News

Fight for campaign cash heats up for down-ticket candidates

Over the next six months, the contested primary for the Democratic
nomination for governor will take center stage in California’s political
theatre, but the gubernatorial primary is hardly the only contested
statewide race this June.

Two dozen other candidates are running statewide campaigns in the shadow of
the governor’s race, for offices ranging from attorney general, the state’s
top law enforcement officer, to state treasurer, who controls key elements
of the state’s borrowing decisions–an increasingly important role with the
introduction of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $68 billion infrastructure bond
package.

Only one statewide official, incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction
Jack O’Connell, is running unopposed.

Democrats hold the cash on hand advantage in four of the six competitive
down-ticket races, as only one statewide official, incumbent Superintendent
of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, is running unopposed in both the
primary or the general.

Here’s a look at the campaign finance reports of the rest of the down-ticket
races:

Lieutenant Governor
The three-way race for the Democratic nomination is fast becoming a
two-candidate contest. Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, spent $100,000 more
than she raised in the second half of 2005 and has just more than $500,000
cash on hand. That will likely not be enough to unseat current Insurance
Commissioner John Garamendi ($850,000 cash on hand) or Sen. Jackie Speier
($2.2 million cash on hand), D-Hillsborough, both of whom are better know by
voters, according to a November Field Poll.

The winner of the primary will face conservative Sen. Tom McClintock,
R-Thousand Oaks, who has more than $1 million and no primary opponent.

Attorney General
The Democratic primary for attorney general will likely be the costliest
down-ticket primary with Oakland Mayor and former Gov. Jerry Brown facing
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

Delgadillo raised more money ($1.6 million) than Brown ($1.4) million in the
second half of 2005, but spent more money, nearly $600,000 to $200,000 to do
it. At the end of January, Brown had a cash on hand advantage of $3.6
million to Delgadillo’s $2.3 million.

Sen. Charles Poochigian reported raising just shy of $1 million since last
June, with $2.6 million cash on hand. Announced primary opponent Richard
Pierre Prosper, who served as ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues in
the current Bush administration, reported a mere $85,000 and is widely
expected not to mount a credible challenge to Poochigian.

Treasurer
Democrat Bill Lockyer, currently the attorney general, spent more money than
he raised in the second half of 2005, but his $9.5 million war chest still
dwarfs his potential general election rivals, Assemblyman Keith Richman,
R-Northridge, who has just over $400,000 and Board of Equalization member
Claude Parrish, who has $270,000.

And those Republicans will have to use their money to win the party
nomination, while Lockyer invests in polling and research, including $70,000
with Bendixen and Associates, a Florida-based firm that specializes in
Latino public opinion.

Secretary of State
In a six-week blitz of political fundraising incumbent Bruce McPherson, who
was appointed to replace Kevin Shelley after he resigned amid allegations of
wrong-doing last year, raised an impressive $610,000, leaving him with
$578,000 cash on hand. He is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

The Democratic primary is a race between two termed-out female senators,
Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, and Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento. Ortiz has a
slight cash on hand edge with $412,000 to Bowen’s $367,000, though Bowen
used the last half of 2005 to close the gap by more than $100,000.

Insurance Commissioner
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante continues to run unopposed in the Democratic
primary, though the January filings showed a depleted campaign account with
only $85,000.

On the Republican side, Gary Mendoza, the 2002 GOP nominee for the same
office, has all but dropped out, with no new money raised since last August
and only $1,700 cash on hand. That leaves moderate Republican and
multi-millionaire Steve Poizner, who had more than $3 million cash on hand
at the end of 2005, and Dr. Phil Kurzner, with $83,000 cash on hand. Both
candidates were known by only 15 percent of voters, according to a November
Field Poll, and each candidate had a higher negative rating than a positive
one.

State Controller
There is a three-way race among Democratics for the nomination with
Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, leading the fundraising pack with
$978,000, followed by Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, with $945,000 and Board
of Equalization member John Chiang, with $808,000.

On the Republican side Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, has more than
$500,000 and he faces former Assemblyman Tony Strickland, whose account has
$320,000 as of the latest filings. Maldonado’s fundraising picked up its
pace in the last half of 2005 with $741,000 in contributions, though he also
spent $322,000.


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