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It’s been almost two months since the June 5 primary, and the campaign season is picking back up for the candidates in San Diego County’s five congressional races. Fundraising in some of those contests has already reached millions of dollars.
Why this matters
The ways San Diego County’s candidates for Congress raise and spend money can reveal important information about their interests and priorities.
The race to replace nine-term Rep. Darrell Issa, the Vista Republican who decided not to run for re-election in the 49th District, is considered one of the most competitive races in the country. Republican Diane Harkey finished first in the primary with 25.5 percent of the vote, and Democrat Mike Levin finished second with 17.5 percent.
Candidates for Congress filed their latest financial reports on July 15. Here are some key takeaways from those filings.
49th District: Diane Harkey and Mike Levin
California’s 49th Congressional District stretches from Dana Point to Del Mar. Democrats are hoping to flip the seat in the November election to bring them one step closer to a majority in the House, and donors from around the country have been taking notice.
Levin, an environmental attorney from San Juan Capistrano, edged out third-place finisher Sara Jacobs, a Democrat from Del Mar who was reluctant to admit defeat until every vote was counted. Even so, Jacobs donated $2,700 to Levin’s campaign on June 16.
Since making it through the primary, Levin also has received donations from high-profile Democratic politicians. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave him $4,000, Virginia Rep. Don Beyer gave $2,000 and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer gave $2,000.
Those aren’t the only people hoping for a Levin victory. Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who recently made the news for funding a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump, contributed $2,700 to Levin. And Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, donated $5,400.
In the 16-candidate primary race, donations from progressive political action committees were split among the Democratic candidates, but they’ve now coalesced around Levin.
PACs donating to Levin since the election include PAC to the Future, AMERIPAC and the CHC Bold PAC. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee donated $5,000 to Levin’s campaign for the general election, though it didn’t fund him in the primary.
Levin is also getting support from individual donors around the country who are contributing to his campaign through a platform called ActBlue. The tool helps Democratic candidates fundraise. ActBlue has raised more than $2.4 billion for Democrats since 2004.
Harkey, a member of the state Board of Equalization from Dana Point, is also loading up on money from PACs. A PAC run by Darrell Issa donated $5,000 to her on June 28, and the Koch Industries Inc. PAC also gave her $5,000 that same day.
Harkey used some of her cash on June 28, when she spent $500 on In-N-Out Burger catering.
50th District: Duncan Hunter and Ammar Campa-Najjar
Despite a landslide first-place finish by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine in the primary, national PACs are still supporting his Democratic challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar of Jamul. Hunter walked away with 47.4 of the vote, and Campa-Najjar finished second with 17.6 percent in a seven-candidate contest.
The 50th District, which covers eastern San Diego County and a sliver of Riverside County near Temecula, is one of the most Republican districts in California. But Hunter is facing an FBI investigation into previous campaign spending, and Democrats are hoping that could be enough to turn voters away from him.
Among the groups giving financial support to Hunter are the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Lockheed Martin Corporation Employees’ PAC, the Florida Sugar Cane League, the Cruise Lines International Association.
Hunter, a five-term congressman, has more cash in the bank than Campa-Najjar as of June 30 — $352,000 compared to $279,000. But Hunter has actually spent more money than he has raised.
After his primary win, Hunter gave one of his campaign consultants a $10,000 bonus.
51st District: Juan Vargas and Juan Hidalgo Jr.
San Diego’s three other House districts are considered safe Democratic seats this year, with each incumbent getting more than 50 percent of the primary vote.
In the 51st District, Rep. Juan Vargas of San Diego will face Republican Juan Hidalgo Jr. this November. The district covers Imperial County and southern San Diego County. Three Indian tribes have donated to Vargas’ campaign this election season, including the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Riverside County, which gave him $1,000 on June 30.
Vargas, who is serving his third term in office, has spent some of his campaign money helping other House Democrats. In late June, he gave $2,000 to Massachusetts Rep. Bill Keating, $1,000 to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy and $2,000 to Iowa Rep. Dave Loebsack.
Hidalgo of San Diego has spent every cent of his money so far — he had $0 in his campaign coffers as of June 30.
52nd District: Scott Peters and Omar Qudrat
Democratic Rep. Scott Peters of La Jolla is one of the most moderate members in the House and one of the wealthiest: He’s the third richest Californian in Congress. His district includes Coronado, La Jolla and Scripps Ranch.
People are donating to the three-term congressman through ActBlue, the same tool used by Levin’s campaign. He also has the financial backing of some well-known corporations. On June 30, he received donations from PACs for Goldman Sachs, Intel Corp. and alcohol company Constellation Brands.
His challenger, Republican Omar Qudrat of San Diego, is funding his campaign through small contributions from individual donors. He had $18,000 in his bank account on June 30, compared to Peters’ $2.5 million.
53rd District: Susan Davis and Morgan Murtaugh
Nine-term Congresswoman Susan Davis of San Diego serves California’s 53rd District, an area including the eastern portion of San Diego, plus Bonita, La Mesa and Lemon Grove.
Davis, a Democrat, donated $2,000 on June 28 to Levin’s campaign for the 49th District.
Davis has plenty of money in the bank for the general election: $248,000 compared to her challenger, Republican Morgan Murtaugh of San Diego, who has $3,000. Murtaugh’s donations have mostly come from individual donors.
PACs have been a big source of funding for Davis since the primary election. She’s received donations from PACs for The Boeing Co., Samsung Electronics, the National Apartment Association and Ernst & Young.
The day after winning the primary, the American Federation of Teachers gave her $5,000.
We’ll let you know when big things happen.