsidies, and has made energy independence a key theme in his campaign.  However, Aanestad's fundraising is pretty lackluster so far: he only raised $49,000, though personal loans have given him enough money to compete.  None of the other GOP or Democratic candidates have raised much money.  A recent internal poll for the LaMalfa campaign gave LaMalfa a big lead in the race, with 2010 Democratic nominee Jim Reed narrowly edging Aanestad for second place.  Still, given that there are multiple Democrats competing for a fairly small share of the electorate, it still looks likely that LaMalfa and Aanestad will be fighting all the way until November.  For now, LaMalfa's establishment support and superior fundraising make him the clear favorite.  Still, for now Aanestad has enough resources that he can't be counted out.

California's 2nd District: OPEN, Eureka, Petaluma, Novato.
President: Obama 71%, McCain 25%
Governor: Brown 64% Whitman 30%
Senate: Boxer 62%, Fiorina 29%

This open seat features a battle between three well-funded Democrats.  Assemblymember Jared Huffman is the establishment favorite and generally seen as the frontrunner and likely to advance to the general election.  Huffman has the support of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Mike Thompson (who represents 44% of the district), Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and many labor groups.  A Jared Huffman internal poll, so far unanswered by any of his opponents, gives him the lead in the primary.  Businesswoman Stacey Lawson has been endorsed by Emily's List and has support from many deep-pocketed Democratic donors.  Activist Norman Solomon, who has pledged to serve as a liberal foil to President Obama in Congress, has Democracy for America's help, as well as the endorsements of Phil Donahue and actor Sean Penn.  Additionally, Marin County supervisor Susan Adams and Petaluma city councilor Tiffany Renee are running, but neither has raised much money.

Currently, Stacey Lawson is being targeted by her opponents over her very infrequent voting record and her business ties.  It looks very likely that two of the three major candidates will make it to November.  However, the GOP has a shot to make it to the general: Republican Daniel Roberts has lent himself enough money to build up a decent sized war chest.  Should Roberts make it to November this race will get a lot less interesting very quickly in this safe Democratic district.  

California's 3rd Congressional District: John Garamendi (D), Davis, Yuba City, Fairfield.
President: Obama 55%, MCain 42%
Governor: Brown 50%, Whitman 43%
Senate: Boxer 45%, Fiorina 46%

Many Democrats have benefited from redistricting.  John Garamendi is not one of them.  The former Lt. Governor only represents 23% of the new 3rd district, and the formally safe Garamendi now must run in a much more red district than before.  This is one of the four districts in the state that Republicans are targeting, and they appear excited about their candidate, Colusa County Supervisor Kim Dolbow-Vann.  Dolbow-Vann was selected as one of fifteen candidates the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) would train at their exclusive candidate school.  Dolbow-Vann has been competitive at fundraising: while Garamendi out-raised her in the most recent quarter, their war chests are about the same size, with Garamendi having an only $255,000 to $217,000 cash on hand lead.  None of the other candidates in this race, including briefly touted Sutter County Assistant District Attorney Tony Carlos, have raised much money, making Dolbow-Vann Garamendi's likely foe in November.

Still, Garamendi should still be considered the favorite going in.  Dolbow-Vann represents a much more rural area than most of the district, and it remains to be seen if the issues that play in Colusa County will play in suburban areas.  Additionally, despite Boxer losing the district, the area overall leans Democratic: the district has a nine point Democratic registration advantage, and in a Presidential year Garamendi should be boosted by turnout at UC Davis.  Overall, Garamendi has the advantage, but this is a race that should be quite competitive.  

California's 4th Congressional District: Tom McClintock (R), Roseville, Placerville, Lincoln.
President: Obama 43%, McCain 54%
Governor: Brown 38%, Whitman 55%
Senate: Boxer 32%, Fiorina 59%

California's 5th District: Mike Thompson (D), Vallejo, Napa.
President: Obama 70%, McCain 26%
Governor: Brown 63%, Whitman 31%
Senate: Boxer 61%, Fiorina 31%

California's 6th Congressional District: Doris Matsui (D), Sacramento.
President: Obama 68%, McCain 29%
Governor: Brown 66%, Whitman 28%
Senate: Boxer 59%, Fiorina 32%

California's 7th Congressional District: Dan Lungren (R), Elk Grove, Ranch Cordova, Citris Heights.
President: Obama 51%, McCain 46%
Governor: Brown 49%, Whitman 44%
Senate: Boxer 42%, Fiorina 49%

Dan Lungren has not had an easy few years.  In 2008 he had a surprisingly close reelection; following his victory, he launched a failed bid to oust John Boehner as head of the Republican caucus.  2010 wasn't particularly fun either: Lungren was constantly out-raised by Democratic physician Ami Bera and while the incumbent won, it was a pretty weak victory given the GOP leaning year.  Lungren's life has only gotten tougher with redistricting: his district has gotten bluer (though the GOP has a small registration advantage) and Bera's back for a rematch.  

Bera has maintained his fundraising advantage for the cycle, with a cash on hand lead of $1,148,000 to $900,000.  However, for the first time in years, Lungren out-raised Bera, showing that the incumbent will not go down without a fight.  National Democrats have taken an interest in this district, targeting Lungren over his vote on Paul Ryan's budget.  It's very likely that national Republicans and their allies will get involved here as well: in 2010 Karl Rove's groups spent heavily to save Lungren.  For now, given Lungren's underwhelming victories in a redder district, as well as Bera's own strength, Bera should be considered the favorite, but not by a huge amount.  Millions more dollars will be spent to decide this race, and it is likely to remain one of the most intense in the nation.  

California's 8th Congressional District: OPEN, Victorville, Barstow.
President: Obama 42%, McCain 55%
Governor: Brown 36%, Whitman 52%
Senate: Boxer 32%, Fiorina 57%

This district is geographically enormous, but the vast majority of its voters are based in Southern California's San Bernardino County.  There are three credible GOP candidates running for this seat.  Assemblymember Paul Cook has the support of the top GOP leaders in California's state Assembly and Senate, and raised the most money in the most recent quarter.  San Bernardino county Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt boasts the largest war chest, though not by very much.  Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron, who leads the largest city in the district, hasn't raised much money, but a personal loan has kept him competitive.  Other notable Republican candidates include Hesperia city councilor Bill Jensen, Victorville city councilor Angela Valles, and former Assembly chief-of-staff Gregg Imus, who has Herman Cain's endorsement.  Additionally, former Republican Assemblymember Anthony Adams, who broke with the GOP by agreeing to temporarily raise taxes, is running as an independent.  However, only Cook, Mitzelflelt, and McEachron have any real money, making it very unlikely the other candidates have a shot to win.

There's no clear favorite in this race as of yet.  However, McEachron has been getting some publicity for his opposition to a proposed Planned Parenthood clinic in Victorville.  If this controversy continues, McEachron could get a boost out of it.  Interestingly, all three major candidates have pretty small war chests with none exceeding $100,000 cash on hand, making it likely that this may be the state's least expensive competitive Congressional race.  

With only two Democrats in the race against ten Republicans, it is fairly likely that one of them could make it to the runoff.  While law office manager Jackie Conaway has very little funding, she enjoys the state party's endorsement.  Additionally, the only recent polling we've seen, an internal for Angela Valles, puts Conaway in the lead and Valles and Mitzelfelt tied for second.  Should Conaway make it to the general, this race will get a lot less interesting very quickly in this heavily Republican district.  

California's 9th Congressional District: Jerry McNerny (D), Stockton, Lodi, Antioch.  
President: Obama 56%, McCain 41%
Governor: Brown 51%, Whitman 42%
Senate: Boxer 47%, Fiorina 45%

Jerry McNerny, the only California Democrat to unseat a Republican incumbent in the last decade, was gifted with a more Democratic district than the one he currently holds.  (Though I bet he's kicking himself right now for not running against Pete Stark in CA-15 where he actually lives).  However, the GOP has found a strong recruit in an unexpected place.  24-year-old UC Berkley Law student Ricky Gill has become a fundraising sensation and a darling of the national GOP.  Gill has benefited from his family's business ties in the area as well as his political connections: Gill was appointed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the state's Board of Education, the only student to be on the board.  Gill is also considered one of the GOP's top recruits.  

Gill has constantly out-raised McNerney and has amassed a stronger war chest than the incumbent.  Still, McNerney should be considered the favorite going in.  Democrats have a nine-point registration advantage in the district, and McNerney is no stranger to tough battles.  Additionally, there's also the question of how many voters would feel comfortable with a guy who'll be barely old enough to rent a car representing them in Congress.  Still, with Gill emerging as a surprisingly formidable foe, this race is likely to remain very competitive.

California's 10th Congressional District: Jeff Denham (R), Tracy, Turlock, Modesto.
President: Obama 50%, McCain 47%
Governor: Brown 43%, Whitman 49%
Senate: Boxer 39%, Fiorina 52%

Freshman Republican Jeff Denham is another incumbent who did not benefit at all from redistricting.  Denham only represents 38% of the new 10th district, which is much more evenly divided politically than his current safe district.  Denham faces a credible challenge from former astronaut Jose Hernandez, who managed to out-raise Denham in the most recent quarter (though Denham still has a huge cash advantage).  Hernandez was given the chance to promote his unique career when Republicans connected to Denham unsuccessfully sued to prevent Hernandez from describing himself as an astronaut on the ballot.  (Hernandez's campaign developed this awesome must watch video in response to the lawsuit.)  Independent Chad Condit, the son of former Democratic Congressman Gary Condit of the Chandra Levy scandal, is also in the race but weak fundraising should prevent him from stopping the expected Denham-Hernandez match-up in November.  

For now, Denham should be considered the favorite.  While the district is bluer than before it still is very winnable for Republicans as the 2010 results show.  Denham is also no stranger to winning in tough districts: he won election twice in a state Senate district with a large Democratic registration advantage and easily survived a 2007 attempt to recall him.  Additionally, the ongoing GSA hearings are being led by Denham, giving himself the chance to enhance his profile in with his would-be constituents and with national donors.  Hernandez's past comments calling for the legalization of undocumented immigrants may not be helpful in this fairly-conservative district.  Still, Hernandez should be able to provide a tough challenge and this race is definitely one to keep an eye on.  

California's 11th Congressional District: George Miller (D), Richmond, Concord.
President: Obama 69%, McCain 28%
Governor: Brown 61%, Whitman 34%
Senate: Boxer 60%, Fiorina 34%

California's 12 Congressional District: Nancy Pelosi (D), San Francisco.  
President: Obama 84%, McCain 13%
Governor: Brown 78%, Whitman 16%
Senate: Boxer 76%, Fiorina 14%

California's 13th Congressional District: Barbara Lee (D), Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro.
President: Obama 87%, McCain 10%
Governor: Brown 84%, Whitman 11%
Senate: Boxer 83%, Fiorina 11%

California's 14th Congressional District: Jackie Speier (D), San Mateo, Daly City, Redwood City.
President: Obama 73%, McCain 24%
Governor: Brown 66%, Whitman 28%
Senate: Boxer 66%, Fiorina 27%

California's 15th Congressional District: Pete Stark (D), Hayward, Pleasanton, San Ramon.
President: Obama 67%, McCain 30%
Governor: Brown 60%, Whitman 35%
Senate: Boxer 59%, Fiorina 34%

Until Pete Stark opened his mouth, it looked like he'd have an easy race.  He avoided challenges from Congressman Jerry McNerney, state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, and the well-financed Obama Administration official Ro Khanna.  However, Stark's recent comments at a candidate forum and his response to them has given his opponent, fellow Democrat, Dublin City Councilor, and Alameda County deputy district attorney Eric Swalwell, a chance to defeat the previously entrenched incumbent.  At the candidadte forum Stark accused Swalwell, without any evidence, of bribery.  Following calls from an influential Democratic club for Stark to produce evidence or retract his charges, Stark only somewhat apologized while once again attacking Swalwell without evidence.  In response, Swalwell has hired a defamation lawyer, ensuring that this issue will not go away quietly.  This is far from Stark's first controversial comment in his long career: however, with over half the district new to him, many voters are getting a first impression of Stark they may not like.  

Still, Stark has many advantages that, for now at least, still make him the favorite to win.  While Swalwell out-raised Stark in the most recent quarter, Stark maintains a very strong cash on hand lead, $551,000 to only $93,000 for Swalwell.  Additionally, Stark has important endorsements from Nancy Pelosi, the California Democratic Party, union groups, the the California Teacher's Association, with comparatively fewer with Swalwell.  However, given Stark's reputation for controversial comments, the incumbent has a great chance to lose his reelection without much help from anyone.  The only other candidate in the race is an underfunded independent, making a Stark-Swalwell general election a near-certainty.  

 California's 16th Congressional District: Jim Costa (D), Fresno, Merced.
President: Obama 57%, McCain 40%
Governor: Brown 50%, Whitman 42%
Senate: Boxer 43%, Fiorina 47%

While Jim Costa had an unexpectedly tough reelection in 2010, this year should go much better for him.  Following the retirement of Costa's friend and ally Dennis Cardoza, Costa was given the opportunity to run in the much bluer CA-16.  (EDIT: this post originally said Costa lived in CA-21.  It has been corrected: Costa lives in this district.  Thanks to hankmeister for the correction). The state Republicans have announced that they intend to target this seat: however the likely GOP nominee, attorney Brian Whelan, doesn't look like he'll have the resources to put this one in play.  Whelan raised only $68,000 in the recent quarter and has a war chest of only $106,000, not enough to defeat an incumbent in a Democratic-leaning district.  If Whelan ups his game and GOP puts their money where their mouth is this race could be competitive but for now Costa looks like the heavy favorite.  

California's 17th Congressional District: Mike Honda (D), Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Fremont.
President: Obama 69%, McCain 28%
Governor: Brown 61%, Whitman 33%
Senate: Boxer 63%, Fiorina 29%

California's 18th Congressional District: Anna Eshoo (D), Los Gatos, Campbell, Palo Alto, Mountain View.
President: Obama 70%, McCain 27%
Governor: Brown 60%, Whitman 35%
Senate: Boxer 61%, Fiorina 32%

Hey, it's my district!  You should visit it!  

California's 19th Congressional District: Zoe Lofgren (D), San Jose, Gilroy, Morgan Hill.
President: Obama 68%, McCain 29%
Governor: Brown 60%, Whitman 33%
Senate: Boxer 61%, Fiorina 31%

California's 20th Congressional District: Sam Farr (D), Santa Cruz, Monteray, Salinas.
President: Obama 71%, McCain 26%
Governor: Brown 63%, Whitman 31%
Senate: Boxer 61%, Fiorina 31%

California's 21st Congressional District: OPEN, Hanford, Delano.
President: Obama 52%, McCain 46%
Governor: Brown 47%, Whitman 44%
Senate: Boxer 39%, Fiorina 50%

Republican Assemblymember David Valadao appears to have the inside track to claim this new seat.  Prominent Democrats such as state Senator Michael Rubio, former Assembly Majority Leader Dean Florez, and former Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante all declined to run for this seat, leaving Democrats without a well-known candidate.  (Though considering how unpopular Bustamante was when he left office in 2006, the Democrats may have dodged a bullet when he didn't run).  Valadao has raised a good amount of cash, sitting on $495,000, and the NRCC considers him a top recruit.  

Democratic Fresno City Councilmember Blong Xiong has stepped up to the plate to run in this district.  Xiong, boosted from contributions from members of the Hmong community across the county, has raised a decent amount of money since he entered the race in early March, and Xiong currently has $132,000 on hand: a good amount to start with, but very far behind Valadao.  The fact that none of Fresno is in the district puts Xiong at a disadvantage, as he can't count on the support of anyone who has voted for him in the past.  A third candidate, Democratic businessman John Hernandez, is running but has raised and donated very little money, making it unlikely he can secure a general election spot.

This race isn't completely out of reach for Democrats, with the district having a nearly twelve point Democratic registration advantage.  However, it's very clear that right now Valadao is in the driver's seat here.

California's 22nd Congressional District: Devin Nunes (R), Tulare, Visalia, Clovis.
President: Obama 42%, McCain 55%
Governor: Brown 35%, Whitman 59%
Senate: Boxer 30%, Fiorina 63%

California's 23rd Congressional District: Kevin McCarthy (R), Bakersfield, Lancaster.
President: Obama 36%, McCain 61%.
Governor: Brown 33%, Whitman 58%.
Senate: Boxer 26%, Fiorina 64%

California's 24th Congressional District: Lois Capps (D), San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria.
President: Obama 56%, McCain 41%
Governor: Brown 46%, Whitman 46%
Senate: Boxer 45%, Fiorina 46%

This race, while still competitive, has moved in the Democrats' direction in recent months.  At the start of this cycle Lois Capps looked to be very vulnerable, having been redistricted into a much more evenly divided district than the safe Democratic one she had represented for years.  Additionally, former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado looked to be a very formidable challenger, having easily held a Democratic-leaning state Senate district in the area for years.  However, Maldonado's campaign has looked a lot less impressive recently.  

The campaign's impressive fundraising was largely an illusion, with Maldonado loaning the campaign $250,000 at the end of each fundraising quarter and immediately taking it back at the beginning of the next one, only to reinvest it at the end of the quarter again.  (After being called out for it, Maldonado has stopped doing this).  Maldonado has been in a dispute with the IRS over back taxes, with him owing as much as $470,000.  Maldonado was denied the endorsement of the state GOP at the annual convention, an embarrassing loss for him given his support from national Republicans.  Additionally, Maldonado's campaign has been characterized by shoddy book keeping.  All these point to a candidate and a campaign that may not be as top-tier and disciplined as it seemed going in.

To make matters worse for Maldonado, he faces a somewhat-credible GOP opponent.  Actor Chris Mitchum is running against the more moderate Maldonado from the right: while Mitchum hasn't raised much money, a loan he gave himself gives him $114,000 on hand.  This is probably not enough to win, but enough to force Maldonado to pay attention to him.  Additionally, Mitchum has the endorsement of the Santa Barbara County GOP, giving him some real support against Maldonado.  

Through all this, Capps has been able to stockpile an impressive war chest, with $1,323,000 on hand to Maldonado's $492,000.  Capps is not out of the woods by any means: the district is still only light blue, and Republicans have identified her as a target.  However, given Maldonado's continued woes as well as Capps' strength, it's clear that Capps has the advantage.  

California's 25th Congressional District: Buck McKeon (R), Santa Clarita, Palmdale.
President: Obama 49%, McCain 48%
Governor: Brown 39%, Whitman 52%
Senate: Boxer 37%, Fiorina 54%

California's 26th District: OPEN, Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks.
President: Obama 56%, McCain 41%
Governor: Brown 46%, Whitman 47%
Senate: Boxer 45%, Fiorina 47%

This seat promises to host a very eventful race.  Republican Tony Strickland is virtually assured a place in the general election: Strickland's eye-popping fundraising in the first quarter, $782,000, also establishes him as a very formidable candidate in November despite the district's 4.5% Democratic registration edge.  

The race to determine Strickland's opponent is far more complicated.  Assemblywoman Julia Brownley is the only one of the four Democrats in the race to raise any real money, which would normally secure her this spot.  However, the candidacy Ventura County Supervisor and Republican-turned-independent Linda Parks may threaten that.  Parks brings name recognition to the table and while her fundraising isn't groundbreaking ($119,000 cash on hand), it's enough to run a real campaign with.  Should the four Democrats in the race split the Democratic vote enough, and if Parks wins enough votes on her own, she has the real possibility to be Strickland's opponent in November.  Parks recently ran an otherwise generic ad that (in) famously ended with her declaring out of the blue that her favorite ice-cream was rocky road: it's unclear what effect, if any, this strange type of advertising will have on her chances.  Either way though, this race is worth watching all the way until November.  

California's 27th Congressional District: Judy Chu (D), Pasadena, Alhambra, Cleremont, Upland.
President: Obama 61%, McCain 35%
Governor: Brown 55%, Whitman 39%
Senate: Boxer 53%, Fiorina 39%

California's 28th District: Adam Schiff (D), Burbank, West Hollywood.
President: Obama 70%, McCain 26%
Governor: Brown 63%, Whitman 30%
Senate: Boxer 63%, Fiorina 29%

California's 29th Congressional District: OPEN, The East San Fernando Valley.
President: Obama 74%, McCain 23%.
Governor: Brown 68%, Whitman 24%
Senate: Boxer 67%, Fiorina 24%

This is the state's only non-competitive open Congressional seat.  Los Angeles City Councilmember Tony Cardenas faces next to no opposition in his bid for the seat.

California's 30th Congressional District: Brad Sherman (D)/ Howard Berman (D), The West San Fernando Valley.
President: Obama 66%, McCain 31%
Governor: Brown 57%, Whitman 36%
Senate: Boxer 56%, Fiorina 56%

Bush versus Gore.  Hillary versus Obama.  Gaius Baltar versus Laura Roslin.  Those elections pale in comparison to the incumbent versus incumbent dogfight that has been called The Battle of the Ermans.  In one corner is once and perhaps future House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman.  Berman represents only 20% of the district, but he isn't lacking friends.  He has the support of most of California's Democratic establishment, including Governor Jerry Brown, both US Senators, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and most of the state's House Democratic delegation, as well as Nancy Pelosi's implicit endorsement.  Berman also has the support of a well-funded SuperPAC, The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, devoted entirely to reelecting him.  Additionally, as a long-time film industry ally, Berman has extensive support from Hollywood.  

In the other corner is Brad Sherman, a less senior but still long-serving Congressman who represents 58% of the district.  While Sherman has fewer prominent endorsements, he has one big name on his side.  To thank Sherman for his support of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign, former President Bill Clinton has endorsed Sherman.  Additionally, Sherman has received extensive donations from real estate and law firms.  

The two incumbents have emphasized effectiveness over policy disagreements in most cases, with each rushing to take credit for bringing money to the district.  Sherman has talked up his opposition to the military intervention in Libya last year, and has stated he will deliver stronger sanctions against Iran than Berman.  Berman has fired back by criticizing Sherman for withdrawing his support for the Stop Online Piracy Act, an important issue to the entertainment industry.  Sherman has a much larger war chest, $4 million to $2,451,000, but Berman has been raising money at a faster pace and his SuperPAC support should even things out.  Sherman has released a few internal polls that the Berman campaign has not responded to: the latest, released at the beginning of April, gives Sherman a 40%-17% lead, with 12% for Republican Mark Reed.  

There is a small chance that Reed, who has been endorsed by the California Republican Party and was the GOP nominee against Sherman in 2010, makes it to the general election instead of one of the ermans: in this heavily Democratic district, that would make this election a cakewalk for the lucky erman.  The Sherman campaign seems to sense an opportunity to knock Berman out in the first round, and has been trying to coordinate with the Reed campaign over releasing tax forms.  However, given Reed's lack of money and the presence of other Republicans in the race it still looks very likely the incumbent vs. incumbent match-up will continue until November.  For now Sherman appears to have the edge but in a race with this much attention anything can happen.    

California's 31st Congressional District: Gary Miller (R), Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Redlands.
President: Obama 56%, McCain 41%
Governor: Brown 49%, Whitman 41%
Senate: Boxer 46%, Fiorina 44%

This is an odd race involving an incumbent who does not represent a centimeter of his district.  Republican Gary Miller looked to be facing a tough race against fellow Republican Congressman Ed Royce in CA-39: however, following the retirement of Jerry Lewis, Miller decided to try his luck here instead.  Miller's lack of name recognition in the district originally looked like it could cost him a trip to the general election when Republican state Senator Bob Dutton entered the race.  However, Dutton's fundraising has been very weak, with him having only $39,000 on hand against Miller's $1,170,000.  While Dutton was always going to be out-raised, he'll likely need much more help if he wants to stop Miller.  Miller has a number of important endorsements under his belt including the NRCC, the House GOP leadership, the NRA, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the California Republican Party; Dutton has the help of the GOP leaders in the state legislature as well as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association.  If Dutton can raise a lot more money he can at least pose a stiff challenge to Miller, but his take so far is not encouraging.

The winner of the GOP race will face a challenge from Democratic Redlands' Mayor Pete Aguilar.  Standing in the way of Aguilar's path to the general election is Congressional Oversight Council Justin Kim.  Kim raised $107,000 in the last quarter, a surprisingly strong number but probably not nearly enough to beat Aguilar; however, Kim may force the mayor to spend some unexpected money and attention on him.  Aguilar raised $222,000 since he entered the race, a good start though far behind Miller in cash on hand.  However, Aguilar should start out with the edge here.  The district leans Democratic with a five point Democratic registration edge, and may not respond well to Miller's conservative voting record.  The fact that Miller hasn't represented the area before should make it easier for Democrats to tie him to the unpopular Congress and play down any accomplishments he may have.  Miller was also named one of CREW's 26 most corrupt members in 2010, which could make the Democrat's task even easier.  Still, the district won't go blue without a big fight from the well funded Miller.  

California's 32nd Congressional District: Grace Napolitano (D), El Monte, West Covina.  
President: Obama 62%, McCain 35%
Governor: Brown 57%, Whitman 35%
Senate: Boxer 55%, Fiorina 35%

California's 33rd Congressional District: Henry Waxman (D), Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach.
President: Obama 64%, McCain 33%
Governor: Brown 55%, Whitman 40%
Senate: Boxer 55%, Fiorina 39%

California's 34th District: Xavier Becerra (D), Downtown Los Angeles.
President: Obama 77%, McCain 19%
Governor: Brown 76%, Whitman 16%
Senate: Boxer 75%, Fiorina 16%

California's 35th Congressional District: Joe Baca (D), Pomona, Ontario, Fontana.
President: Obama 64%, McCain 32%
Governor: Brown 57%, Whitman 33%
Senate: Boxer 56%, Fiorina 34%

Incumbent Joe Baca faces a well-known challenger whose campaign doesn't seem to be taking off.  Democratic State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod has represented the area in the legislature since 2000.  There are little ideological differences between the two, but plenty of personal hostility: in 2006 Negrete McLeod defeated Baca's son in a primary for state Senate, leading to tension between the two.  With a Green Party candidate as their only opponent, this battle will continue into the general election.

However, the Baca family looks like it will win this one.  Negrete McLeod's fundraising has been very weak, with her raising only $17,000 in the last quarter, not nearly enough to knock off Baca.  Her cash on hand is better, at $110,000, but still not enough to overcome Baca's advantages.  Baca has $248,000 available as well as the support of both US Senators; Baca also represents 61% of the district already.  Negrete McLeod is too prominent to completely count out, and she has caught the attention of Emily's List, though they have yet to endorse her.  Should that change, it would give Negrete McLeod access to some much needed donors, giving her a chance to even the odds.  Right now though, Baca looks to be the heavy favorite here.

California's 36th Congressional District: Mary Bono Mack (R), Helmet, Palm Springs.
President: Obama 50%, McCain 47%
Governor: Brown 43%, Whitman 49%
Senate: Boxer 42%, Fiorina 49%

Mary Bono Mack has held back tough challengers in recent years, and 2012 finds her facing another.  Democratic doctor Raul Ruiz used his connections in the medical community to out-raise Bono Mack $272,000 to $258,000 in the last quarter: while the incumbent maintains a cash on hand advantage of $607,000 to $349,000, it's not as stark as in other races.   Ruiz's success has caught the attention of national Democrats, with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair Steve Israel campaigning for Ruiz recently.  The DCCC has also targeted Bono Mack over her support for Paul Ryan's budget.  Ruiz himself is making an issue out of Bono Mack's vote against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Bono Mack is a tough opponent, and will be hard to unseat, especially since this seat doesn't obviously lean Democratic and the incumbent already represents 75% of it.  (Bono Mack should also do better than her husband, Florida Republican Connie Mack, whose not been having a good run against Bill Nelson).  Ruiz has the potential to make this a real race, and the DCCC's interest in it is likely a good sign for him: still, Bono Mack starts out as the favorite.

California's 37th Congressional District: Karen Bass (D), Culver City, Central Los Angeles.
President: Obama 84%, McCain 13%
Governor: Brown 79%, Whitman 15%
Senate: Boxer 79%, Fiorina 14%

California's 38th Congressional District: Linda Sanchez (D) Whittier, Norwalk, Lakewood.
President: Obama 61%, McCain 35%
Governor: Brown 57%, Whitman 35%
Senate: Boxer 55%, Fiorina 35%

California's 39th Congressional District: Ed Royce (R), Chino Hills, Buena Park, Fullerton.
President: Obama 47%, McCain 49%
Governor: Brown 38%, Whitman 54%
Senate: Boxer 37%, Fiorina 55%

Following fellow Republican incumbent Gary Miller's decision to run in CA-31 instead of here, Ed Royce looked set for another term.  Hacienda-La Puente School Board member and Democrat Jay Chen has shown some surprising resilience however, raising $235,000 in the last quarter for a race few thought could be competitive.  Still, Royce is the heavy favorite: he doesn't appear to have been caught napping as he still outraised Chen with $315,000, and has an imposing $2,628,000 war chest.  Additionally, this seat still leans very Republican: while Obama came close to winning it other Democrats have not had much luck, and Republicans maintain an eight point registration edge here.  Chen looks like a good candidate, and demographic trends may put this seat into play in the future, but for now Royce looks like the heavy favorite here.

California's 40th Congressional District: Lucille Roybal-Allard (D), East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Downey.
President: Obama 77%, McCain 19%
Governor: Brown 73%, Whitman 19%
Senate: Boxer 72%, Fiorina 18%

California's 41st Congressional District: OPEN, Riverside, Moreno Valley.
President: Obama 59%, McCain 38%
Governor: Brown 52%, Whitman 40%
Senate: Boxer 49%, Fiorina 42%

Riverside Community College Trustee Mark Takano has run for Congress twice before, nearly beating Ken Calvert in 1992 but losing badly in 1994.  However, it looks like his third time will be a charm.  Takano is running in a Democratic leaning district, and he has out-raised his four opponents.  However, Takano still faces a credible opponent from Republican Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione.  Tavaglione trails Takano in cash $308,000 to $325,000, but still has enough to compete.  The DCCC has added Takano to its Red-to-Blue list, and the Tavaglione camp expects it will be added to the NRCC's similar Young Guns program.  Takano has the clear advantage going forward, but Tavaglione is too formittable to count out right now.

California's 42nd Congressional District: Ken Calvert (R), Corona, Murrietta.
President: Obama 43%, McCain 54%
Governor: Brown 35%, Whitman 56%
Senate: Boxer 32%, Fiorina 60%

California's 43rd Congressional District: Maxine Waters (D), Inglewood, Hawthorne, Torrance.
President: Obama 75%, McCain 22%
Governor: Brown 69%, Whitman 24%
Senate: Boxer 68%, Fiorina 23%

California's 44th Congressional District: Janice Hahn (D)/ Laura Richardson (D), South Gate, Compton, Carson.
President: Obama 81%, McCain 16%
Governor: Brown 77%, Whitman 15%
Senate: Boxer 76%, Fiorina 16%

You know you're in trouble when a wounded veteran tells you she'd rather be back in Afghanistan than working in your Congressional office.  That incident, in which the said veteran resigned from Laura Richardson's staff after complaining that the incumbent was corrupt and abused her during and after a pregnancy, probably was the last nail in the coffin of Richardson's career.  Since arriving in Congress in 2007, Richardson has been on the wrong end of ethics investigations, with the latest a look at whether she made her House staff do campaign work on tax-payer time.  But the accusations by the departing staff member are easily the worst thing to come out of all this, and make it very unlikely that Richardson can bounce back and defeat fellow Democratic incumbent Janice Hahn.

Hahn has been having a much better campaign and despite only representing 16% of this district is the odds-on favorite to win.  Hahn has the endorsement of the California Democratic Party, many powerful labor groups, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Hahn has also made many inroads with prominent African Americans in the district despite facing an African American incumbent.  Hahn's position is so good that an African American activist who months ago called her a traitor for running in this district endorsed her.  

Richardson is not without her supporters: she has the endorsement of Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emmanuel Clever as well as donations (if not endorsements) from most CBC members.  However, her fundraising has slowed, with Richardson raising only $81,000 in the last quarter to Hahn's $210,000, and trailing Hahn in cash $116,000 to $175,000.  Because they are the only two names on the ballot, the Richardson-Hahn match will continue until November.  Given that Richardson is defending herself against charges of abusing a wounded veteran, it is very hard to see her having any path to victory in this race.  

California's 45th Congressional District: John Campbell (R), Tustin, Irvine, Mission Viejo.
President: Obama 46%, McCain 51%
Governor: Brown 34%, Whitman 59%
Senate: Boxer 33%, Fiorina 60%

For the second time in a row, John Campbell faces a challenge from a Democratic elected official from Irvine.  After easily defeating Irvine councilmember and former mayor Beth Krom in 2010, the city's mayor Sukhee Kang has stepped up this time.  Kang has a decent sized war chest with $195,000, but his fundraising wasn't very good in the last quarter; Campbell currently has $1,080,000 available to spent.  While Kang's profile will be helpful, the Republican lean of this district makes him the distinct underdog against Campbell.

California's 46th Congressional District: Loretta Sanchez (D), Anaheim, Santa Ana.
President: Obama 58%, McCain 39%
Governor: Brown 50%, Whitman 40%
Senate: Boxer 49%, Fiorina 40%

California's 47th Congressional District: OPEN, Long Beach, Garden Grove, Westminster.  
President: Obama 58%, McCain 39%
Governor: Brown 50%, Whitman 42%
Senate: Boxer 50%, Fiorina 42%

Democratic state Senator Alan Lowenthal is the favorite to take this coastal district, though not a shoo-in.  After some early scares, Lowenthal's fundraising has improved, with him sporting $283,000 cash on hand.  The Republican frontrunner is Long Beach councilmember Gary DeLong, who has a stronger $404,000 on hand.  DeLong is the favorite to advance to the general by defeating former one-term (1999-2001) Republican Congressman Steve Kuykendall, who hasn't raised much money.  Despite the Democratic lean here, the GOP has not given up on this seat: DeLong has been added to the NRCC's prominent Young Guns program.  This race is Lowenthal's to lose, but Gary DeLong cannot be counted out yet.

California's 48th Congressional District: Dana Rohrabacher (R), Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach.
President: Obama 46%, McCain 51%
Governor: Brown 35%, Whitman 58%
Senate: Boxer 34%, Fiorina 58%

California's 49th Congressional District: Darrell Issa (R), Oceanside, San Clemente, Carlsbad.
President: Obama 49%, McCain 48%
Governor: Brown 37%, Whitman 55%
Senate: Boxer 36%, Fiorina 56%

California's 50th Congressional District: Duncan Hunter Jr. (R), Escondido, Lakeside.
President: Obama 39%, McCain 58%
Governor: Brown 31%, Whitman 61%
Senate: Boxer 28%, Fiorina 63%

California's 51st Congressional District: OPEN, National City,  El Centro.
President: Obama 65%, McCain 32%
Governor: Brown 58%, Whitman 31%
Senate: Boxer 57%, Fiorina 32%

Democratic state Senator Juan Vargas has run for this seat three times in the past, losing to Democratic incumbent Bob Filner each time.  Now, with Filner giving up this seat to run for Mayor of San Diego, Vargas is the heavy favorite.  Vargas has a prominent opponent in Democratic former state Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny.  However, Vargas has all the advantages going in: he has the support of the California Democratic Party and many union groups.  Additionally, Vargas has benefited from his ties to the insurance lobby, giving his fundraising a boost.  Vargas has a huge cash lead over Ducheny, with $159,000 on hand to her $47,000.  A recent SurveyUSA poll showed that opinion of Vargas in the district is almost evenly divided, while most have not heard of Ducheny.  Ducheny, like Gloria Negrete McLeod, has been noticed but not yet endorsed by Emily's List: an endorsement could give her a needed shot in the arm.  For now, Vargas looks like he holds all the cards in this race.  There are enough Republicans running to split the GOP vote enough to give Ducheny a spot in the general, but she'll need much more support to have a chance against Vargas.

California's 52nd Congressional District: Brian Bilbray (R), La Jolla, San Diego.
President: Obama 55%, McCain 43%
Governor: Brown 43%, Whitman 50%
Senate: Boxer 42%, Fiorina 49%

Both Brian Bilbray and his would-be Democratic opponents find themselves in competitive races to advance to the general election.  Bilbray's main Republican foe is rich guy John Stahl.  A recent SurveyUSA poll showed that Stahl is almost completely unknown, and he has raised little money and has few endorsements: however, the $500,000 he has lent himself gives him the ability to make trouble until the June primary.  Bilbray is very unlikely to lose to Stahl, but the challenge will force him to use up some of the money he'd like to have for the general.

The good news for Bilbray is that the Democrats also face a fight to get to the general.  The two main contenders are Scott Peters, a former San Diego councilmember and current port commissioner, and former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana.  Both Democrats have gone negative already: Saldana has attacked Peters for refusing to release his tax returns; Peters has fired back with attacks on gifts and trips Saldana took in the legislature.  The latest battle comes over Saldana's vote against a bill in the legislature in 2010; Peters has challenged her over her vote against Chelsea’s Law, which strengthens penalties and tracking off sex offenders.  Saldana has stated she was concerned the bill didn't offer specific funding for the program.  SurveyUSA's poll found Saldana much better known and better liked among Democrats, who are likely to provide most of the votes for the victorious Democrat in the June primary.  However, Peters has much more money, raising $192,000 in the last quarter to Saldana's $51,000, and having far more cash on hand, $250,000 to $37,000.  Both candidates have good endorsements: Peters has the help of many unions, while Saldana has the nods from many teacher's groups and local Democratic clubs; she also has been noticed but not yet endorsed by Emily's List.  Giver Peter's huge cash advantage he appears to be the favorite despite less name recognition, but Saldana seems to have a shot right now as well.

Looking ahead to November, Bilbray should be in for a real fight.  The incumbent has a large warchest of $787,000, but his race against Stahl should cost him some of it.  SurveyUSA finds voters don't have strong opinions of either Bilbray or his main Democratic opponents.  Given the swingy nature of the district, both parties are likely to make a priority out of this race; assuming voters remain ambivalent about all the candidates, the winner will likely be decided by the national mood.  

California's 53rd Congressional District: Susan Davis (D), El Cajon, San Diego, Chula Vista.  
President: Obama 61%, McCain 36%
Governor: Brown 52%, Whitman 40%
Senate: Boxer 51%, Fiorina 40%

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