WASHINGTON -- Money just keeps flowing into the campaign to replace retiring Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, and now San Joaquin Valley voters are starting to see the results.
This week, former Valley congressman Richard Pombo is returning to Capitol Hill for another round of fundraising events. Next week, it will be state Sen. Jeff Denham's turn, as the Atwater Republican hits up members of Congress and assorted Washington-area players.
The furious fundraising underscores how the 19th Congressional District race could be one of the nation's liveliest, even though the candidates themselves have only had scattered face-to-face meetings.
"I suspect this is going to be over a $2 million campaign, maybe even $3 million," Denham's campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said Monday, when asked to assess total spending by all candidates.
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Denham on Monday was set to formally file his candidacy papers. Pombo, former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and current Fresno City Councilman Larry Westerlund have also publicly declared they are in the race.
So far, Pombo and Denham have shown the most fundraising muscle. This matters, in several respects. Candidates need the cash to fund advertising and other campaign activities, such as the Denham ads that began running on Valley cable television stations Monday.
The 30-second ad shows Denham and Radanovich strolling together through a vineyard. The Denham campaign has been running radio ads on Fresno-based KMJ and several smaller stations for the past several weeks.
Candidates also use their fundraising prowess as a proxy for political viability. Typically, money attracts money, as politically pragmatic contributors prefer to invest in candidates they think will win.
"I think Pombo has a record that is very clear to the people in Washington, D.C., and he'll be able to raise the money he needs," said Andrew House, press secretary for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia.
Nunes is helping promote Pombo's candidacy, hosting past fundraising events and working to introduce the one-time Tracy area rancher to the southern San Joaquin Valley. Though Pombo served in the House between 1993 and 2007, he never represented the Stanislaus, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno and Tuolumne county areas that make up the 19th Congressional District.
In late January, Pombo came to Washington for three fundraising events. He's returning today for an event that includes members of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. On Wednesday, Pombo will further benefit from one fundraising event with a farm theme and another organized by mining industry officials.
Next week, Denham will take the overnight red-eye flight to Washington for a day-and-a-half. It will be his second campaign trip to Washington in the past month, and will include a fundraising event at the Republicans' Capitol Hill Club.
Patterson traveled to Washington for several days in early February, meeting with conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Family Research Council. While conceding that he will "probably be outspent" by his GOP opponents, Patterson sought to turn Denham's and Pombo's fundraising against them.
"They are prostituting themselves to the very interests that have messed America up," Patterson said, adding that "these other candidates are for sale, and they are going wherever they can to make the sale."
The winner of the Republican primary in June is the all-but-certain general election victor, in the congressional district where Republicans enjoy a big voter advantage.