Meet Lungren's Up-And-Coming Challenger
If California is the most important target for congressional Democrats this cycle, then Ami Bera, running against GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in the 7th District, is the point of his party's spear.
Bera has another stellar fundraising quarter to report this week: His campaign raised over $487,000 in the second quarter and has $1.44 million on-hand for the general election rematch against Lungren. Even more impressive, 2,000 second-quarter donors were new, having not previously contributed.
Bera fell to Lungren in 2010 with 43.2 percent of the vote, but in a friendlier district and with the Republican wave behind him, Bera's campaign is well-poised to take advantage of a more regionalized 2012 environment that could favor Democrats in the West especially.
Bera has plenty going for himself personally. He's the child of Indian immigrants, a product of California public schools and universities, and a personable candidate who puts great effort into grassroots campaigning. But he's also in a Sacramento-area district that has all the building blocks for Democratic success this cycle, a fact highlighted by his reaction to yesterday's House vote on repealing health care reform.
Bera, a physician, was aggressive about health care reform even in the deeply unfavorable environment of 2010, applauding the increased coverage it would offer while cautioning that the law didn't do enough to cut medical costs. That hasn't changed this year. Republicans used the repeal vote as an opportunity to tie Democratic incumbents to health care reform again, and a few Democratic members voted for repeal this time to avoid that impression. But Bera sees the GOP effort, which Lungren supported, as a negative for his opponent becaues it plays into a pervasive, growing sense among voters that Congress isn't even trying to solve problems.
"When they look at what's happenning in Washington, D.C., this vote yesterday: It's just politics," Bera said in an interview. "This has nothing to do with actually solving the issues of the folks back home, the middle class. It's political theater. I don't think that's lost on the folks watching.
"This is about patients, not politics," he continued.