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CA Congressional races to watch Tuesday night

The bitter intra-party contest between Democrats Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman is just one of many California Congressional races to watch on election night.
The bitter intra-party contest between Democrats Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman is just one of many California Congressional races to watch on election night.
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California's citizen-drawn redistricing plan has done its job, shaking up the political establishment in the state's 53 Congressional districts. The state's top-two rule has created half-a-dozen races with candidates from the same party facing off Tuesday.


36th Congressional District — Coachella Valley:

Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack faces emergency room physician, Democrat Raul Ruiz. The Democrats' Congressional PAC has targeted this race. The GOP is pouring money in as well. As of mid-October, the two sides had raised more than $2.5 million, outside of PAC money. The redrawn district has a slight majority of Republicans, but a lot of independent voters as well, and a large Latino population. The race has turned nasty, with accusations of tax evasion on one side and radical politics on the other. The Cook Political Report says the race is too close to call.

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30th Congressional District — San Fernando Valley

Two Democratic incumbents, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, chose to run in the same newly re-drawn district. Both are liberal Democrats with similar voting records. Another nasty race that even included physical contact between the two men. Sherman finished first in the June primary. Berman's campaign insists the momentum has changed, pushing him ahead. Either way, Nancy Pelosi loses a reliable Democratic vote.

44th Congressional District — Carson

Pelosi will also lose a vote down in South L.A. where another pair of Democrats, Congresswomen Laura Richardson and freshman Janice Hahn, are tangling in the same district. Richardson has been under an ethics cloud for months and had trouble raising campaign funds.

35th Congressional District — Ontario

This race is the perfect place to see what a last-minute money bomb can do for a campaign. Democratic State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod is challenging fellow Democrat Joe Baca for his Congressional seat. Both are well know in the district, but he had clearly outraised her — until New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumped into the race. Bloomberg's political action committee, Independence USA, just spent $2.5 million on mailers and TV ads for McLeod. His PAC was designed to tackle politicos soft on gun control, but the ads target Baca's vote against a clean water bill.

31st Congressional District — San Bernardino

PAC money is also at play in the Inland Empire, where the real estate industry's political action committee gave more than a million dollars to boost the campaign of Republican incumbent Gary Miller. Redistricting caused Miller to hopscotch from Orange County where he'd have had to run against fellow GOP Congressman Ed Royce. Miller's still facing a Republican: State Senator Bob Dutton.

33rd Congressional District — Malibu to Manhattan Beach

Personal financing makes this race interesting. Democrat Henry Waxman came to Capitol Hill when Gerald Ford was in the White House. He hasn't had a serious campaign threat in years. But Manhattan Beach businessman Bill Bloomfield quit the Republican party, became an independent, and put up millions of dollars out of his own pocket to challenge Waxman.  He will likely be heard from post-election on campaign reform issues.


With half a dozen members retiring and several others running against each other, there are lots of opportunities for new faces in the California delegation. One appears to be a no-brainer.

29th Congressional District — San Fernando Valley

L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas is running in a newly drawn district that is 69% Latino and 55% Democratic. His opponent, David Hernandez, has raised a scant $12 thousand compared to Cardenas' three-quarters of a million dollars.

47th Congressional District — Long Beach

This district straddles L.A. and Orange counties and pits Republican businessman Gary DeLong, who is also a Long Beach City Councilman, against longtime Democratic Sacramento lawmaker Alan Lowenthal. DeLong has been the biggest money raiser. Both have received reluctant support from their national parties.

41st Congressional District — Riverside

This race pits a veteran GOP politico (who moonlights in a garage band) against an openly gay, Asian-American high school teacher. Republican John Tavaglione got some funding help from the Chamber of Commerce; Democrat Mark Takano got some star support from former President Bill Clinton.


Believe it or not, most of the contested seats in California Congressional races are outside of Southern California. Here's a short list of races to watch:

52nd Congressional District — San Diego

Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray has been running to the center, trying to fight off Democratic incumbent Scott Peters in a newly drawn district that is split almost evenly between Democrats, Republicans, and folks who decline to pick a party. Both the GOP and Democrats have poured money into this race.

26th Congressional District — Oxnard

One of the most contested open races in California, Democrat Julia Brownley is facing an uphill battle to defeat Republican Tony Strickland. He beat her by nearly two-to-one in the June primary. Again, a race both parties have committed massive resources to winning.

24th Congressional District — Santa Barbara

Longtime Democrat Lois Capps found her district redrawn north, including the farming country of Santa Maria and central coast areas. She's facing the former Republican Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado, who has a love/hate relationship with the state GOP. Big money race.

10th Congressional District — Modesto

Freshman Republican Congressman Jeff Denham is battling former astronaut, Democrat Jose Hernandez. You could tell it was going to be a nasty race when the first court battle was over whether or not Hernandez could identify himself as an astronaut, since he was no longer flying the space shuttle.

15th Congressional District — Livermore

This could be a surprise upset. 80-year-old Democratic incumbent Pete Stark has a reputation for saying unpredictable things — many of which have shown up on YouTube. He's being challenged by another Democrat, local prosecutor Eric Swalwell.

9th Congressional District — Modesto

In one of the poorest districts in the state, Democrat Jerry McNerney is battling to hold onto this seat agains a challenge from GOP candidate Ricky Gill, who is of East Indian heritage. Both parties have invested heavily in this seat. McNerney has been fundraising almost since he got to Washington. I often see him trudging down from the House office buildings to Democratic headquarters to make funding calls.

7th Congressional District — Sacramento

This is a race that's been running for four years. Longtime GOP incumbent Dan Lungren is once again being challenged by Democrat Ami Bera. Two years ago, last minute PAC money from Karl Rove's American Crossroads squashed the surging Bera. "This American Life" did a segment on that race.  This time, both parties are pouring in resources.

3rd Congressional District — Walnut Grove

Hard to believe that a Democrat who served for years in the state legislature, as California's first elected Insurance Commissioner and as Lt. Governor, is facing a tough uphill battle to hold onto his Congressional seat. But John Garamendi is locked in a tough re-election fight with Republican Kim Vann. Before Congress left for its election recess, Garamendi said he was concerned about the $1.3 million in Vann PAC money available for ad buys in an inexpensive TV market.