While most districts that are in Orange County this election cycle are set to be battlegrounds, such as the close 49th district race, one that still ranks as ‘likely Democrat’ is the 45th district. Completely encompassed by the county with a rough center of Irvine, the district is largely holding back the coming Republican tide due to the strength of current Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA). She handily won the primary last month with just over 50% of the vote.
Meanwhile the GOP battle for second was close. Former Marine pilot and Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths managed to beat Laguna Hills Mayor Don Sedgwick and Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang with 18% of the vote, as compared to Sedwick’s 13% and Huang’s 11%. With Republicans raising and spending like crazy for the number two spot and Porter building up funds for an expected tough fall battle, the first quarter proved to be unusually active for candidates in the district.
In Q1, Congresswoman Porter had $3.87 million in receipts and $942,000 in disbursements according to the FEC. Porter received a higher than usual amount of donations, with PACS and individual donors and groups expecting a close race. Online fundraising and contribution platform Democracy Engline gave the most with just over $56,000. The controversial J Street PAC was a close second with nearly $55,000. Pro female candidate and Abortion rights group EMILY’s List also gave a significant $39,600. University employees and their families were also top donor groups, with UC-Irvine, Stanford and the University of California individuals donating $12,000 or more.
Among occupations of individual donors, retirees topped the list for Porter, giving a total of $557,000 in donations, roughly 1/7th of her total amount of donations for the quarter. Lawyers also gave a significant amount, coming to over $250,000. Porter gained the lion’s share of her raised funds through PACs in the first quarter, with over $2.7 million being given in campaign financing from various PACs. This was over five times more in PAC money received by both Sedgwick and Raths combined.
Only $1.24 million, or roughly 43%, came from out-of-state sources. Only 57% raised came from in-state sources, with Raths coming up much high with over 90% of money raised from in-state.
Surprise winner Greg Raths noted significantly less in money raised and spent, with $513,000 coming in and $361,000 being spent. Fellow GOP candidate Don Sedwick both raised and spent more with $643,000 being donated and spent. The other major GOP candidate Peggy Huang only raised $451,000 but still outspent Raths with $425,000 going out in disbursements. He managed to win a tight race with an even tighter budget.
Raths’ largest groups of employees and their families donating to his campaign came from mainly real estate and financial institutions. Individual donors from Howard Industrial Partners was his largest bloc, giving $5,600. This amount was matched by employees from Western Mutual Insurance and Mayer Investment Co. His opponent for the number two spot Don Sedgwick, meanwhile, raised significantly more with dozens of companies and organizations giving $10,000 or more. CareTrust, a real estate investment trust company, had the largest amount given from individuals at $28,000.
While the GOP candidates did make far less in PACs, they shared the same main donor occupation groups giving. Retirees gave $121,000 to Sedwick and $57,000 to Raths. Both candidates also had their second highest donors come from the real estate business, a sharp comparison to Porter’s large lawyer sector giving the second most for her.
What this means for the 45th
The GOP definitively think they have a shot in the 45th as the GOP candidates spent and raised so much just for the chance at getting second place in the primary. It’s not as vulnerable as neighboring districts, but it still is vulnerable. And Porter knows this too as she’s currently sitting on millions of campaign funds that are ready to be spent going into the fall. Some of the heat from her own ethics issues may also do some harm going closer to the general.
Porter is far out ahead on money and has proven she can raise a lot fast without having fundraisers to do so. With coronavirus knocking out many fundraisers in the near future and an uncertain fall, not to mention her status as an incumbent allowing her more access to campaign options, Porter has a hold on getting her message out lock, stock, and barrel right now. Q2 will show much lower funds for both, but even if the GOP gives Raths a huge push, they still have to come up with the millions more Porter is already leading by.
With the GOP focusing on closer races right now, Porter may just run away with this one. Funding is key in this race and she has shown herself to be just too good at this. Even with a unified GOP vote, Raths campaign are going to seriously raise more to have a shot, and it’s seeming less likely now. There’s still a chance at a GOP win, but the odds are slowly going more against that happening.