WASHINGTON -- Money just keeps flowing into the campaign to replace retiring Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, and San Joaquin Valley voters are starting to see the results.
This week, former valley Congressman Richard Pombo returns to Capitol Hill for another round of fund-raising events. Next week, it will be state Sen. Jeff Denham's turn to hit up members of Congress and assorted Washington-area players.
The furious fund raising underscores how the 19th Congressional District race could be one of the nation's liveliest, even though the candidates have had only 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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On Monday, Denham, R-Atwater, was set to formally file his candidacy papers. Pombo, former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and Fresno City Councilman Larry Westerlund have declared they are in the race.
Pombo and Denham have shown the most fund-raising muscle. Candidates need the money to pay for advertising, 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 several weeks.
Candidates use their fund-raising prowess as a proxy for political viability. Typically, money attracts money, and politically pragmatic contributors prefer to invest in candidates they think will win.
Nunes promoting Pombo
"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 with fund-raising events and introducing the one-time Tracy area rancher to the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Though Pombo served in the House from 1993 to 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 fund-raising events. He returns today for an event that includes members of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
On Wednesday, Pombo will attend one fund-raising event with a farm theme and another organized by mining industry officials.
Next week, Denham will fly to Washington for a day and a half. His second campaign trip to the capital in a month will include a fund-raiser at the Republicans' Capitol Hill Club.
Patterson traveled to Washington for several days in early February, meeting with such conservative groups as the Club for Growth and the Family Research Council.
Although he conceded that he will "probably be outspent" by his opponents, Patterson sought to turn Denham and Pombo's fund-raising 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 a congressional district where Republicans enjoy a big voter advantage.