ELK GROVE, Calif.—It was only the morning after Democrat Ami Bera lost his bid to unseat Republican Rep. Dan Lungren two years ago when he began talking with his wife about running again.
Bera’s ultimate decision to make another bid set up one of the nation’s most hotly contested House rematches. Trying to fend off Bera this time around, Lungren stands as the most endangered House chairman (he leads the Administration Committee).
The contest is a magnet for outside cash. The Sacramento media market, which includes up to four potentially competitive House races, is saturated with $10 million in ad reservations by the national parties and various super PACs through Election Day.
The race pits a GOP stalwart of California politics, who has spent a combined quarter-century in Congress and as state attorney general, against a 47-year-old physician, a Democrat who has never held elective office but has proven himself a fundraising phenom. Since the start of 2011, Bera has raised nearly $2 million to Lungren’s $1.7 million, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports, dated June 30. That, combined with a redrawn 3rd Congressional District almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, has analysts describing the race as a pure toss-up.