Monday, April 16, 2012

CA-31: Who is Justin Kim and what is he doing with $100,000?

The FEC numbers are trickling in, but CA-31, a new Inland Empire seat, is pretty much completed.

Congressman Gary Miller had a decent quarter, but fundraising isn't an issue for him. While his overall numbers aren't gaudy, he finished March with $1,169,688 cash on hand. That's plenty to do whatever advertising he needs to do. Miller in nominally the incumbent in this seat. While none of his old constituents are here, he is an incumbent congressman and his district was adjacent to it. His name recognition is strong and many people probably think he already represents them. Miller isn't regarded as a stellar campaigner, but he hasn't really been tested.

Miller's chief Republican rival is state senator and former minority leader Bob Dutton. Dutton's haul was $107,566 and he likely also has high name recognition. He represents many of these people. But he also hasn't run for congress before and he'll need to lay some serious bucks to beat Miller. That total has to be considered a disappointment and should make anyone pessimistic about Dutton's chances.

The leading Democrat is expected to be Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. Redlands isn't exactly a big city and it's on the southeastern edge of the district. Still Aguilar has much of the Democratic party behind him. So, a total of more than $200,000 is pretty good. It should be easily enough to lead the Democrats.

Three other Democrats, Renea Wickman, Rita Ramirez-Dean and Justin Kim, are also running in the 31st. None of them was expecting to raise much money and each would likely take less than 10% of the overall vote. So imagine my surprise when Justin Kim reports $106,942 in Q1 fundraising, almost all of it from individual contributions. He has a decent resume, but nothing where you'd expect him to garner votes. While his fundraising is similar to Dutton's, Dutton is trying to beat a sitting congressman with huge C-O-H. Kim is trying to beat a small town mayor. I wouldn't favor him over Aguilar, but Kim could clear 15% in the race. He's clearly the sleeper candidate and bears watching.

Kim will not be at The Redlands Area Democratic Club Candidate forum this weekend, while Aguilar and Wickman will. I don't know if it's a sign that his candidacy isn't taken seriously or Redlands, Aguilar's hometown, doesn't want him to gain support.

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