Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman is a safe bet to win the North Coast seat in Congress in the Nov. 6 election, filling the vacancy created by Rep. Lynn Woolsey's retirement after 20 years on Capitol Hill.
Huffman, who is termed out of his Sonoma-Marin County Assembly seat, picked up Woolsey's endorsement after dominating the June primary with 37.5 percent of the vote in a 12-candidate race.
More telling, however, is that Huffman and seven other Democrats tallied 75 percent of the vote in a district where Democrats account for nearly half of the 397,600 registered voters.
Republicans and voters with no party preference each have about 22 percent.
Huffman, 48, of San Rafael publicly launched his campaign in December 2010, on the day Woolsey confirmed her impending retirement.
He's run a textbook campaign, starting with an advantage in name recognition after six years in Sacramento. He has raised more than $1.24 million in campaign contributions and amassed more than 800 endorsements.
His Republican opponent, Dan Roberts, a Tiburon securities broker, finished second in the primary with 15 percent of the vote and has financed his campaign largely with his own loans of $210,000.
Roberts, 69, said in jest that he'd like stormy weather on Election Day to hold down voter turnout — "and I need a miracle."
The North Coast hasn't been in play politically since Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, stepped up from the state Senate in 1998 and won the first of seven straight terms by an average 65 percent of the vote.
Thompson, who also endorsed Huffman, was shifted this year to a new inland district that includes his Napa County home.
Huffman, a former environmental attorney, said he favors investing in infrastructure, education and clean energy as well as cutting the military budget and "promoting tax fairness," steps that are "essential to effectively and fairly resolving our fiscal problems."
In the Assembly this year, Huffman proposed 17 bills and got seven approved and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, while one giving doctors more authority over prescribing pain medication was vetoed. As a freshman in a Republican-controlled House, he'd be a lot less likely to make such an impact, experts say.
But Huffman said the House seniority system is "less ossified" than ever, allowing relatively new members to make an impact. He also has a potential ally in House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco district borders Huffman's Assembly district.
"I've got to build that relationship," Huffman said, noting he met Pelosi in her Washington office a few months ago.
While some analysts think the scenario is a longshot, Huffman thinks Democrats have a chance at winning the 25 seats needed to regain a House majority, a prospect that's more likely if President Barack Obama wins re-election, Huffman said.
Roberts said he is "running hard until the end" on a somewhat independent platform.
"Washington is broken and both parties have failed us," he said.
As owner of a securities dealership for 26 years, Roberts said he has "the know-how to take on the Wall Street crooks" and a businessman's ability to "create jobs and manage a budget."
Roberts said he advocates a "smaller federal government" through spending cuts, followed by corporate and individual tax cuts.
He would eliminate "unnecessary environmental regulations" that hamper economic development, such as a new oil refinery in California that could ease gasoline prices.