Gill ’09 raises $1.6 million in Calif. race
Only three years after graduating from the University, Gill was not yet old enough to constitutionally serve in Congress when he launched his campaign last year. Nevertheless, Gill said he has raised over $2 million so far. This total, Gill said, means that he has raised the most of any Republican congressional candidate challenging an incumbent in the country.
Gill’s war chest has allowed him to compete against Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, a third-term incumbent who has found himself in a partially unfamiliar district following California’s 2010 redistricting.
Gill entered the summer having raised $1.6 million, according to his campaign’s most recent filing with Federal Election Committee, and had more than $1 million cash on hand. How much Gill raised in the past fundraising quarter, which ended Sunday, is not yet published, but his total return over the past three months may be enhanced by a summer that gave Gill high publicity.
In early June, Gill earned 40 percent of the vote in an open primary — a preliminary election open to members of all political parties that trims the candidate field to a two-man runoff. Though McNerney earned 48 percent, Gill said he was optimistic about the race given that the two Republican candidates combined for a majority of the vote.
Later this summer, after catching the eye of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s political team, Gill was given an opportunity to speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa — despite the fact that it broadcast at 2:35 p.m. Eastern Time on a Tuesday. Gill said the speaking gig was nonetheless an “honor” and “humbling.”
“It’s an indication of us having a victory on the horizon,” Gill said.
After this summer, analysis suggests that the campaign is beginning to turn in Gill’s favor. Real Clear Politics now rates the Gill-McNerney race as a toss-up, and Rothenberg Political Report recently moved the race from “Democrat Favored” to “Leans Democrat.”
Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst at Rothenberg Political Report, said that the race is clearly “moving toward him,” noting that Gill’s message that he is a native of the area while McNerney is an outsider has been effective. However, Taylor still noted that the race has snuck up on political handicappers on both sides of the aisle.
“I think that it has been a surprise for some people that a very recent college graduate, who just graduated from law school,” was able to compete, Taylor said. “Democrats aren’t as worried about this one as necessary.”
Taylor explained that Gill has been able to capitalize on the fact that 50 percent of the voters in McNerney’s district are brand new, following the most recent round of congressional redistricting. The new composition of the district has only reinforced Gill’s native-versus-transplant message, she said.
Gill explained that his agricultural background also resonates with the farming economy of San Joaquin County. However, Gill said that though he did not see his youth as a barrier and that usually voters see the “fresh blood” he’d bring to Washington as one of his assets, some older voters have occasionally discounted him based on his youth.
“There have been certain isolated incidents, but elderly folks have a great appreciation for my energy,” Gill explained.
Gill, who majored in the Wilson School and described himself as “very serious about academics” while attending the University in an interview with The Daily Princetonian last September, said the relationships he built with his Princeton classmates and alumni have been helpful. They have made financial and other contributions to his campaign, he said.
“For most Princeton students, it is a formative experience,” Gill explained, attributing those donations partially to a connection through their alma mater.
Taylor also noted the role Princeton-affiliated alumni could play in Gill’s campaign, despite the fact that he is only a recent graduate.
Though the district is slightly Democratic — it voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but George W. Bush in 2004 — Gill said his campaign is confident that his personal story can resonate with Democratic constituents. His youth and Indian-American heritage, Gill explained, show that he is a different type of candidate.
“There are people who have really associated themselves positively with this being a good story,” he said.
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