Kim Mangone, the Democratic challenger taking on Kevin McCarthy in the 23rd Congressional District race, has made more headway against her seven-term opponent than anyone before her.
She's raised $1.2 million as of Sept. 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than 10 times the next highest ever raised by a McCarthy challenger.
That's allowed Mangone to run TV ads against McCarthy, another first for one of his opponents.
Still, those milestones aren't likely to have much consequence. The race is heavily favored for McCarthy, who became House Minority Leader during his most recent term. He's won in recent elections with about 70 percent of the vote. He's also out-raised Mangone by about $23 million, making the contest the fourth most-expensive House race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
David Wasserman, an editor for the Cook Political Report, said Mangone, an Air Force veteran from Quartz Hill, located in a small portion of Los Angeles County in the district, is the beneficiary of people giving money out of anger at her opponent and not necessarily a real hope that she can pull off a win.
"The situation we’re seeing is fund-raging instead of fundraising," said Wasserman. The Cook Political Report is a non-partisan newsletter that analyzes political races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representative, governors and president.
He's more closely following the 21st Congressional District race between incumbent T.J. Cox and David Valadao, which the Cook Political Report has labeled a toss-up. He called it one of the most negative Congressional races in the nation right now, with both sides taking jabs at the other's personal and family finances.
There are few fireworks in the McCarthy and Mangone race. In a debate televised on KGET-TV 17 last week, the candidates were polite and respectful to each other. McCarthy is largely running on his record and leadership role in the House while Mangone has emphasized her willingness to work across the aisle and a desire to focus on small businesses and families.
Some of her success has also been credited to a couple of celebrity endorsements along the way. Comedian Chelsea Handler and Mark Hamill, the actor who played the original Luke Skywalker in the "Star Wars" films, have voiced their support for her on Twitter.
Mangone's campaign spokesman, Devin McAndrew-Greiner, said the ability to get Mangone on TV has elevated her above McCarthy's previous opponents and positions her to reach more voters in the district.
"I think anything can happen and voters are really responding to Kim’s message of working with both parties," he said.
Meanwhile, McCarthy's role as the House Minority Leader is likely the main reason his fundraising tripled since the last election, to $24 million, Cook's Wasserman said.
Cathy Abernathy, one of McCarthy's campaign strategists, said Mangone's donations are likely all from people outside of Bakersfield.
"Usually they have to hold a fundraiser, which has been particularly tough" due to COVID-19, she said.
In the primaries in March, McCarthy garnered twice as many votes as Mangone, which isn't surprising in a district where 43 percent of voters are Republican and 29 percent are Democrats.