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August 2017 Essential Politics archives

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California's race for lieutenant governor is attracting a lot of money

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, and state Sen. Ed Hernandez during a Senate session in July. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, and state Sen. Ed Hernandez during a Senate session in July. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s 2018 race for lieutenant governor, likely to be lost in shadow of the governor’s race, could turn out to be a pretty competitive contest.

Money is pouring into the race for multiple candidates, according to a batch of campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state this week. That's interesting in part because the current lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom once dismissed the job as a “largely ceremonial post ... with no real authority.” 

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa), the favorite of many establishment California Democrats, leads the field in total fundraising with nearly $1.6 million on hand in his campaign account as of June 30. Hernandez raised nearly $1.2 million in 2017.

Three of his Democratic rivals have never run for elected office before, but are proving they are not exactly newcomers to politics.

  • Eleni Kounalakis of San Francisco, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary and fundraiser for former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has topped the field when it comes to raising cash this year. Kounalakis raked in $1.5 million, which includes more than $500,000 she contributed to her own campaign. She had nearly $1.4 million cash on hand as of June 30.
  • Los Angeles physician Asif Mahmood, who also helped raise money for Clinton’s presidential campaign, raised just over $1 million and has $846,996 cash on hand.
  • San Francisco Bay Area attorney Jeff Bleich, a former U.S. ambassador to Australia and special counsel to President Obama, raised just shy of $660,000 and has most of it in the bank.

The biggest wild card in the race is Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who has stockpiled $2.8 million in a campaign committee for lieutenant governor. And that doesn’t include the $886,000 De León had socked way in his state senate campaign account. 

De León has raised nearly $1.4 million for the race in 2017, which is noteworthy because it’s still unclear if he’s actually going to run for that office.

So far, no major Republican candidates are actively campaigning for lieutenant governor.

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