However, 2012 saw the first use of the state's new congressional map. The California's Citizen's Redistricting Commission redrew the lines to create many more competitive seats. Additionally, the top-two system was first implemented in 2012. Now, rather than competing in separate Democratic and Republican primaries, all the candidates run on one ballot. The two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, advance to the general election. The top-two ensures that some races between candidates from the same party continue for months until November.
This year will see a number of competitive congressional races in California. Some will be between Democrats and Republicans, while a few will be mainly between members of the same party. What follows is a guide to the state's House races. Any race that Daily Kos Elections rates as anything but safe for the incumbent are featured. This also includes open seat races though those vary in competitiveness. The top-two primary will be held on June 3.
To start out, below is a chart with all 53 House seats. The state has a complete list of candidates available here.
CA-03: John Garamendi (D), Davis, Yuba City, Fairfield
Obama 54/43, Garamendi 54/46
John Garamendi represents a seat where Democratic leaning is potentially competitive. This year, the Republicans are running conservative Assemblyman Dan Logue. Garamendi's cash flow has been pretty tepid this cycle: While Logue hasn't been a fundraising dynamo, he has used personal funds to give himself a $283,000 to $248,000 cash-on-hand lead over the incumbent. Given the Democratic leaning nature of the seat Garamendi starts out as the clear favorite, but the district is swingy enough that Logue can make things interesting in a good year for the GOP.
CA-07: Ami Bera (D), Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Citris Heights
Obama 51/47, Bera 52/48
Ami Bera won a very close race in 2012 when he unseated Republican Rep. Dan Lungren in this very competitive seat, and the Republicans are hoping to target him before he can become entrenched. Three credible Republicans are running: 2012 Senate nominee and autism advocate Elizabeth Emken; former Rep. Doug Ose, who used to represent much of this territory early in the last decade; and former Congressional aide Igor Birman.
Democrats would undoubtedly love to face Emken, who isn't a particularly strong fundraiser. Birman would also be a good foil for Bera: He has raised a pretty weak $275,000 so far this cycle, and is very conservative. Ose has a reputation as a moderate and is the best fundraiser in the bunch (and also has his own money to spend), and would likely be the most formidable Republican. It's unclear who will advance to the general: While Birman is underfunded and not as well known as Ose, his conservative stances could give him an edge with primary voters. Birman is also a member of the local Russian community, a fairly large and Republican-leaning voting bloc.
Bera has a well-deserved reputation as an excellent fundraiser, and will be tough to unseat no matter which Republican makes it to the general. Still, the district doesn't clearly favor either party, and Ose especially could make a real race out of this.
CA-10: Jeff Denham (R), Tracy, Turlock, Modesto
Obama 51/47, Denham 53/47
As a Republican in a district Obama won, Jeff Denham will be targeted in 2014. The Democrats have recruited beekeeper Michael Eggman, the brother of a local assemblywoman. After a slow start Eggman has proven to be a decent fundraiser, though Denham has a massive $1,555,000 to $427,000 cash-on-hand edge.
While Obama took the district, Denham looks like the clear favorite. The incumbent has a history of winning on Democratic-leaning turf, with him formally representing a blue state Senate seat. Denham turned back a heavily touted Democratic challenge from astronaut Jose Hernandez in 2012 as Obama was winning the seat (Hernandez for his part decided against a second bid). The district also isn't particularly friendly to Democrats in midterm years, when Hispanic turnout disproportionately falls. The incumbent has also been careful to portray himself as a moderate on immigration, with him being one of the very few Republicans to back the House Democratic immigration reform proposal. While Eggman can't be counted out, Denham is a formidable candidate especially in a midterm year.
CA-11: Open (D held), Richmond, Concord
Longtime Rep. George Miller's retirement was expected to set off a competitive race among Democrats here, but one candidate quickly consolidated support. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (who ran in a similar district in a 2009 special election) immediately entered the race and nailed down major endorsements, including Miller's. Several other Democrats are running but the only one who has any real electoral experience is Alameda City Councilor Tony Daysog. Unfortunately for Daysog, his constituents all live outside the district. Daysog also raised a mere $6,000 after entering the race to DeSaulnier's $148,000. Unless there is a massive surprise, DeSaulnier will have no trouble becoming the district's next congressman.
CA-15: Eric Swalwell (D), Hayward, Pleasanton, San Ramon
Obama 68/30, Swalwell 52/48 (against another Democrat)
Safe Democratic (Likely Swalwell)
Most local Democrats sat out 2012, expecting longtime Rep. Pete Stark to win one more term and retire in 2014. Swalwell was the only Democrat who took on Stark and disrupted numerous people's plans when he pulled off a win. This year one of the Democrats who was planning to succeed Stark, state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, is hoping she can take the seat before Swalwell becomes entrenched.
While Corbett is quite powerful in state politics, that influence hasn't translated into money. Corbett has had several weak fundraising quarters and trails Swalwell $923,000 to $208,000 in cash-on-hand. Swalwell also has secured a number of influential endorsements, including from the California Democratic Party and President Barack Obama.
Republican Hugh Bussell is also running and while he won't win this Democratic seat, he could have an impact on the race. If Bussell can consolidate the district's conservative vote he could advance to the general election. As the incumbent Swalwell is far more likely to reach the general election than Corbett, and he would certainly prefer to face Bussell in November than Corbett. Regardless of what happens, Swalwell looks well positioned to keep the seat.
CA-17: Mike Honda (D), Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Fremont
Obama 72/26, Honda 73.5/26.5
Safe Democratic (Likely Honda)
Mike Honda has not needed to worry about re-election since he first won his seat in 2000, but a well-funded fellow Democrat aims to change that. Ro Khanna, a former Commerce Department official, was planning to run in the 15th District when Pete Stark retired. After Stark's defeat, Khanna changed plans and is targeting Honda. Khanna has a good deal of support among Silicon Valley's tech executives and has a $1,947,000 to $1,084,000 cash-on-hand lead over Honda.
The incumbent still looks like the favorite going in. For starters, Honda does not seem to have done anything to alienate voters here. Honda also has a number of influential endorsements including President Obama, the state party, and Daily Kos.
Honda's allies initially hoped that Republican Vanila Singh could consolidate conservative support and edge Khanna out for the general election spot. However, one other Republican (allegedly recruited by Khanna) is in the race, so this is unlikely.
CA-21: David Valadao (R), Hanford, Delano
Obama 55/44, Valadao 58-42
Freshman Rep. David Valadao easily defeated Democratic businessman John Hernandez in 2012 after the latter ran a very weak and underfunded campaign. Unfortunately Hernandez is running again, but the party has a much better alternative in former Congressional aide Amanda Renteria. So far Renteria has proven to be a great fundraiser and if she can defeat Hernandez in June for the general election spot, she would be able to give Valadao a much tougher race.
Valadao would still be a difficult to unseat even if Renteria is the Democratic nominee. The district's Hispanic electorate is very difficult to mobilize in non-presidential years, and Valadao will not lack money. If Renteria can't defeat Valadao this year she may have a better chance in 2016 when turnout is expected to be much better.
CA-24: Lois Capps (D), San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria
Obama 54/43, Capps 55/45
Lois Capps saw redistricting transform her once safe Democratic district into a much more competitive seat in 2012. This year Capps faces two notable Republicans: businessman Justin Fareed and Santa Barbara Councilor Dale Francisco. Neither Republican has much money, while Capps appears to be well prepared for a tough race. The district is swingy enough to keep an eye on, but Capps is the clear favorite.
CA-25: Open (R held), Santa Clarita, Palmdale
This ancestrally red district has been moving in the Democrats' direction in recent years, though it remains Republican down-ballot. After Rep. Buck McKeon won an unexpectedly weak 55/45 victory over Democratic doctor Lee Rogers, the incumbent called it quits. Four Republicans are running to succeed him, with the top contenders looking like former state Sen. Tony Strickland and state Sen. Steve Knight. Both men have their share of endorsements (with McKeon backing Strickland) but Strickland destroyed Knight in the last fundraising quarter. Currently, Strickland has a massive $656,000 to $97,000 cash-on-hand lead over Knight.
Two Democrats are running, with 2012 nominee Rogers likely to advance to the general. Rogers hasn't been the most consistent fundraiser, but he appears to have the potential to make this competitive. Still, the Republican candidate will start out the clear favorite in what is still a red seat, especially in a midterm year.
CA-26: Julia Brownley (D), Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks
Obama 55/44, Brownley 53/47
Freshman Rep. Brownley won this Ventura County seat in a very expensive race against Tony Strickland in 2012, and Republicans are targeting her as she runs for re-election. Assemblyman Jeff Gorell is likely to be the Republican candidate and he has a compelling biography as an Afghan War veteran. Gorell also won a Democratic leaning seat in 2012, albeit against a very underfunded opponent. Brownley is a much better fundraiser, outpacing Gorell $408,000 to $218,000 in the last quarter and holding a massive cash-on-hand advantage. Ventura County has been trending blue in recent years and Brownley should start out the favorite, but Gorell is capable of pulling off an upset.
CA-31: Open (R held), Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Redlands
Retiring Rep. Gary Miller won this Democratic leaning seat in a fluke in 2012: After four Democrats split the primary vote, Miller and another Republican advanced to the general. Miller evidently realized lightning wouldn't strike twice and called it quits, and this seat is probably the most likely Democratic pickup in the country.
Four Democrats are running: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (who was the unlucky Democrat who missed the general in 2012); attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes; school board trustee Danny Tillman; and former Rep. Joe Baca. It looks like June will be a battle mainly between Aguilar and Reyes for a spot in the general. Both are far better funded then Tillman and Baca. While Aguilar is the choice of national Democrats and has the state party's backing, both candidates have their share of establishment support. Baca may also be in the mix, as he used to represent much of the district. However, the conservative Baca has been a very poor fundraiser and has tended to make headlines for the wrong reasons.
Many Democrats were worried about a repeat of the 2012 debacle here, but it looks very unlikely that two Republicans will advance to the general. Three GOP candidates are running, which is likely one more then they would need to pull off a repeat of 2012. Former Congressional aide Leslie Gooch was the only one to raise much money in the last fundraising quarter, though it's hard to handicap this one. In any case, unless there's a major surprise, the Republican candidate will be the clear underdog in November.
CA-33: Open (D held), Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach
Longtime Rep. Henry Waxman's retirement has led to a very crowded and expensive race to take his place in this Democratic district. Ten Democrats, three Republicans, a well-funded independent, and a few others are running here, and it's anyone's guess what will happen here.
On the Democratic side, the best-known candidates are state Sen. Ted Lieu and former Los Angeles City Controller and 2013 mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel. However, several other well-funded candidates complicated what was expected to be a Lieu-Greuel showdown. Attorney David Kanuth and radio show host Matt Miller each posted good fundraising totals, and businessman James Graf loaned his campaign $1 million dollars. Lieu won the state Democratic Party's endorsement which could give him a leg up in this crowded field. However, with so many candidates a lot of things could happen here.
Three Republicans are running, and it's quite possible they'll split the small conservative vote enough to keep any of them from advancing to the general. However, attorney Elan Carr easily out raised his inter-party rivals and may be able to consolidate Republican support enough to win a general election spot. Outside of a massive fluke Carr won't win this seat, but any Democrat would rather face him in November than another Democrat.
Left-leaning independent Marianne Williamson is also in the mix here. Williamson is a good fundraiser and may be able to pull off a surprise and advance to the general. A wealthy independent held Waxman to a 54/46 win in 2012, so she may be able to make things interesting against a Democrat.
CA-35: Open (D held), Pomona, Ontario, Fontana
After pulling off a surprise victory against fellow Democrat Joe Baca in 2012, freshman Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod decided Congress wasn't for her and is leaving to run for local office. State Sen. Norma Torres (who succeeded Negrete McLeod in the state Senate in 2013) quickly entered the race and is all but assured to take her place in Washington. No other candidate is very well known and none look like they have the resources to change that.
CA-36: Raul Ruiz (D), Hemet, Palm Springs
Obama 51/48, Ruiz 53/47
Raul Ruiz prevailed in a tough contest for this Riverside County seat, and Republicans are hoping to give him a tough challenge. Assemblyman Brian Nestande is the party's choice to take on Ruiz. However, Nestande has posted several disappointing fundraising quarters and the incumbent has a $1,517,000 to $323,000 cash-on-hand lead. One wild card in June is former state Sen. Ray Haynes, who is more conservative than Nestande and probably less electable. Unfortunately, while Haynes is fairly well known, he starts out the campaign with little money.
While Ruiz looks like he has the advantage going in, this is a district that is prone to dramatic Democratic turnout drops in midterm years. The district also has a long Republican heritage and Nestande may be able to harness it to take the seat.
CA-45: Open (R held), Tustin, Irvine, Mission Viejo
Republican Rep. John Campbell is retiring from this Orange County seat, and it looks like state Sen. Mimi Walters will succeed him. Walters is better known and better funded than businessman Greg Raths, though Raths can self fund some.
CA-52: Scott Peters (D), La Jolla, San Diego
Obama 52/46, Peters 51/49
This seat is likely to be one of the most closely watched House races in the nation. Freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Peters is facing former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio, who performed well in the district during his 2012 mayoral campaign. DeMaio narrowly lost to now-disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner and may benefit from buyer's remorse here. Both candidates are very well funded and the district has only a slight Democratic lean, and this one will be worth watching till the end.
One potential wildcard is wealthy Republican surgeon Fred Simon, who may make things interesting in June. Simon has attracted little attention but recently loaned himself close to $1 million dollars. It's unlikely Simon can push past DeMaio and earn a spot in the general, but he may be able to make things interesting or at least distract DeMaio for a few weeks.