Over $2 million has poured into California’s 24th Congressional District race between Democrat Salud Carbajal and Republican Justin Fareed, making the seat representing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and western Ventura counties one of the most expensive House races in the country.
With the retirement of Democrat Lois Capps, the race does not feature an incumbent for the first time in over two decades, and in June, Carbajal won the nine-person primary with 32.7 percent of the vote. Fareed finished second with 20.5 percent.
As of Thursday, $814,028 has gone into boosting Carbajal, who is in his third term as First District County Supervisor, versus $654,406 spent against him, according to data compiled by ProPublica, which is tracking real-time campaign finance numbers from the FEC.
For Fareed, a local businessman and former legislative aide, $332,397 has been spent in his favor, while $352,229 has been spent against him.
For the candidates’ last financial filing period, which ended June 30, Carbajal had raised $2,142,355 and spent $1,600,690, with $541,665 on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan nonprofit that tracks the effects of money and lobbying in elections and aggregates FEC data.
Fareed had $293,492 on hand after spending $932,904 of the $1,226,396 he had raised.
The FEC filing deadline for the next quarterly report is Oct. 15 for candidates, PACs and committees, and it covers the period of July 1 through Sept. 30.
“There are probably fewer than 20 of the 435 districts that are genuinely competitive, and that happens when the incumbent retires,” said Stephen Weatherford, a political science professor at UC Santa Barbara.
For many House seats, however, an incumbent’s retirement may not even matter, as many districts are gerrymandered enough to leave the seat safe for one party, he said.
In California’s 24th, however, 37.8 percent of registered voters are Democrats and 33.7 percent are Republicans, according to an April review by the California Secretary of State‘s office. Accompanying them is a hefty bloc of unaffiliated voters.
“Lots of Republican donors don’t want to get involved in the presidential campaign, and so the Republican side is really awash in money,” Weatherford said.
Donors uncomfortable with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, he said, are putting their money in down-ballot races instead.
Trump and Democrats’ bid to take traditionally red seats, Weatherford added, have made the GOP especially concerned about its handle on both houses of Congress.
“There’s been a lot of very sophisticated, strategic attention to putting money into the down-ballot races,” he said.
The leading outside organization pumping money into the 24th district, however, has been House Majority PAC, a super PAC dedicated to helping Democrats win House seats.
The PAC spent $624,180 in support of Carbajal and against Fareed as of Thursday, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The three leading donors behind the House Majority PAC are financier and philanthropist Donald Sussman, New York math professor and hedge-fund manager James Simons and Chicago media businessman and philanthropist Fred Eychaner.
Also spending heavily in the race is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a PAC that has spent $546,080 in support of Carbajal, according to FEC filings compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The heftiest conservative contributor to the race is the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has spent $424,160 against Carbajal.
Aside from organizations backing other candidates around the country, the largest organizations giving to the PAC include Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, a Washington-based designer and manufacturer of electrical equipment, and Koch Industries, the manufacturing and investment giant headed by the well-known conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Another big-time spender in the race has been Citizen Super PAC, which has spent an additional $332,395 in support of Fareed.
That PAC is backed in large part by Titan Advisors, a Connecticut-based asset-management firm, Citizens for a Sound Government, a conservative 501(c)(4) organization, and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC focused on elected Republicans to the House.