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Campaign cash pours into congressional races with SJ Valley among big spenders
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SACRAMENTO (AP) — Millions of dollars in campaign cash have poured into hotly contested congressional races surrounding Sacramento and along a prized slice of California’s central coast as candidates battle over competitive seats stretching from the Central Valley to San Diego.

In a neck-a-neck race encompassing many of the Sacramento suburbs, Democrat Ami Bera reported raising about $732,000 from July through the end of September for his tight race against incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. His opponent’s campaign did not immediately release its fundraising figures for the last quarter.

The fundraising and spending totals being reported by the midnight Monday deadline are important because they give a partial picture of a candidate’s strength heading into the final weeks of the campaign season. Many also are receiving a substantial boost from political parties and independent committees.

South down the Highway 99 corridor, where freshman Republican Rep. Jeff Denham was struggling to fend off a Democratic challenger, former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, Denham reported raising $320,000.

Hernandez, meanwhile, said his campaign had raised about $500,000 and had only about $250,000 cash on hand, about one-third what Denham had. That district anchored around Modesto, is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, with nearly 20 percent of voters registering as independent.

In the Stockton area, Republican challenger Ricky Gill, a 25-year-old law school graduate, reported raising $750,000 during the last three months alone. He is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in a northern San Joaquin Valley district.

McNerney’s campaign did not immediately release its report.

In another closely watched race, Democratic incumbent Rep. Lois Capps reported raising $635,227 since July in her bid to win a newly drawn district along California’s central coast. The district includes Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo and is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

In a news release describing her fundraising, Capps’ campaign sought to emphasize the extra help her opponent had received from national Republicans.

Her challenger, former California Lieutenant Gov. Abel Maldonado, reported having raised $482,187 in the quarter, leaving the campaign with $448,612 in cash on hand.

“At the end of the day, this election isn’t about who has the most money, but whether or not people believe the status-quo is working for them or not,” said Maldonado’s spokesman Kurt Bardella.

Democrat Raul Ruiz, a physician who seeks to wrest a Southern California district seat from Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack, reported hauling in more than $500,000 from July to the end of September.

Bono Mack, co-chair of Mitt Romney’s California team, reported having $843,117 cash on hand after raising $386,980 in the third quarter.

In the lone statewide candidate race, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein reported more than $3.3 million cash on hand for her re-election campaign against Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken, who did not have fundraising totals immediately available.

By the end of August, SuperPACs from both sides already had spent $3.5 million on California’s congressional races, ranking the state behind only Texas and Indiana for independent expenditures for state congressional contests, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan group that analyzes money’s role in politics.