DAVIS - Former President Bill Clinton will appear with four California Democratic congressional candidates at a university rally Tuesday, illustrating the competitiveness created by the state's independently drawn political boundaries.
Clinton hopes to help two incumbents, Reps. John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney, and to boost the fortunes of two challengers. Democrats Ami Bera and Jose Hernandez are vying to unseat Republican Reps. Dan Lungren and Jeff Denham.
All four races are in the greater Sacramento area.
Bera, a physician and educator from Elk Grove, gave Lungren a serious challenge two years ago and hopes to capitalize on a slight Democratic registration edge in the suburban Sacramento district.
Denham, a Republican freshman and U.S. Air Force veteran from Turlock, faces former astronaut Hernandez of Modesto in a largely agricultural district in the San Joaquin Valley.
Both of those newly drawn seats give Democrats a narrow voter registration edge, although nearly one in five voters is registered as an independent.
The novelty of so many hotly contested congressional races has attracted money and attention to California, where as many as a dozen races are considered competitive. Both major parties and outside political action committees are pouring millions of dollars into advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Clinton's appearance at the University of California, Davis, comes as county elections clerks begin distributing vote-by-mail ballots, which could account for more than half the votes cast in November.
North of the state capital, political veteran Garamendi is being challenged by Republican Kim Vann, a 37-year-old county supervisor and member of a local ranching family.
Further south in the Valley, Democrats have been on the attack against Republican Ricky Gill, a 25-year-old law school graduate who works for his family business in Lodi and has substantial financial support from well-connected Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Gill has attempted to paint McNerney as a pawn of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while McNerney criticizes the Republican's lack of real-world work experience.
The districts drawn by the voter-approved independent citizens redistricting commission are in effect on a statewide scale for the first time this year. The new process ended decades of legislative gerrymandering that created safe districts for incumbents and led to little turnover.