Voters and donors, not to mention candidates, are just starting to recover from the nationwide intensity of the 2012 election. But a Democratic recruit in an important California congressional race is already hammering away at a fellow Democratic primary opponent. It's one of the first direct attacks of the 2014 primaries -- well over a year before the primary actually takes place.
Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruit in California's 31st Congressional District, slammed former Democratic Rep. Joe Baca in a press release Tuesday, questioning Baca's support for Republican Rep. Gary Miller in the district's all-GOP general election last year. "Joe Baca must think Inland Empire voters have short memories. That's the only thing that would explain the fact that he has decided to run against Congressman Gary Miller, the candidate he endorsed in the last election," Aguilar said in a statement. "Gary Miller has consistently voted against the interests of Inland Empire families, and it's becoming increasingly clear that there's little difference between the two Congressmen."
Aguilar ran against Miller in 2012, but he failed to qualify for the general election after splitting Democratic support with other candidates in the district's top-two, all-party primary. That allowed another Republican to squeeze into the fall campaign against Miller, ensuring GOP representation of a district President Obama won with 57 percent of the vote. The 31st District is now the most Democratic-leaning House seat represented by a Republican member of Congress, and it is a top target for national Democrats looking for a path back to the House majority.
Baca supported Miller in the Republican's intra-party fight, and Aguilar's release included images of a direct mail piece that Miller's campaign circulated in 2012 highlighting Baca's endorsement. "I'm Democratic Congressman Joe Baca and I support Gary Miller for Congress and ask you to VOTE for him," one quote on the mailer reads. "Gary Miller works with Democrats in Congress," another begins.
The early-morning hit against Baca -- the release came in at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time -- is one of the first direct salvos from one announced challenger against another in a 2014 primary. Until this point, most sniping between announced or soon-to-announce candidates has been conducted anonymously or via their campaign consultants.
Baca could have run in the 31st District in 2012, but he ran and lost his own intra-party general election against now-Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod in the more heavily Democratic 35th District instead. The DCCC touted Aguilar's repeat recruitment for 2014 throughout the winter, and DCCC chairman Steve Israel fundraised for Aguilar in Los Angeles at the beginning of the month. Baca had previously announced he'd seek a rematch with McLeod, but the six-term ex-lawmaker held a D.C. fundraiser Monday as a "Candidate for CA's 31st Congressional District," and his campaign website also switched to show him running in the 31st against Miller. Baca's Federal Election Commission filings have also been updated to reflect his new target.