Gary Miller

Congressman Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga)

By Torey Van Oot
tvanoot@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Mar. 22, 2013 – 12:00 am

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.

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