The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes a battle is brewing next year for a rural California district represented by conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock since 2009.
California’s Congressional District 4, which includes Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, was added to the committee’s list of 91 battlefield districts for the 2018 election on Thursday in the wake of sweeping victories by Democrats this week in Virginia and New Jersey.
“The DCCC has successfully built the largest battlefield in over a decade, with strong campaigns ready to win tough races across the map in 2018,” stated DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan.
Lujan noted strong fundraising by Democratic challengers and incumbents in the third quarter and recent polling that showed Democrats with an 11-point lead over Republicans in House races.
McClintock could not be reached for comment Friday.
Democratic challengers to McClintock who have filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to begin collecting and spending campaign contributions are Jessica Morse, Regina Bateson, Roza Calderon and Richard Martin.
In the third quarter, Morse outpaced the five-term incumbent’s fundraising by more than $100,000.
Morse, 35, raised a total of $268,271 between July 1 and Sept. 30, compared to $149,503 raised by McClintock. She had $247,799 in cash on hand at the end of the quarter, while McClintock had $353,715.
“I’m very frugal by nature and have been very frugal with our campaign funds,” said Morse, who spent just over $15,000 in the third quarter. “As a result, we’re building a warchest and catching up to McClintock with cash on hand. That means we’ll have the capacity to get our message out.”
Morse said she had been in contact with the DCCC about adding the district to their list of targets for 2018, but they told her she or one of the other challengers would first have to raise $250,000.
“That’s what I did, and I think they were really surprised,” Morse said.
Morse said her campaign collected over 1,000 individual contributions over the course of the third quarter, about 85 percent of which were $250 or less and 70 percent of which came from California.
She’s a fifth-generation native of the district who lives in Pollock Pines and has spent more than 10 years working for the federal government as a national security strategist that includes over a year in Iraq, where she says she was almost kidnapped by ISIS fighters.
Morse attributed part of her fundraising success to spending three months earlier this year traversing the district that stretches from Truckee south to the Sequoia National Forest and speaking with residents and local officials about the issues facing their communities.
Some of Morse’s top issues include bolstering access to high-speed Internet in rural areas, vocational training and investing in fire protection.
“(McClintock) believes government should do nothing, but there’s a real cost to ignoring the problems in our district,” Morse said.
On Monday, Sonora couple Frankie and Craig West hosted a fundraiser for Morse at their home that was attended by 80 people. Frankie is a Democrat, while Craig is a Republican.
“I think she has a great message, and feel hopeful for the first time about the state of our politics,” Frankie West said of hosting Morse.
Bateson, of Roseville, raised the second-most amount of money of McClintock’s challengers in the third quarter, about $100,000, which brought her year-to-date total as of Sept. 30 to nearly $200,000.
A news release issued by Bateson’s campaign described the DCCC’s addition of McClintock’s district to its target list as a “major political development” that will bring national attention to the race.
The news release stated Bateson, a wife and mother of three who previously worked as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department, is “uniquely positioned to beat McClintock next year.”
It stated more than 300 volunteers have registered to help Bateson’s campaign, and she won double the number of votes cast for any other candidate at a recent forum held in Rocklin.
Calderon, of Granite Bay, raised $12,305 in the latest quarter and a total of about $77,465 to date, $55,000 of which comes from a loan to herself.
She has received national endorsements from Justice Democrats, a progressive group aimed at recruiting candidates who refuse campaign donations from corporations, and Brand New Congress.
Martin, meanwhile, entered the race last month and has yet to file a quarterly report. Rochelle Wilcox, a First Amendment attorney who lives in Roseville, announced on Nov. 4 that she was suspending her campaign to give more space for the other candidates.
The primary election will take place June 5, with the top two vote-getters moving on to a runoff in November.