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Thompson, Huffman eye return to Congress

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Congressmen Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman are prohibitive favorites to win re-election next month with campaign war chests and name recognition vastly exceeding two little-known challengers in districts dominated by Democratic voters.

The two incumbents, who have collectively raised more than $2 million, are campaigning locally and working to help other Democrats win in a nationwide push to regain a majority in the House of Representatives.

Thompson, 67, a St. Helena resident who has never lost an election, has raised $1.6 million and donated $275,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s official campaign arm which has amassed $206 million in hopes of winning at least the 23 seats needed to take control of the House.

Known as a rainmaker for his fundraising prowess, Thompson has collected more than $18 million since his first campaign in 1998 and is now seeking his 11th term on Capitol Hill.

Thompson’s top five donors are the beer, wine and liquor industry, followed by health professionals, the insurance and securities/investment industries and retirees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that tracks campaign financing.

Huffman, 54, of San Rafael, has raised $734,000 in his bid for a fourth term since winning the North Coast seat held by former Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma for two decades. He’s given $110,000 to the party’s campaign committee and is also raising money for Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.

Retirees are Huffman’s leading donor segment, followed by transportation unions, lawyers, the securities/investment industry and health professionals.

Republican Dale Mensing, 60, a grocery store cashier in the Humboldt County hamlet of Redway, is making his third straight challenge against Huffman on a budget of $4,000, including $1,200 he gave to his own campaign.

Nevertheless, Huffman has defeated Mensing by more than 70 percent in the 2014 and 2016 general elections and the June primary.

Political newcomer Anthony Mills, a 67-year-old Vallejo resident who said he has raised no campaign funds, is running against Thompson as a no party preference candidate.

In both Thompson’s 5th Congressional District and Huffman’s 2nd District, Democrats are account for 51 percent of registered voters, compared with about 19 percent for Republicans.

About 25 percent in the 5th District registered as no party preference.

David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist, said Democrats in November have a better than 78 percent chance of winning the House, which depends on capturing four or five of the eight California Republican seats they are targeting.

“The path to a majority, for Democrats, comes through California,” he said.

Huffman said he is “cautiously predicting” success in five California districts and is supporting about two dozen other Democrats around the country.

“I believe we are at a historic crucible where the future of our democracy and the rule of law depends on whether Congress steps up and asserts its authority on behalf of the people,” he said.

Huffman said he is campaigning on issues that reflect the “values of my district,” including environmental protection, civil rights, election integrity, affordable health care and “common sense gun safety laws.”

Thompson also senses Democratic success on Election Day.

“The motivation is incredible throughout the country,” he said.

Thompson is supporting candidates around California and spread from Nevada to New York and Connecticut.

“I think this is a critical election,” he said, noting that Democrats would restore “regular order” to House proceedings, get bills passed and “stop some things from happening.”

He will continue working on measures to curb gun violence and seek federal support for wildfire recovery and alleviating the housing shortage.

Mills, who calls himself an independent, said his candidacy is based on the premise “you don’t need big money to run for office.” A crewman for the Military Sealift Command, he said he is taking administrative leave to campaign.

Democrats and Republicans are “ignoring the real issues,” including an “out- of-control” Internal Revenue Service, he said.

Mensing said his message includes overtaxation by a wasteful federal government and support for placing an “armed guard at every school” to curtail violence.

He’s also backing the chemtrail conspiracy theory that high-flying aircraft are spraying hazardous chemicals for undisclosed reasons. In Humboldt County, he said, more people agree with him than disagree.

Scientists say the white streaks are water-based contrails routinely left by jets under certain conditions.