Facing few serious challenges for statewide posts in last year's election, many California politicians were free to make financial decisions with an eye toward the future, final campaign reports show.
John Chiang had token opposition in his race for state treasurer after eight years as controller, but he raised enough money to have $3.3 million left over. His political consultant said he "will definitely need the money" (but did not respond when asked for more specifics about its use).
Gavin Newsom, who is starting his second term as lieutenant governor after being reelected, has $3 million and an eye on the race for governor three years from now.
No statewide official socked away more money than Gov.
Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris didn't save as much: $1.3 million. But in the closing days of her campaign — long after it was clear she did not face a credible challenge — she spent more than $1.2 million on television advertising in Southern California. Now she's running for
Democrats continue to hold every statewide seat, their deep pockets a reminder of their continued dominance of California politics. Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican strategist who publishes a nonpartisan election guide, said their funds can serve as an insurance policy.
"The next race may not be so easy," Hoffenblum said, "so they pile up the money."
Even in last year's more competitive races, Democrats had a clear financial advantage, according to the reports, filed recently with the state.
In the secretary of state contest,
Unions flexed their muscle in the controller race, helping Democrat Betty Yee beat Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican. Yee spent close to $2.4 million; unions burned through $800,000 to bolster her campaign independently. Swearengin spent less than $1.4 million.
The nonpartisan race for state schools superintendent was a slugfest between two Democrats: incumbent
The California Democratic Party spent $24.4 million last year, and has $8.5 million left. Its Republican counterpart has less than $1 million after spending close to $20 million. The money went toward campaign consultants, polling, fundraising and contributions to candidates, among other expenses.
The biggest money went to oppose two healthcare-related ballot measures, both of which were defeated. Healthcare providers and insurance companies dropped $58.6 million to sink Proposition 46, a proposal to allow higher awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and require that physicians be tested for drug and alcohol use.
Trial lawyers and the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog spent $11 million in favor of the measure and finished the campaign with more than $1.1 million in debt.
Consumer Watchdog also struck out with Proposition 45, an initiative that would have granted the state insurance commissioner more power to regulate rates. Just $2.6 million was spent in favor of the measure, while $56.8 million was spent in opposition, mostly by hospitals and insurance companies.
Advocates had more luck with Proposition 47, which voters passed to reduce drug possession and some theft charges to misdemeanors. Supporters, including New York hedge fund billionaire
Opponents spent $550,000, most of it from law enforcement organizations.
Voters also approved Proposition 1, a $7.5-billion water bond measure, and Proposition 2, which bolstered the state's rainy-day fund. Both were priorities for Brown, who spent $5.2 million to campaign for them.
That spending constituted almost all the $6.2 million the governor spent in the primary and general elections. Meanwhile, Kashkari spent more than $7 million, about $3 million of it from his own pocket.
Kashkari had already used some of his own money in 2013 to prepare for his campaign, but was not required to report it.
The spending was remarkably low for a California governor's race and underscored the low-key nature of the campaign. Kashkari was viewed as a long shot from the beginning, and struggled to raise enough money to successfully challenge the popular incumbent.