Freshman Rep. Ami Bera's packed schedule Tuesday included hearings on Afghanistan and asteroids, floor votes and an evening meet-and-greet with a group of California business leaders.
But first, the Elk Grove Democrat had to head to a private club just blocks from the Capitol at 8:30 a.m. to raise money for his next campaign.
Less than three months into his first term, Bera is readying for a race 594 days away.
Potential rivals and political attacks are already popping up in the east Sacramento County swing seat he won last year. The National Republican Congressional Committee has fired off at least 18 emails blasting him in his first 10 weeks in office.
The never-ending campaign season isn't new. The high cost of winning a congressional seat, which is up for a vote every two years, has accelerated the process of raising cash and actively campaigning for competitive seats across the country.
"The reality is the two-year term escalates everything," longtime Democratic strategist Bill Carrick said. "You bounce out of one election and literally the next one starts up right away."
But some say the unusually high level of turnover in California last year and the number of close races caused by changes in the state's political district drawing and election rules mean more races are starting early this year.
After suffering a net loss of four California House seats last year, Republicans are embarking on a "very major push to win back those districts we lost in 2012," GOP consultant Dave Gilliard said.
"Looking around the country, I think California is going to have more congressional action than any other state, simply because we have those seats that Republicans lost and many of us feel we shouldn't have lost," he said.
That list of seats includes the 7th Congressional District that Bera won in a close race against GOP Rep. Dan Lungren that cost more than $10 million.
Republicans hope to capitalize on lower, traditionally less heavy Democratic turnout in a nonpresidential year to win back the district, where Republicans trail Democrats by a narrow margin in voter registration.
Former Rep. Doug Ose, R-Sacramento, state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Elizabeth Emken, a Bay Area Republican who lost to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012, are all weighing taking on Bera next year.
None of the three has formally declared a candidacy, but that hasn't stopped the House GOP's political arm from going on the offensive. In addition to the email releases, the NRCC put up its first online advertisements criticizing Bera on across-the-board federal budget cuts that took effect this month. The banner ad says Bera is allowing the sequester to continue, "but won't cut $1.6 million to fund new video games." The claim, a reference to a NASA program aimed at getting more young people involved in science and math, refers to a budget decision made before Bera arrived.
Democratic Reps. John Garamendi, Raul Ruiz and Scott Peters are among the members getting similar treatment. Like Bera, Ruiz and Peters are freshman, a designation that makes them especially vulnerable heading into the midterm election.
Bera, still adjusting to the cross-country commute and long days on Capitol Hill, said he's focusing on staying connected with the district. He flies back regularly for "Congress on your corner" appearances, business round tables and other events he characterized as the continuations of the constituent house parties that were a staple of his congressional campaign.
"The best thing I can do is just stay in contact with the folks that I represent, the folks I work for in Sacramento County," he said.
He's also busied himself with at least five fundraising events since taking office. His work in Washington has centered on his pledge to work with Republicans and fix gridlock in Congress, a message that helped him court independent voters in the 2012 campaign.
Bera has experience on the other side of the early campaign start. His own effort to unseat Lungren spanned two election cycles over nearly four years. His allies were already running robocalls against the GOP incumbent this early in the 2011-2012 campaign cycle. By late summer of 2011, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was airing cable television and gas station advertisements attacking Lungren.
Democrats are also already active in key seats they hope to pick up this time around.
At the top of that list is an Inland Empire seat represented by GOP Rep. Gary Miller.
Voters in the swing district chose Miller over former state Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton last fall, after a Democrat failed to make the runoff in a seat some observers projected would give them a win.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by more than 20,000 voters. That seven-point registration edge makes Miller one of the most vulnerable incumbents in California, if not the country, in next year's election. Pete Aguilar, the Redlands mayor who failed to make the runoff last year, is considering a rematch.
That race has already made its way onto the San Bernardino County airwaves. An ad campaign paid for by a coalition of labor unions hits Miller on this month's federal budget cuts, saying he could be remembered for "inflicting pain on millions, just to protect tax loopholes for corporations and the richest few."
The unions aired identical ads against incumbent GOP Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, who represents a Central Valley district with high numbers of Democratic and Latino voters.
Miller has also been named a top target by Emily's List, a national political organization that seeks to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, and a Democratic super PAC that spent $4.2 million on California races in 2012.
House Majority PAC Communications Director Andy Stone said starting early is especially important in districts in major media markets, where TV ad costs run high during the election season. It also gives groups a head start in defining the narrative surrounding an incumbent or a candidate.
"It's important to get in there when there's not a bevy of communications, tons of ads on TV, phone calls being made," Stone said. "House Majority PAC can go in now and communicate with voters about what's going on without that sort of cloud of distraction that might take voters' attention closer to Election Day."
While building political and financial support is an important component of any campaign, the early salvos are unlikely to make much of an impact with the voters who will decide the candidate's fate next year.
"Voters don't generally pay attention until just before the election, and any ads or anything they see very early is going to be gone from their head within weeks," said Eric McGhee, research fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California. "You're not likely to see a lot of impact from much that would go on now."
But the fundraising blitzes, political attacks and endorsement rollouts are part of what political observers and operatives call the "invisible primary," the process of raising money and laying groundwork for a campaign as a signal to donors and potential challenges.
"Any incumbent is going to want to raise money to fend off any kind of challenge, but the ones in the competitive races are going to be more concerned," McGhee said. "There are some very key (House) races ... and those are all going to be up next year, so there's a real need to look tough as an incumbent and to be prepared."
Call Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5544. Follow her on Twitter @capitolalert.