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Outdoor headshot of Democrat Amanda Renteria
Amanda Renteria, the only viable Democrat running
Roll Call's Emily Cahn takes a detailed look at the pitiful finances of Democrat John Hernandez, whom you may recall squeaked through the top-two primary in California's 21st Congressional District last cycle, ahead of establishment choice Blong Xiong. Hernandez then proceeded to run a joke of a campaign that allowed Republican David Valadao to win in a walk, even as Barack Obama carried the 21st by a 55-44 margin.

So why does he matter? Unfortunately, Hernandez claims he's running again this year (oy) and has even been soliciting donations. However, he hasn't filed a single quarterly fundraising report, as required by law, but he does have 13 letters on file from the FEC upbraiding him for compliance failures. Hernandez is also deeply in debt and even managed to bounce a $42 check (!) to a local Democratic club last summer.

Fortunately, Democrats have a legitimate alternative this time in former congressional staffer Amanda Renteria, who raised more in the fourth quarter of last year than Hernandez did during his entire 2012 bid. But Hernandez could nevertheless prevail in the primary again, thanks to his name recognition. Indeed, he probably beat Xiong (who is Hmong) simply by having a surname that was more familiar to most voters in this majority-Latino district. At least that advantage will be more limited against Renteria, who is also Hispanic.

But a recent Harper poll for the NRCC still shows Hernandez starting out ahead. According to Harper, Valadao, the only Republican running, sits at 45 percent, while Hernandez takes 25 and Renteria just 13. However, Renteria hasn't begun paid advertising yet, and the primary isn't until June, so she still has every opportunity to overtake Hernandez. She'll have to work hard for it, though, and even if she succeeds, beating Valadao will be no easy task, especially in a district like this where midterm turnout among Democratic-leaning voters tends to drop off dramatically compared to presidential years.

But with limited options for going on the offense to retake the House, Democrats can't afford to screw up here. Another Hernandez victory will once again be tantamount to a forfeit, and that would be a shameful outcome indeed.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 11:32 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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