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Posted at 5 a.m. on April 18, 2014
After Democrat Raul Ruiz defeated GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack in California’s 36th District in 2012, Republican insiders immediately put this district toward the top of their target list.
After all, though Ruiz won the race by 6 points, 53 percent to 47 percent, he was buoyed by a presidential year and took advantage of the perception that Mack was distracted by her then-husband’s Florida Senate bid.
But things haven’t developed as Republicans expected. Ruiz reported a strong $1.5 million on hand on March 31, and he continues to be regarded as a hard-working Member of Congress who won’t be caught off-guard in his first re-election bid. (On a side note, on April 7 I wrote about what California candidates chose as their ballot designations.)
This year, the Republican most likely to finish in the top two with Ruiz in the primary is Assemblyman Brian Nestande, former Rep. Sonny Bono’s former chief of staff. Nestande spent much of last year deciding between a congressional run and a bid for the state senate, and that indecision got him off to a slow start, from which he is still recovering.
GOP strategists had hoped that Nestande’s fundraising had improved in the beginning of 2014. But his cash on hand only ticked up marginally in the first quarter and the Republican showed $323,000 in the bank at the end of March.
It’s possible that Nestande catches fire and this turns into a real race. But right now, Ruiz looks to be in surprisingly good shape for re-election. We’re changing our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Leans Democrat to Democrat Favored.