While Republicans across the country are targeting Democrats for supporting an unloved legislative agenda that has failed to prompt strong economic growth, Democrats like Bera are trying to turn that message on its head. They paint Republican incumbents as agents of Washington gridlock for their near-lock-step opposition to President Obama's initiatives. In areas trending less conservative, the message could resonate.
For instance, Bera argues that Mr. Lungren no longer fits his changing district, which has seen the gap between registered Republicans and Democrats shrink from 7.8 percent in 2004 to 2.8 percent this year. Lungren, he notes, has voted against every major Democratic policy proposal in this Congress.
"There's been a shift demographically," Bera says. "Congressman Lungren thought he'd get elected and he would just cruise as long as he wanted to, and I think he's been representing that way by being absent while this district has changed."
The Lungren campaign did not respond before deadline to requests for comment. But Lungren has been dismissive of Democratic chances in his district. "We're better organized, we're better funded, we're better scheduled, we're better prepared than I have been in all of my congressional races," Lungren told the Elk Grove Citizen in August.
In his campaign against Lungren, Bera is trying to mobilize not just new residents but voters like Mary Beth Kropp. An administrator with the Elk Grove School District and a lifelong Republican, Ms. Kropp split her ticket between the parties in 2008, voting for Mr. Obama and Lungren. She is supporting Bera in 2010.