By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In terms of campaign funding, the two North Coast congressional races are colossal mismatches.
And their party’s dominance in voter registration also makes Democrats Mike Thompson of St. Helena, a 14-year Capitol Hill veteran, and Jared Huffman of San Rafael, a termed-out state legislator making his first bid for Congress, prohibitive favorites in the November election, now just three weeks away.
Thompson, a prodigious fund-raiser who has never lost an election, collected $255,727 in campaign contributions since July 1, bringing his cumulative total to $1.65 million, according to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission.
Thompson reported nearly $1.2 million in campaign expenditures as of Sept. 30, with $1.4 million cash on hand.
Sixty percent of Thompson’s reported contributions — nearly $1 million — were from political committees, with the rest from individuals.
Thompson, who was first elected to Congress in 1998, serves on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, known as a “juice committee” for the donations that flow to members.
His opponent, Republican Randy Loftin, a Napa financial advisor and political newcomer, reported $6,874 in contributions — all from individuals — and loaned his campaign an additional $5,000.
Thompson dominated the June primary election with 73 percent of the vote, competing against two Republican challengers who netted 27 percent.
Redistricting pushed Thompson out of the North Coast district he represented for 14 years into a new inland district, which includes Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma Valley, as well as all of Napa County and parts of Lake, Solano and Contra Costa counties.
But Thompson fits the new territory just as well as the old, Petaluma political analyst Brian Sobel said.
“Like (retiring congresswoman) Lynn Woolsey, he’s a true untouchable,” Sobel said.
Safe at home, Thompson continued his practice of boosting other Democrats in California and across the country.
He contributed $250,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has campaigned for candidates in Southern California, Wisconsin, Texas and Washington, an aide said.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1 in both Thompson’s district and the new coastal district stretching from Marin County to the Oregon border, where Huffman is running against another Republican newcomer, Dan Roberts.
Huffman, who is termed out the Sonoma-Marin Assembly seat he has held for six years, also broke the seven-figure fund-raising mark with $1.24 million through Sept. 30, according to his federal report.
Huffman spent more than $1 million in a tough primary battle against 11 other candidates seeking the seat being vacated by Woolsey, who is retiring after 20 years in Congress.
He raised just $161,182 since July 1, leaving him with cash on hand of about $186,000, prompting to Sobel to wonder if Huffman scaled back his fund-raising after the primary.
There was a campaign lull in July, Huffman said, also noting that there is “a lot of fatigue out there” among donors who are being solicited by numerous candidates in a contentious election year.
But, he said, his campaign budget is “right on track. I feel good about where we are.”
Huffman’s campaign donations have come primarily from individuals ($904,904) compared with political committees ($338,782).
Roberts, a Tiburon securities broker, funded his campaign primarily with his own loans of $210,000, along with $42,176 in donations from individuals, according to his federal report
He had nearly $46,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.
“We’re working hard,” Roberts said, adding that he has devoted “100 percent of my time” to campaigning for the past six months.
He said it seemed as if Huffman’s fund-raising “has shriveled up.”
Huffman dominated the June primary with 37.5 percent of the vote, while Roberts finished second with 15 percent, nosing out Democrat Norman Solomon of Inverness by 172 votes.
Roberts, a Vietnam war veteran, would be “a more formidable candidate” in a district with more Republican voters, Sobel said.
There are nearly as many decline-to-state voters (85,183) as there are registered Republicans (88,811) in the coastal district. Democrats account for 195,721 registered voters, nearly half of the total.
The North Coast hasn’t been in play politically since the 1990s, when Republican Frank Riggs and Democrat Dan Hamburg traded the congressional seat back and forth.
In 1998, Thompson, then a state senator, ran for Congress. Riggs dropped out and Thompson has averaged 65 percent of the vote in seven congressional races.