Gov. Out of Debt in Bid for 2nd Term

Times Staff Writer

Pumped up by donors from Redding to Beverly Hills to Washington, D.C., Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has erased his campaign debt while his main Democratic rivals have spent heavily in the fight to win their party's gubernatorial nomination, campaign finance reports show.

At the same time, candidates for half the state's Senate seats and all of the Assembly seats have raised millions in advance of the June 6 primary -- when most of the contests will be all but decided. And candidates seeking statewide offices such as insurance commissioner and attorney general have amassed millions more.

The reports, filed Wednesday and covering the first 11 weeks of this year, are an indicator of a candidate's strength. Many cite the reports in an attempt to convince donors and voters that they are favored to win their party's nomination.

Schwarzenegger showed his fundraising prowess, receiving significantly more money than his Democratic rivals. He raised $5.2 million between Jan. 1 and Friday.

That sum was sufficient to place his reelection campaign $3 million in the black. He had started the year $410,000 in debt.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, raised $2.3 million during that period. Democratic state Controller Steve Westly raised $1.1 million. Also, $2.5 million came from his own wallet.

Westly, who made a fortune at EBay, has spent nearly $26 million of his own money so far on his campaign. Angelides, also a millionaire, though not nearly as wealthy as Westly, has spent about $17,000 of his own funds on his gubernatorial run.

Both men, seeking to establish themselves with voters, spent heavily in recent weeks -- Angelides nearly $6 million, including $4.3 million to buy airtime for TV ads, and Westly, $6.3 million. Two hours before the midnight filing deadline, Westly had not filed a full report detailing, for example, the amount he spent on television advertising.

Angelides had $14.5 million in his political bank account as of March 17. Westly had $23 million.

In another high-profile race, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, battling for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, matched one another in money collected in the first 2 1/2 months of this year. Brown raised $621,00 to Delgadillo's $612,000.

But Brown, a former governor, had $4.2 million in the bank to Delgadillo's $2.6 million -- prompting Ace Smith, Brown's campaign manager, to pronounce the disparity a "death knell" for Delgadillo's candidacy.

Smith said Delgadillo's $2.6 million "is not enough to buy one week of TV [advertising] in California" -- the main method statewide candidates use to beam messages to California's 15.9 million registered voters.

Roger Salazar, representing Delgadillo, shot back that Smith's comments were "hyperbole to hide the fact that they're running scared."

Delgadillo is drawing heavily on his base of Los Angeles, a rich source of campaign cash. He has collected $1.3 million from donors with a Los Angeles address. Brown has received $238,000 from his base in Oakland, only slightly more than Los Angeles contributors have given him.

State Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno), running without major opposition, had $2.77 million on hand. He raised $266,000 in the reporting period.

Last year's special election, in which various sides raised and spent more than $260 million, no doubt tapped out some donors. But several organizations still have bulging war chests.

The California Assn. of Realtors, for example, filed a report showing it had $2.8 million in one account for candidates, $989,000 in a second candidate account and $6.1 million in an account for ballot measures.

"We have been raising more money because our membership has been growing," said Alex Creel, the realty group's vice president for governmental affairs.

Under California law, the real estate association and similar trade groups cannot give more than $6,700 directly to a candidate in a single election. But organizations and individuals can spend unlimited sums on campaigns independent of candidates -- and the realty group will be among those mounting such efforts, Creel said.

"Most of the action is in the primary," Creel said. "Those who take the primary will generally take the election," given that most districts heavily favor one party or the other.

The California Teachers Assn. has $9.3 million in a bank account earmarked for ballot measures and $1.5 million in a separate account for candidates.

The teachers union, which spent more than $55 million to defeat Schwarzenegger's ballot measures last year, has donated $300,000 to Proposition 82 on the June ballot, as did the Service Employees International Union.

Proposition 82, sponsored by Hollywood producer Rob Reiner, would raise income taxes on the wealthiest Californians by $2.4 billion to create a preschool system for 4-year-olds.

Reiner has given the campaign $657,000 and his father, Carl Reiner, has given it $500,000. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and his wife, Nancy Daly Riordan, have donated $50,000 each. The campaign raised $2 million and has $1.7 million on hand.

Opponents of Proposition 82 had $81,500 in the bank. So far, much of the opposition campaign's money has come from investors and real estate interests.

Even as reports were being filed, politicians were pursuing campaign checks. Assemblyman Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), seeking a Whittier-area Senate seat, was holding a $2,000-a-ticket fundraiser at the Laker game at Staples Center on Wednesday night.

The invitation noted that Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), who endorsed Calderon, was a co-host, though Nunez did not plan to be courtside.

Calderon had $240,000 in the bank -- much of it from insurance companies, development interests and financial services companies such as mortgage lender Ameriquest Capital Corp.

Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk), Calderon's main rival, had $480,000 in the bank. Much of his money has come from plaintiffs' attorneys, who often battle with the insurance industry.

Bermudez, a parole officer, is a member of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., the union that represents state prison guards and parole officers. He is receiving money from government employee and law-enforcement unions. The prison guards have spent modestly on Bermudez so far but have $3.4 million reserved for independent campaigns.

The Senate seat once was held by Calderon's oldest brother, Chuck Calderon. Chuck Calderon, hoping to return to the Legislature, is running for the Assembly seat that Ron is vacating. He had $255,000 in his campaign account.

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