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Democrats Call in Late Reinforcements in California

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Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s campaign called for presidential backup to help prevent what would be a stunning upset in today's special election.

The uncertainty of turnout led Hahn to run cable TV ads that omitted any mention that she is a Democrat. Instead, they mostly attacked Huey as a right-winger  who is more conservative than Sarah Palin and painted Hahn as a nonpartisan problem solver.

The Hahn campaign and Democratic consultants said it was an effective strategy to reach out to fiscally conservative Republicans and “decline to state” voters who could play a deciding role in the low-turnout election. But the fact that Hahn was running ads at all signaled to some observers that this was a real race.

Despite the concern that the race is close, LA-based Democratic consultant Roy Behr said he doubts Huey will win.

“I think the Hahn campaign hasn’t taken any chances,” Behr said. “They’ve run like they’re worried about an upset — which is the best way to avoid an upset.”

Huey, president of a marketing consulting firm, had loaned his campaign almost $900,000 by last week. Aside from a $5,000 check cut by the National Republican Congressional Committee on July 1, his campaign has run autonomous from the national party.

Distributing DVDs door-to-door, it aggressively pushed a 3-year-old local Fox News report that Hahn had worked with convicted felons in her efforts to stem gang violence and even helped get some out of jail. The local Fox affiliate followed that last week with an update of its report, running a 9-minute segment on Hahn’s work with gang members.

Hahn was asked about the controversy last week as the first question of the contest’s only debate, which was broadcast on public radio. Hahn noted that she represents Watts on the City Council and that she was forced to try new tactics in her gang-prevention efforts there. But she denied ever helping a gang member get out of jail.

Huey, who has cast himself as a small-business owner worried about debt, taxes and spending, received a late fundraising boost from the Tea Party Express, and Republican activists hit the ground for him in the past few weeks. Los Angeles County GOP Chairwoman Jane Barnett said her “Red Team” has been knocking on doors in the district for weeks and that she organized buses to bring in about 500 volunteers from around the state.

But in such a Democratic district, expectations are still tempered.

“The Republicans are banking on a lower-than-average turnout in the 8- to 10-percent range, and that could result in a Republican win,” LA-based GOP consultant Matt Klink said Monday. “That being said, it would be a significant upset for the Republican to win tomorrow.”

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