LOCALPolitiCal

Money pours into campaigns for candidates seeking statewide posts

PoliticsElectionsJohn A. PerezDebra BowenLeland YeeKamala D. Harris

Money flowed into the election campaigns for California's slate of lower-rung statewide political offices in 2013, a batch of races expected to vary from piping hot to, well, snoozers.

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom currently face little if any opposition in the June primary.

Harris raised just over $2.5 million in political contributions in 2013, state election records show. Her biggest supporters included the legal community, labor unions and Hollywood benefactors, including actress Halle Berry and movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, according to a campaign finance report filed Friday. As of Dec. 31, Harris’ campaign had $3.1 million on hand.

Harris’ campaign spent more than $800,000 in 2013, mostly on polling and political consultants. In contrast, the frugal Gov. Jerry Brown spent just $208,000 on reelection-related expenses during 2013 and had $17 million in his campaign account.

Harris narrowly defeated Republican Steve Cooley, then the Los Angeles County district attorney, in the hard-fought 2010 campaign for attorney general.

Newsom, a Democrat and former mayor of San Francisco, raised $902,000 in 2013 and spent $275,000 on campaigning during the year, campaign finance reports show. Labor unions were among Newsom’s biggest political supporters, the reports show.

Newsom had $1.3 million in his campaign account at the beginning of the year. His closest competitor is Democrat Eric Korevaar of La Jolla, a mechanical and aerospace engineer who describes himself as a scientist and artist. Korevaar has $20,000 in his campaign account, all of which he lent to his campaign.

More intriguing are the races for controller and secretary of State, two mildly obscure statewide posts that rarely attract the public’s attention. Both races attracted a gaggle of lawmakers and political veterans.

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) raised just under $2 million in his bid for state controller and had $1.8 million in his campaign account at year’s end. Fellow Democrat Betty Yee of San Francisco, a member of the California State Board of Equalization, raised $526,000 in 2013, and had $502,000 socked away.

Labor unions, by far, were among the most generous contributors to Perez, a former union organizer in Los Angeles, campaign finance records show.

Perez only recently announced his run for controller, and already had been raising money for a 2018 run for lieutenant governor. The speaker collected $714,000 in political contributions in that account, and has $493,000 still in the bank. Plus, the speaker has a leadership political action committee to support ballot measures that he favors, and that political committee raised $135,000 in 2013.

So, Perez’s overall haul in political contributions in 2013: $2.85 million.

Doug Herman, Perez's political consultant, said the speaker raised the vast majority of the money for his controller campaign in just two months -- showing how formidable of a candidate he will be.

"It’s head and shoulders above what Betty Yee has done," Herman said Saturday.

Yee’s campaign manger, Parke Skelton, doubts Perez’s edge in fundraising will have much of an influence. As a member of the state tax board, and former California Department of Finance chief deputy director, Yee has more qualifications for the post -- and that will matter a lot since polling shows that California voters know little about either candidate, he said.

"Being a member of the state Assembly is not a great qualification for controller," Skelton said. "I don’t think there’s much difference in whether you spend $1 million versus $5 million in a race like this. It depends on how you spend it."

The current controller, John Chiang, will be termed out of office this year. Chiang is running for state treasurer, where he faces nominal opposition thus far. The current treasurer, Bill Lockyer, who also is termed out.

In the crowded field of candidates for secretary of State, who serves as California’s chief election officer, Democratic state Sens. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) and Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) topped all others in fundraising in 2013, state campaign finance reports show.

Padilla raised $972,000 and by year’s end had $785,000 in the bank for his campaign, while Yee collected $740,000 during the year and had $661,000 left in his bank account.

The field of candidates also includes Republican academic Pete Peterson, campaign finance reform advocate Derek Cressman and Dan Schnur, a former GOP political strategist who went on to head the Fair Political Practices Commission and take a teaching post at USC.

Peterson raised $107,000 in 2013 and had $2,210 on hand and Cressman raised $317,000 had had $196,000 in the bank. Schnur announced his campaign at the beginning of 2014 so was not required to file a campaign finance report.

Current Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, must leave office next year because of term limits.

Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson raised $775,000 in 2013 for his reelection campaign, compared with $532,000 raised by challenger Marshall Tuck, founder and chief executive of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Democratic state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones collected $1.1 million in 2013 for his reelection campaign. Republican challenger Ted Gaines, a state senator from Roseville, received $8,200.

The primary election in this race should be among the most competitive in the state. Last year's elections were the first test of new rules that eliminated party primaries except in presidential contests. The top two vote-getters in June, regardless of party registration or lack of it, move to the November ballot.

The effects of California's new primary rules, its citizen-drawn voting districts that also kicked in last year, and the increase in the share of its voters who register without a party preference, are expected to continue playing out in coming years.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

Twitter: @philwillon

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