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House Democrats Get Better Odds in California Senate Race

Villaraigosa, center, decided against a Senate bid in California. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A few House Democrats have found more favorable odds in California's Senate race after former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa eschewed a bid  for the open seat.  

Reps. Xavier Becerra, Loretta Sanchez and Adam B. Schiff — who all represent districts in and around Los Angeles — continue to consider bids for the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. Without Villaraigosa, who also hails from the southern part of the country's most populous state , these House members have more of an opening to run.  

"Well, it certainly changes my calculus into more favorable calculus," Sanchez told CQ Roll Call before Tuesday floor votes. "It may condense the timing a little bit. But we're definitely still serious about it and looking at it."  

Schiff's office did not return a request for comment. But multiple Democratic operatives said Schiff, who is Jewish, is an attractive candidate to the reliable Southern California Jewish voters.  

And without Villaraigosa's grip on Southern California's donor base, Schiff believes he has the ability to fundraise for the contest, which is expected to cost in the eight-digit range. Schiff represents one of the wealthiest House districts in the country, which includes the Hollywood Hills and Pasadena. He boasts a $2.1 million war chest, according to fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.  

Becerra told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he is still seriously considering the race. And according to a Democratic source, he has been making calls to party donors this month about a bid.  

"My plans continue forward," Becerra said. "For me it's always ... been about pulling everything together that makes it work and believing that I can do more good for my state and my country if I go to the Senate."  

The three House members would have to contend with California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The Democrat entered the race days after Boxer announced her retirement and quickly secured the backing of top Democrats in the Golden State and Washington, D.C.  

Unlike Harris, who appeared on a statewide ballot in 2014 and spent millions on the television airwaves that cycle, the House members start with a small geographic base . In Congress, California members represent the smallest percentage of their state, which has a delegation of 53.  

No matter who runs, Democrats in California do not expect Harris to get a free pass at the Senate seat, which is open for the first time in more than two decades.  

The state's jungle primary means the two top vote recipients, regardless of party, advance to the general election. Harris and another Democrat will likely move on to the general election.  

On the Republican side, no top-tier candidates have announced bids.  

Winning statewide as a GOP candidate is a challenge in California, especially in a presidential cycle. President Barack Obama carried the state by a 23-point margin in 2012. And in the 2014 midterms, when Republicans picked up 13 House seats across the country, the GOP saw a net loss of one seat in California.  

This race is rated Safe Democrat  by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  

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