Republican Incumbent Faces Tough Race

by John J. Pitney, Jr.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R., CA) is a rarity for 2010: a Republican House member with a tough race for reelection. The Sacramento Bee writes of his opponent, Ami Bera: “His come-from-nowhere trajectory has been fueled by donations from the Indian American and medical communities. Bera is raising more than Lungren, whose ads now ask, ’Who is Ami Bera?’” The insider-outsider dynamic is helping Republicans in most places, but in this race, it’s a problem for Lungren.  He won his first House election (in a different district) in 1978, and later served as the state’s attorney general. Bera has never held elected office and is stressing his credentials as a physician and medical educator.

Lungren may be experienced, but he’s not a get-along-go-along type. He once angered Majority Leader Jim Wright to the point that Wright threatened to punch him out on the House floor. (Wright was wise not to follow through: Lungren knows taekwondo.)

John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.