GOP, Democratic leaders pouring money into key state Senate contests

Voters receive their ballots for the California Primary Election at a polling place near Covina in June. Candidates are raising money now for the November election.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For the Times)

Political party leaders are funneling large amounts of cash and other resources into three key legislative contests that could decide whether Democrats will regain their supermajority in the state Senate in the November election.

The Democratic State Central Committee of California reported spending $258,361 so far this year to support candidate Luis Chavez in the Central Valley’s 14th Senate District, as he struggles to recover from a poor showing in the primary against Republican Sen. Andy Vidak of Hanford.

The money spent by the party provided Chavez with staff, consultants and mailers, and helped Chavez raise $448,634 for the first half of the year, ending the period with just $18,287 in his campaign account. Contributors included Democratic Sens. Kevin de Leon, Ed Hernandez, Ricardo Lara, Mark Leno, Fran Pavley and the California Latino Caucus Leadership PAC.


Vidak’s campaign reported spending $216,542, ending the period with $436,137 in his political war chest. He received maximum $4,100 contributions from Republican Senate leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine).

In another Central Valley contest, the Democratic Party spent $25,961 to help Shawn K. Bagley in the 12th Senate District contest against Republican state Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres, who has received campaign help totalling $78,674 from his party. Bagley, a Salinas produce broker, reported raising $8,146 during the six-week period ending June 30 with $7,793 left in the campaign account in the end.

Cannella raised $84,000 during the same period, including large sums from energy and agricultural firms, and had $975,627 in his campaign account as of June 30.

In another Senate contest targeted by both parties, the Democrats provided $19,011 to help former Assemblyman Jose Solorio with electronic slate cards and staff in his race for the 34thSenate District in Orange County. Taking a lead in campaign cash, Solorio raised $77,515 during the six-week reporting period, ending it with $625,211 in the bank for the run to November.

In the primary, Republican Janet Nguyen, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, won 51.5% of the vote, while Solorio received 34%. Nguyen reported Thursday that her campaign raised $136,457 during the six weeks ending June 30, ending the period with $263,360 in the bank while carrying $44,166 in outstanding debts.

Nguyen has received a lot of financial support from the large Vietnamese community in Orange County, but also has received maximum $4,100 donations from Republican politicians Pat Bates and Donald Wagner, as well as $4,830 in radio ads from the Republican Central Committee of San Luis Obispo. The state party has also spent $35,468 directly to help her campaign and has given another $48,000 to Orange County Republican groups.

The Democratic State Central Committee of California has a big cash advantage over the GOP heading towards the election. It reported raising $10.8 million and spending $9.2 million during the first six months of this year, ending the period with $11.7 million in the bank.

The California Republican Party raised $4.5 million during the first half of the year, spent $2.47 million and had $3.14 million left in its campaign war chest as of June 30.

Follow @mcgreevy99 for news from Sacramento.