First Read Races of the Day: Labor Day Edition

Image: Jeff Gorell
In this photo taken Sunday, June 15, 2014, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, watches as the votes are posted on a state budget trailer bill that would provide a funding source for the proposed high-speed rail project, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Gorell was among the lawmakers that opposed the plan that provides $250 million this year from the state's cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions fund, and the promise of 25 percent of all future cap-and-trade revenue each year, an amount that could total $3billion to $5 billion a year in coming years. Despite the opposition the measure was approved and sent to the governor. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)AP

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CALIFORNIA-7: Democratic incumbent Ami Bera won his 2012 rematch against Republican Rep. Dan Lungren, benefitting from changing demographics in this suburban Sacramento district and from redrawn district lines. Now, the freshman congressman is a top target for Republicans, who hope the president’s sagging approval ratings will help topple recently elected Democrats. They got a strong challenger in former Rep. Doug Ose, who served three terms in Congress ending in 2004. Bera, a doctor and the only Indian American currently serving in Congress, has a deep donor network and has already posted impressive fundraising numbers.

Amanda Renteria is interviewed in 2008.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

CALIFORNIA 21: Incumbent Rep. David Valadao is one of just five Republicans serving in a district President Obama won in 2012 by more than 52 percent of the vote, making him a prime Democratic target. In this heavily Hispanic Central Valley district, disapproval of congressional Republicans – especially on immigration – could help push challenger Amanda Renteria to victory, even though Valadao has tried to distance himself from his party on the issue by vocally supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Renteria, a former chief of staff to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, also offers a good personal narrative; she’s the daughter of Mexican migrant farmworkers. But Democrats will have to successfully motivate Latinos to vote in a midterm election when turnout is slated to slide dramatically.

CALIFORNIA-26: Republicans list Jeff Gorell as one of their top challengers this cycle, as they hope to knock out Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley, despite a distinct blue tint to this Ventura district. Gorell is a decorated Afghanistan war veteran, as well as a former criminal prosecutor and budget vice chairman in the state assembly. Brownley, a freshman, touts her achievements on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee in a home district with a substantial military population.