The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

July 20, 2010
Ami Bera runs as an outsider but raises money like a pro

Like any incumbent politician, Rep. Dan Lungren has many advantages. The ability to raise money from insiders, and use his office to send letters and emails to voters back home are three that come to mind.

But challengers have certain advantages, too, as Lungren's Democratic challenger Ami Bera sought to make clear in a visit to The Bee's editorial board today. Bera is hoping that voters' disgust with incumbents will apply to Lungren, a Republican from Gold River who has been in and out of office since 1978.

"Voters are looking for something different," said Bera, who is making his first run for elective office. Here is one of our past pieces on the Bera-Lungren campaign.

Bera, a physician who is a former dean of admissions at UC Davis' medical school, took a swipe at Lungren for recently voting with other Republicans against a new extension of unemployment benefits, while having voted to grant congressional pay raises in past years.

Lungren voted against the extension of unemployment benefits after concluding it would worsen the federal deficit. That stand may make some sense inside the Republican congressional caucus back in Washington. But that position has real-life implications in California where unemployment sits at 12.3 percent -- as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate perhaps now understands.

Challengers often find fodder in votes cast for pay raises and other perquisites of office. Pay hikes generally come as part of legislation covering many topics. Bera's campaign counts six instances dating back to the 1980s when Lungren cast votes that led to pay hikes.  Most recently, however, Lungren voted to suspend a pay raise set to take place this year.

Congressional members are paid $174,000 annually.

Bera said that if he is elected, he would turn down pay raises so long as there is a federal budget deficit.

Unlike many first-time candidates, Bera is raising money like a pro, outpacing Lungren in the race for the 3rd Congressional District. In the latest campaign disclosure reports filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission, Bera disclosed he had $1.1 million in the bank, while Lungren had $660,000.

Much of Bera's money initially came from other Indian-Americans. While he still collects that money, Bera is getting significant backing from the Democratic establishment, which believes he has a legitimate shot at knocking off Lungren. 

The AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers each gave him $10,000 in the most recent quarter. Bera received $5,000 from political action committees representing family physicians and radiologists, and from the pro-abortion rights organization, NARAL.

Lungren is tapping many of the usual donors who give to incumbents: $6,000 from political action committees representing Comcast and Chevron, and $1,000 from the world's larst cigarette maker, Altria.

Sacramento-area developer Angelo G. Tsakopoulos gave Lungren $4,800. Sacramento lobbyists also chipped in, too. Robert W. Naylor gave him $1,050 and Bev Hansen gave him $1,000.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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