North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman, who dominated a crowded primary election two years ago, has no qualms about the two challengers he faces in the June 3 primary, a much lower-key political event.
"They're very nice guys," said Huffman, 50, a San Rafael Democrat bidding for his second term in Congress. "I like 'em both."
Huffman, who won the House seat vacated by former Rep. Lynn Woolsey in 2012, is expected to easily beat Democrat Andy Caffrey, a Garberville activist who got 1 percent of the vote two years ago, and newcomer Dale Mensing, a Republican, also from Garberville in Humboldt County.
Huffman, who was termed out of the state Assembly, took 37.5 percent of the primary vote in 2012 spread among eight Democrats, two Republicans and two no party preference candidates.
Marin County Republican Dan Roberts was a distant second with 15 percent, then lost to Huffman, who took 71 percent in the November runoff.
Huffman has reported $722,293 in campaign donations this year, while Caffrey, a political activist, and Mensing, a supermarket cashier, reported no funding.
Given his financial strength, name recognition and politics that match a left-leaning, Democrat-dominated district, Huffman will likely score a "sophomore surge," said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
The term refers to incumbent freshmen whose advantages, including previous political experience, position them to "demolish their opponents" on the second go-round, McCuan said.
The 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Marin County to the Oregon border, could be Huffman's "to own for decades," McCuan said. The district excludes Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma Valley.
As a House newcomer, Huffman said he experienced "culture shock" after passing more than 60 bills in six years in the Assembly.
"This place is big and slow-moving," Huffman said of the Republican-controlled House in which minority party members have little influence.
Huffman said his first-term achievements included getting Mendocino County's Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands into the California Coastal National Monument, a step taken by President Barack Obama after Huffman's bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
His bill to increase penalties for environmental damage done by illegal marijuana cultivation didn't move in the House but was adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Huffman said.
Huffman's future impact hinges largely on Democrats' regaining control of the House, where they are now 17 seats short, McCuan said.
That's unlikely this year or in 2016, but could happen as soon as 2018, he said.
Caffrey, 56, who gained notice in 2012 for puffing a joint at a public event, said his current campaign is based on decriminalizing pot and calling for a national security plan to address climate change.
"It would be a real travesty if the hippies died off without legalizing marijuana," he said.
Caffrey said he also advocates free public transportation and free public education through college, a single-payer health care system and support for the arts.
His candidacy is about "catalyzing change," Caffrey said, adding that he is "trying to galvanize energies that I think already exist in the people."
Mensing, 55, a former postmaster in Laytonville who has never before run for public office, said he was a registered Democrat until switching to the GOP in 2009.
The Democratic Party, he said, has become dominated by "anti-colonial interests" bent on diminishing the influence of the United States and on redistributing income.