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  • Feldman Strategies

Not much left to flip: California Democratic House PAC playing defense in 2020

By John Wildermuth 6/12/19

A Democratic political action committee that helped party candidates snatch seven California House seats from Republicans in November is going on the defensive for 2020.

Former San Jose Rep. Mike Honda’s Red to Blue California PAC raised $1.8 million to back Democratic congressional challengers in the state last year. It has morphed into Hold the House, which will work to protect not only the newly elected Californians, but also the other 33 seats Democrats grabbed across the country in their successful effort to take control of the House.

The original organization “built a grassroots movement of over 500,000 members to successfully flip the House,” Honda said in a statement. “Now we have a new mission, keeping it in Democratic hands.”

The change in focus was a logical progression, said Andrew Feldman, consultant for both the old and the new committees.

“There’s not much left to realistically flip in California on the congressional level,” he said. California Republicans hold seven House seats, all of them in solidly conservative districts. “Working to protect Democratic seats is the best way to help and look into the future,” Feldman said.

The money that Red to Blue California took in from more than 77,000 donors was important, but the half million people who volunteered for campaigns can be an even more significant weapon in the upcoming election, Feldman said. These are people who not only gave money, but also were willing to knock on doors, make phone calls and become involved in the type of efforts that can make a difference in a tight congressional contest.

“We want to engage the grassroots community we involved in the last cycle,” he said. “We’re going to be talking about getting involved in specific districts.”

The political action committee can contribute a maximum of $5,000 directly to a candidate for a primary race. It also can set up individual expenditure committees, which can spend an unlimited amount of money to support a candidate or attack an opponent.

Honda’s group will include a separate joint fundraising committee that will forward donations it receives to campaigns as individual contributions. A California donor, for example, could give money to the committee that would be sent in that person’s name to a targeted campaign in places like New Jersey or Texas, legally circumventing the political action committee’s $5,000 contribution limit.

Already, 37 of the 40 House Democratic freshmen who won GOP-held seats last year have signed the joint fundraising agreement, Feldman said.

“We can legally take in money from donors interested in protecting all those flipped seats,” he said. “And we’re absolutely going to exceed the $1.8 million we raised last year.”

John Wildermuth is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @jfwildermuth


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