Nunes opponent raises $1 million in first quarter

(CNN)A Democratic candidate challenging House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes took in more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2018, a sign of Democrats' enthusiasm to oust the California congressman who has allied himself closely with President Donald Trump.

Andrew Janz, the Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County, is still considered a long shot in his bid to unseat Nunes. CNN currently rates the 22nd District as a "safe Republican" seat. But Nunes' role in running interference for Trump on the investigations into Russia's role in the 2016 election has made him a target for Democrats nationwide.
According to fundraising figures provided to CNN by the campaign, Janz has raised more than $1 million so far in 2018 with just three days left in the first quarter. The campaign received a huge influx in fundraising cash from donors across the country in the wake of Nunes role in releasing a controversial memo detailing concerns Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had with the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"We feel like he is the one person that is really standing in the way of the (FBI Special Counsel) Robert Mueller investigation," Janz told CNN. "We think people deserve to know what happened to our elections in 2016 and what is happening in 2018. And every day my opponent is out there trying to undermine federal law enforcement, the special prosecutors probe and really working for Trump instead of the American people."
    Janz said that Nunes' focus on defending the Trump administration's role in the investigation, instead of focusing on issues important to California voters, is part of what is leading to the fundraising surge.
    "Devin Nunes is in Washington playing games on the House Intelligence Committee," Janz said. "And while he is doing that the issues back here at home that people care about are being ignored."
    The Nunes campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
    The fundraising totals by Janz put him in a position to be one of the most successful Democratic House candidates in terms of fundraising for the first quarter of 2018. Much of his cash is coming from the online fundraising tool ActBlue. According to February figures released by the group, the only Democratic House candidate to raise more money was Connor Lamb, who was running in a competitive special election in Pennsylvania that garnered national attention.
    Janz campaign officials touted the fact that his average donation is $42.55 and the median donation is $20.18. Janz has promised to not take a penny in corporate PAC donations.
    But despite Janz's impressive haul, his race is still not considered a top tier democratic pick up opportunity. Janz is not listed among the candidates being supported by the influential Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
    That perception might change if Janz is able to turn his fundraising into tangible evidence that he is gaining on Nunes in the polls. Even with this remarkable quarter, Janz will likely still be trailing Nunes significantly in fundraising. According to his last FEC filing, Nunes has close to $4 million cash on hand.
    Democratic campaign officials, while not convinced Janz is prepared to take out Nunes, believe that he is running his campaign the right way, using Nunes' controversial national profile to raise money while focusing on issues important to the district while campaigning at home.
    Janz has said he will not support fellow California Rep. Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker if he wins and Democrats take back the House. He said the concerns he hears from voters are not about Nunes' role on the House Intelligence Committee but about his lack of focus on his district.
    "He's (Nunes) been there for 15 years, 8 terms and provided little or nothing by way of jobs or infrastructure projects that he has talked about getting for us in the Central Valley and I think that come November people are going to be very surprised that Devin Nunes is no longer going to be a Congressman here," Janz said.