Emilio Huerta has turned in an impressive fundraising report for the first quarter of 2016 in his quest for the 21st Congressional District. The Bakersfield Democrat raised more than $142,000 and had around $116,000 in his campaign account as of March 31.
And he has done it all since early January.
Here is the challenge for Huerta: Hanford Republican David Valadao, the two-term incumbent, has raised more than $1.5 million so far for his re-election and has around $1.4 million in his account.
But Valadao isn’t Huerta’s immediate worry; rather, that’s Daniel Parra. The Fowler mayor pro tem, also a Democrat, is the third person in the race, and under the state’s primary election rules, only the top two finishers in the June 7 primary, regardless of political party, advance to the November general election.
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So it will be Valadao and either Huerta or Parra.
It’s a similar story in the neighboring 16th Congressional District, where two Republicans – Madera County Supervisor David Rogers and Burrel dairyman Johnny Tacherra – are trying to knock off incumbent Fresno Democrat Jim Costa, who like Valadao has a huge fundraising advantage. Rogers and Tacherra will wage the first fight in the June primary, and Rogers is in much better shape financially to this point.
The June 7 primary likely will eliminate one challenger each in the 16th and 21st Congressional Districts, leaving the survivor to take on the incumbents – Fresno Democrat Jim Costa in the 16th and Hanford Republican David Valadao in the 21st.
Theoretically, Costa and Valadao could come in third in June and be out of the running, but with two challengers from the opposing party the chances of that are about zero.
So the focus now is on their challengers.
Parra has struggled from the very start with fundraising. He has been in the race for a year and has yet to raise $60,000. Also, as of March 31, he has – if campaign debt is counted – a little more than $8,000 in his war chest. In a congressional race, which takes big money to run campaigns, that is the equivalent of being destitute.
Huerta, an attorney and son of United Farm Workers union co-founder Dolores Huerta, filed official paperwork on New Year’s Day with the Federal Election Commission and in just three months raised close to 2 1/2 times as much as Parra.
Of course, money isn’t everything.
Just ask Republican Steve Crass, who in 2014 raised more than $100,000 and made “On the Radar” status in the Young Guns program for the National Republican Congressional Committee in his campaign to oust Costa in the 16th District.
But Tacherra outcampaigned Crass and beat him in the primary election before losing to Costa in the general election.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the 21st District have been frustrated by Valadao thus far. He won in 2012 and 2014, even though Democrats have a voter-registration edge of 15½-percentage points.
The 21st Congressional District, which includes all of Kings County and parts of Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties, is a majority-Latino district where President Barack Obama won 55.7 percent of the vote in 2012.
Parra was first out of the gate to challenge Valadao, but influential Democrats – including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – began looking for a viable alternative after he turned in two sub-par campaign finance reports.
Two potential Democrats fell through, then Huerta emerged in January. He has a famous last name and by raising $142,302 in less than three months it only seems like a matter of time before the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee takes notice of him for its “Red to Blue” program, which highlights strong Democratic candidates.
He still has to get past Parra, however – even though he is nearly broke – and it appears there is a Democratic divide between those – mainly in the 21st District’s north – who support Parra and those who back Huerta.
As for Tacherra, he is taking his third congressional shot at Costa in the 16th District, which covers all of Merced County and parts of Fresno and Madera counties. He lost in the 2012 primary but nearly upset the Fresno Democrat in 2014.
This time around Tacherra finds himself in a familiar position – lagging in cash as he heads toward an election.
Costa is again dominating fundraising; he has raised more than $970,000 this campaign and has more than $1.23 million in his account. He also is running in a presidential election year, when he typically does well.
Tacherra has raised around $280,000 this campaign but has burned through most of it. He has – when his debt is counted – less than $27,000 in the bank.
And this time around Rogers is surging past Tacherra on fundraising. The Chowchilla Republican has raised more than $185,000 and, most importantly, has around $110,000 in his account as the campaign gets ready to hit the home stretch.
As with Huerta and Parra in the 21st District, its Rogers vs. Tacherra now in the 16th District, with only one of them emerging from the June primary to take on Costa in November.
Though Rogers is in a better cash position, he should remember how it ended for Crass two years ago: Tacherra beat him.
David Valadao, R-Hanford
Cash on hand: $1,139,306
Emilio Huerta, D-Bakersfield
Cash on hand: $116,158
Daniel Parra, D-Fowler
Cash on hand: $11,186
Jim Costa, D-Fresno
Cash on hand: $1,253,526
David Rogers, R-Chowchilla
Cash on hand: $110,399
Johnny Tacherra, R-Burrel
Cash on hand: $36,988