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This new House Democrat from Turlock raised more money than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A rookie California congressman who flipped a Republican seat last fall has raised more money for re-election than any other freshman Democrat, even outpacing members who have become household names such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.

That’s bad news for Republicans, who have listed Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, as a top target in 2020 in the GOP’s bid to reclaim a majority in the House of Representatives.

Harder brought about $870,000 in the first quarter of 2019. Harder also has about $790,000 in cash on hand.

Harder raised more than $8.4 million for the 2018 midterm election to defeat four-term incumbent Republican Rep. Jeff Denham. Denham raised about $4.9 million for the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“Josh does well because he’s part of a new generation that’s focused on stuff people at home care about — health care, jobs, and water,” a campaign spokesman for Harder said.

Ted Howze, a Republican and former Turlock city councilman who declared early on that he would challenge Harder, raised about $30,000 in the first quarter and has about $320,000 in cash on hand from loans to his campaign, according to campaign finance records.

Howze said he wasn’t discouraged by the numbers, especially this early on.

“We don’t have to raise as much money as Josh Harder, we just have to raise enough to get our message out,” Howze said, citing housing affordability and availability of health care as some of his major issues.

Harder’s total was more than New York’s Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman congressman and progressive darling known for an ambitious environmental bill called the Green New Deal. She raised about $730,000 for the quarter.

Minnesota’s Omar, another member who has gained widespread notoriety in conflicts with President Donald Trump, posted the second-most to Harder, about $830,000.

Both of their districts are safer bets for Democrats than Harder’s.

Harder’s district is sure to be a battleground in 2020, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announcing early on efforts to defend the seat as the National Republican Congressional Committee declared it would target it.

It’s one of seven districts in California that Democrats took from Republicans in November, diminishing the GOP’s share of the state’s 53 congressional districts to just seven.

The six other new California Democrats and their first quarter fundraising totals are Reps. TJ Cox, D-Fresno, with about $300,000; Katie Hill, D-Santa Clarita, with $600,000; Gil Cisneros, D-Phelan, with $260,000; Katie Porter, D-Irvine, with $415,000; Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, with $500,000; and Mike Levin, D-Vista, with $440,000.

The majority of Harder’s donations came from throughout California, from Palo Alto to Modesto to Los Angeles, with some donations coming from New York and the Washington, D.C. metro area. The vast majority were earmarked through ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising tool meant to ease grassroots donations to candidates.

Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.