Capitol Alert

Bera-Ose House race among most expensive nationally

Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, right, and his Republican challenger, Doug Ose, shake hands after their debate at the studios of Channel 6 (KVIE) on Oct. 8 in Sacramento.
Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, right, and his Republican challenger, Doug Ose, shake hands after their debate at the studios of Channel 6 (KVIE) on Oct. 8 in Sacramento. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The race between Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and Republican Doug Ose has vaulted into the 10 most expensive House contests in the nation, with the candidates and outside groups pouring millions into the Sacramento County district.

Outside organizations have spent $5.4 million in the general election. Combined with the $1.83 million spent by the candidates, California’s 7th District race has become the eighth most expensive in the nation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Money flowing into the Nov. 4 race has come from Democratic and Republican committees, as well as the Democratic House Majority PAC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Millions more have been reserved for TV airtime, with the National Republican Congressional Committee increasing its total to nearly $3 million, one of its most expensive buys across the country.

Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reportedly authorized shifting at least another $2 million to protect the seat held by Bera. The recent moves show Republicans on the offensive while Democrats are digging into a defensive position.

Democrats, said GOP consultant Rob Stutzman, “are trying to protect their members.”

In 2012, Stutzman worked for GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, who lost to Bera by fewer than 10,000 votes. That House race was the nation’s sixth most expensive, at $8.5 million, right behind the San Diego-area congressional seat won by Democrat Scott Peters over then-Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican.

The two districts place so high nationally because of their expensive media markets.

Stutzman said viewers may feel inundated with Bera-Ose attack ads this election because it is the only highly competitive congressional race in the region. In 2012, there were three high-profile races that drew outside spending from national groups.

Bera and Ose “just have to keep talking about each other,” Stutzman said. “And they need to keep the volume level up.”

Seeking a return to Washington, Ose loaned his campaign $716,000 in the quarter that runs from July 1 through Sept. 30. A developer who served three terms in Congress until 2005, Ose raised nearly $1.06 million during the period. He spent $991,200 and finished with $271,400 in cash on hand.

Bera raised $892,400 in the period. The Elk Grove physician spent $2.04 million and was left with $814,580.

In the election cycle, Bera has raised $3.6 million and Ose has reported raising $1.54 million, excluding loans.

The 7th District, which covers Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom, has produced one of the nation’s most competitive races, in part because of the slim advantage Democrats hold in registered voters.

Bera’s campaign has taken aim at Ose’s wealth, releasing a statement from spokeswoman Allison Teixeira chiding the challenger for “relying on John Boehner, Big Oil, and his vast personal fortune, which he tripled while he was in Congress, to try to buy this election.”

On Thursday, Ose said he’s “never operated under the illusion that (Democrats) wouldn’t do everything in their power to retain a loyal supporter of the Obama-Pelosi agenda. I am confident we will have the resources needed to communicate my message of improving Sacramento’s economy.”

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916)326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.

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