SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Former President Bill Clinton is coming to the aid of California’s vulnerable congressional Democrats on Wednesday, stumping for two House members facing tough re-election contests.
The California Democratic Party said Clinton will hold get-out-the-vote events in Oxnard and Davis. Among those who will appear with him are Rep. Julia Brownley, who represents a Ventura County district, and Rep. Ami Bera, who represents a district in suburban Sacramento. Both races are drawing national interest and are among the most expensive in the country.
Brownley faces a moderate former state assemblyman and war veteran, Jeff Gorell, who also has served as a local prosecutor. In Northern California, Republican-aligned groups have put millions of dollars in advertising behind former Rep. Doug Ose as he tries to unseat incumbent Bera, who won by just 2 percentage points in 2012.
California’s relatively new citizens redistricting process has created several competitive congressional races, including many in districts almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
Clinton is a prized surrogate for Democrats in swing districts who need help motivating voters to get to the polls. President Barack Obama is staying clear of such races as lawmakers seek to distance themselves from him.
A survey this month by the Public Policy Institute of California showed Obama’s approval rating is 44 percent among likely California voters, a record low for his presidency and down from 54 percent during the same month two years ago.
In Colorado on Monday and Tuesday, Clinton asked voters to ignore the polls and GOP appeals to vent their frustration at the president by voting out members of his party. He said Republicans were trying to get people to “just vote your fears and your anger.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tyler Houlton said in an email that “California Democrats are in full panic mode if they’re begging Bill Clinton to come out and try to save their sinking congressional campaigns.”
In the Bera-Ose race near Sacramento, the National Republican Congressional Committee seeks to link Bera to Obama in its final campaign ad, which pictures Bera with Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “Ami Bera. In Washington, he fights for Obama and Pelosi; not us,” the narrator says.
Outside groups had poured more than $10.5 million into the race as of Tuesday, the second highest spending among all the House races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.
House Speaker John Boehner made a round of fundraising appearances last month for Republican candidates in close races in California, including for Ose, Gorell and another of the GOP’s top candidates, Carl DeMaio, in a San Diego race.
Outside groups have spent about $3.2 million in the Brownley-Gorell contest. For several weeks, Gorell was on his own as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and another Democratic-aligned group, the House Majority PAC, poured resources into mailers and television ads critical of Gorell.
With polls showing the race remains close, two Republican-aligned groups jumped in earlier this month and have spent almost $1 million on television commercials and fliers criticizing Brownley. One of the groups, the American Future Fund, is backed by Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch.
Clinton also is campaigning for Democratic Reps. Raul Ruiz and John Garamendi, but both are thought to be in a favorable position after national Republican groups decided to put their money elsewhere.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.