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Democrats grow fundraising advantage in most of Orange County’s state Senate, Assembly races

With just over one month to go before Election Day, Democratic candidates continue to raise more money than Republicans in almost every state legislative race that touches Orange County.

Pre-election campaign finance reports show some Democratic challengers raising two or nearly three times as much as the GOP incumbents they’re hoping to oust, with Democratic parties and donors spending big as they try to send more local representatives to Sacramento than Republicans for the first time.

Republicans do still hold advantages in voter registration and name recognition in several close contests, with the state GOP also pouring serious money into defending local seats.

But if money talks, as many as five state seats once considered GOP strongholds could turn blue on Nov. 3.

Newman outraises Chang in SD-29

Democratic challenger Josh Newman of Fullerton once again raised and spent significantly more money than Republican first-term incumbent Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar in the rematch race for the 29th Senate District, which covers much of northeast Orange County and parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Newman raised $836,910 to Chang’s $302,400 during the most recent reporting period, which ran July 1 to Sept. 19. And he’s raised a total of $2.2 million since the start of this cycle in January 2019 — exactly twice as much as Chang.

Newman has also spent nearly twice as much as the sitting state senator, using more than $1.6 million on TV ads, polling, mailers and other campaign expenses.

Chang has more cash left than Newman, with $376,578 to Newman’s $285,548. However, she does owe $70,000 on a loan she made to her own campaign in 2019.

Newman recently has received more $200,000 from the California Democratic Party, according to late contribution reports. He’s also received large donations from other California Democratic organizations, including $50,000 from the San Diego County Democratic Party and $60,000 from the San Mateo County Central Committee.

Chang, meanwhile, received nearly $60,000 from the California Republican Party over the same time period.

Newman defeated Chang by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, but was recalled in 2018 after he voted in favor of the state gas tax. Chang won the seat in June 2018. Since then, Democrats in SD-29 have continued to gain an edge in voter registration, and now hold a 7.5 percentage point advantage over Republicans.

Given the growing financial and voter registration advantages, Sacramento watchdog Scott Lay, who runs the Around the Capitol website, has moved the SD-29 race from “lean Republican” to a toss-up.

Min again bests Moorlach in SD-37

A similar dynamic exists in the 37th Senate District, in central Orange County. Democratic challenger Dave Min of Irvine raised $755,764 this period and $1.7 million this cycle, while GOP incumbent John Moorlach of Cosa Mesa hauled in $425,571 this period and $1.3 million this cycle.

Min has also spent nearly twice as much as Moorlach. That left him with $437,860 in cash heading into the final stretch, while Moorlach had $677,091. But Min also owes $530,323 in outstanding personal loans and unpaid campaign expenses for TV ads and consultants. That put his campaign in the hole as of the close of the filing period.

But, like Newman, he’s also received late support from state and local Democratic parties who hope to flip SD-37, with more than $200,000 in late contributions last week from Democratic organizations. Moorlach received about a quarter as much support from the state Republican party in the same time frame.

The district remains red by just 0.4 percentage points, but Lay gives Democrats the narrow edge on Election Day.

Rodriguez leads Chen in AD-55

Democratic challenger Andrew Rodriguez of Walnut again bested GOP incumbent Phillip Chen of Brea in fundraising for the 55th Assembly District, which includes northeast Orange County plus parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Rodriguez raised $487,935 this period, while Chen raised $336,480. More than a third of Chen’s total came from the California Republican Party. For the cycle, Chen still has a narrow fundraising edge, raising $1.2 million to Rodriguez’s $1.1 million. And Chen has more cash, with $563,030 to $243,907 for Rodriguez.

Voter registration in the district flipped to blue earlier this year, with Democrats now holding a 1.4 percentage point advantage. Lay rates the race a toss up.

Fox still leading Choi in AD-68

Democratic challenger Melissa Fox raised more than twice as much money this period as Republican incumbent Steven Choi for the 68th Assembly District seat in central Orange County.

Fox raised $821,404 this summer to Choi’s $314,800. And she’s raised $1.2 million to Choi’s $766,480 this cycle.

Fox, of Irvine, has also spent substantially more than Choi to promote her campaign. So she’s left with $173,250 in cash, while Choi reported $279,253 in cash at the close of the period.

Registration in the once solidly red district also just flipped, narrowly, to blue. Lay has moved the race from his August forecast of “lean Republican” to toss-up.

Diedre Nguyen pulls ahead in AD-72

Thanks largely to big support from the California Democratic Party, Garden Grove Councilwoman Diedre Nguyen has a growing fundraising advantage over former GOP state senator Janet Nguyen in the race for the open 72nd Assembly District, which covers northern coastal Orange County, from Garden Grove to Seal Beach.

Diedre Nguyen took in $643,164 this period and just over $1 million for the cycle, with $686,341 of that total coming from the California Democratic Party alone.

Janet Nguyen raised $377,068 this period and $926,398 this cycle. She got $145,896 from the California Republican Party.

Janet Nguyen did report more cash heading into October, with $328,708 to Diedre Nguyen’s $208,345.

Voter registration in AD-72 still leans red by 2 percentage points — a rare increase in GOP advantage. And Lay says the race still “leans Republican.”

The seat is one of two open races on the county’s state roster. Incumbent Tyler Diep, R-Westminster, lost the primary for AD-72 after local Republicans said he cast votes in Sacramento that were deemed to be too union-friendly. He’s now running for board of directors seats with the Midway City Sanitary District and Municipal Water District of Orange County.

Davies grows lead over Rhinehart in AD-73

Laguna Niguel Mayor Laurie Davies, a Republican, has a growing advantage over Democrat Scott Rhinehart in the 73rd Assembly District race in southern Orange County.

Davies raised $72,024 this period and $253,493 this cycle. She reported $70,672 in cash and owes $45,000 in unpaid bills to campaign consultants.

Rhinehart raised just $9,335 for the period, bringing his total for the cycle to $189,525. He has $34,714 cash and owes $16,532 in loans he’s made to his campaign.

While AD-73 is open after incumbent Bill Brough lost the primary amid sexual assault and campaign finance abuse accusations, the district remains so solidly red that neither party appears focused on investing much in the race. Republicans hold a 10.1 percentage point advantage in voter registration, with Lay rating the race “likely Republican.”

Petrie-Norris grows lead over Dixon in AD-74

Democratic incumbent Cottie Petrie-Norris continues to grow her fundraising advantage over Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon, a Republican, in the race for the 74th Assembly District.

Petrie-Norris raised $577,114 this period and $2.4 million so far this cycle, with big support from Democratic organizations throughout the state. Petrie-Norris has $890,218 in cash and $33,549 in unpaid campaign debt heading into October.

Dixon raised $168,413 this period and $816,531 this cycle. The Newport Beach mayor has $165,816 cash and owes $24,043 from a loan she made to her own campaign.

Voter registration in the central county district still leans GOP, but just barely — 0.3 percent — and Lay says the race “leans Democrat.”

In two other assembly races, AD-65 and AD-69, Democratic incumbents Sharon Quirk-Silva and Tom Daly maintained solid fundraising advantages over their Republican challengers. The races are not considered competitive.

One more round of campaign finance reports are due Oct. 22, offering a final comprehensive look at fundraising before Election Day. Donations over $1,000 must be reported to the Secretary of State within 24 hours.

Source: Orange County Register

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