Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 1, 2014

Ami Bera Challenger Gets Tea Party Backing

The Madison Project, a group that seeks to boost tea-party-aligned candidates, will endorse former Capitol Hill aide Igor Birman on Friday morning in the crowded GOP field in California’s 7th District, according to a release provided first to CQ Roll Call.

Birman, a former chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., faces a competitive top-two primary against former Rep. Doug Ose and autism activist Elizabeth Emken. All three are looking to oust freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, a top GOP target in 2014.

The Madison Project plans to back up its endorsement by opening a get-out-the-vote headquarters in the district to help mobilize voters for Birman in the June 3 primary.

“Igor is uniquely articulate in communicating all the principles of conservative public policy and is the only candidate in this race who will not be beholden to liberal special interests,” Madison Project Political Director Drew Ryun said in a statement. “He won’t need to be pressured or shamed into keeping his campaign promises because he will pursue constitutional governance, even when the party leaders stray from its principles.”

The Republican side of the top-two primary is shaping up to be one of the top battlegrounds between tea party and business groups looking to impact the makeup of the House Republican caucus.

While California Republican strategists privately say Ose’s more moderate background from his three terms in Congress is likely a better fit for this district, some conservative activists in and around the Sacramento-based district are ready for a tough primary battle.

To be sure, Bera, who knocked off a Republican incumbent by a close margin in 2012, will be difficult to beat in November. He is far outpacing all three Republicans in fundraising. He raised $341,000 in the fourth quarter and boosted his cash on hand to nearly $1.2 million going into the election year.

On the Republican side, Ose raised $130,000 in the fourth quarter and ended 2013 with $277,000 on hand. Birman raised $85,000 and had $124,000 in the bank. Emken raised $49,000 and had $306,000 in cash on hand, which includes some personal funds she put into the race.

California’s 7th District is rated a Lean Democratic contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. President Barack Obama carried the district by a 4-point margin in 2012.

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