Last week, Rep. Lois Capps, who is retiring after 18 years in Congress, received a mailer portraying congressional candidate Bill Ostrander next to Bernie Sanders. At first blush, the image is no surprise. The left-leaning ​— ​and campaign finance reform ​— ​candidate has embraced the association with Sanders, even making bumper stickers that say, “Feel the Bill.” But what is surprising is that the California Republican Party paid for the mailers. And then sent them to registered Democrats.

Less than a week before the June 7 primary election, outside money from both parties in the 24th congressional race has exceeded $1 million. Because of California’s open primary system, the top two vote getters ​— ​regardless of party ​— ​advance to the November general election. With the Ostrander ad, the Republican strategy appears to draw liberal voters to Ostrander, thereby pulling votes away from frontrunner Supervisor Salud Carbajal. Kaitlyn MacGregor, the California Republican Party spokesperson, denied the intent was to split the Democratic vote. “Our thing is really trying to say, ‘He’s too liberal,’” she said. “The Democrats have a contested primary. That’s going to draw turnout.” (The cost of the ads has not yet been reported.)

Likewise, the National Republican Congressional Committee ​— ​which spent $220,000 so far ​— ​attacked Carbajal for approving his own pay raise on the Board of Supervisors while portraying Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider as ultra-progressive, which could help her among liberal voters. In fact, the ad used language ​— ​that she supports universal health care, for instance ​— ​straight from her campaign website.

Supporting Republican Justin Fareed, Citizen Super PAC, a political action committee functioning as a crowdsourcing model, spent $286,000, according to the latest federal reports. Money continues to stream in every day. American Action Network, a far-right lobbyist group, reported Tuesday $48,800 in mailers picturing Schneider and Sanders as ’60s-era “liberal peas in a pod.” For his campaign, Fareed raised $1.1 million total. Of that, $23,000 came from political action committees (one $2,000 check came from Congressmember Duncan Hunter, who represents San Diego). Republican Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian raised $750,000, of which $28,000 came from committees.

The national Democrats, meanwhile, have enthusiastically backed Carbajal. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the House Majority political action committee reported more than $600,000 in independent expenditures to support him. “What does he owe them back?” Schneider asked. “What are they going to expect of him? That’s a big question mark.” For his part, Carbajal pledged to “always be independent” ​— ​“I am who I am” ​— ​and vote in the best interest of his constituents.

On his own, Carbajal, well-known to be a fundraising king, has raised nearly $1.9 million, triple that of Schneider, his chief Dem rival. Of Carbajal’s total, $223,000 mostly came from a number of political action committees. Of the $630,000 Schneider raised total, just $8,700 came from political committees, including $5,000 from the L.A.-based Women’s Political Committee.


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