Reflecting Democrats' dominance of California politics and the Republicans' weak bench, donors have given Democratic candidates for statewide office in November at least $12.9 million this year, more than twice what they contributed to GOP hopefuls.
Perhaps predictably, the biggest beneficiaries were incumbents and members of the Democratic firmament, such as Gov. Jerry Brown, who raised $5.7 million from January through June 30, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state this week.
"Money follows power, and right now the Republicans don't have any," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College and a former national GOP official.
Although California's voters tilt left, the state's deep trove of wealthy donors has long been a reliable source of cash for politicians on both sides of the aisle.
But "donor fatigue" after a series of losing campaigns has sidelined some traditional Republican contributors in this year's statewide efforts; instead, some traditional GOP donors are sitting out this year while others are focusing on legislative and congressional races.
Incumbency — including the ability to collect checks over four years as an elected official is making policy — offers Democrats another advantage. The party holds every statewide office in California: No Republican has won a top state post since 2006.
Even Democrats expected to cruise to reelection this fall against under-funded, little-known opponents raked in cash.
Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, widely believed to be eyeing higher office in coming years, raised nearly $1 million apiece and are sitting on a combined $5.9 million — money they can save to spend in future contests.
In contrast, their Republican rivals reported campaign bank balances more akin to those in small-town races than contests for top posts in a state of 38 million residents. Attorney Ronald Gold, who is challenging Harris, reported a negative bank balance of $870 as well as debts of $13,500.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, the former U.S. Treasury official who ran the federal bank bailout, gathered the most among the Republicans: $4.5 million, almost of half of it from his own pocket.
It's a far cry from the last race for governor. Republican former eBay chief Meg Whitman raised more than $8 million in the first six months of 2010 and put in $72 million of her own money in the same period.
The Republicans accorded the best chances of winning a statewide post in November — Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, running for controller, and Pepperdine University's Pete Peterson, a candidate for secretary of state — entered the general-election campaign in the red, according to their filings.
"They basically get guilt by association," said Democratic strategist Roger Salazar.
A bright spot for the GOP is the California Republican Party, which until recently had bled money and was awash in debt.
Although out-raised by Democrats, the party took in $4.5 million during the first half of the year and had $3.14 million left in its war chest as of June 30. Democrats raised $10.8 million and have $11.7 million in the bank.
A significant portion of the GOP money is expected to be spent on legislative races, with the hope of breaking the Democrats' supermajority in the state Assembly and preventing them from reclaiming one in the Senate.
Legislative races have drawn some notable donations. State Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres received large contributions from the state GOP and from energy and agricultural interests and reported still having $975,627 in his campaign account as of June 30.
In a closely watched Assembly race in Orange County, Young Kim, a former aide to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), ended June with $559,700 in her campaign account, a little more than her Democratic rival, with the help of donations from Republican officials, including House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy.
Legislative and congressional races are "where the battles are being fought," said GOP strategist Kevin Spillane. "Republican donors are going to put their money where they can make a difference."
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