By Christopher Cadelago
11/02/2014 11:34 PM

Four years ago, Republican then-Rep. Dan Lungren bested Democrat Ami Bera by 75 votes in a precinct covering the Arden Arcade area of Sacramento County. Two years later, Bera won the precinct by 66 votes on his way to unseating the veteran politician.

In 2010, Lungren finished 62 votes ahead of his challenger in a precinct along Coloma Road in Rancho Cordova. In 2012, Bera captured it by 7 votes. The trend held up across the redrawn congressional district, with Bera winning precincts he had narrowly lost in the previous cycle.

The shifts represent the challenges confronting Democratic incumbents Tuesday in the midterm election, which has no presidential contest on the ballot to draw those who vote infrequently to the polls.

Facing a challenge by former GOP Rep. Doug Ose in one of the country’s most expensive and closely watched races, Bera must turn out voters much as he did in 2012 to avoid being the first California House incumbent from his party to lose to a Republican in 20 years.

Statewide turnout could come in below levels registered in 2010, the last non-presidential election, a model that traditionally favors Republicans. Given the scarcity of competitive statewide races, no contest for the U.S. Senate and few ballot measures that excite casual voters, elections experts and pollsters anticipate high levels of apathy.

“The factors are in play to predict a low turnout,” said Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis. “The question is just how low and whether we’ll see a record.”

Anticipating the headwinds, Democrats in targeted congressional and state legislative races are mobilizing voters they think will move the needle in their favor. Rallying canvassers in Carmichael recently, Bera said his 2012 field operation was the largest and most active in the nation. This year, the campaign solicited pledges from 5,000 voters, knocked on 250,000 doors and made more than 470,000 calls as of Friday.

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