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Politics

After sputtering out of the gate, Amanda Renteria launches bid for California governor

Amanda Renteria
Amanda Renteria joins a race for governor that’s already well underway with a crowded field of top Democrats.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

After staying mum for a week after filing to run for California governor, former Hillary Clinton aide Amanda Renteria confirmed Tuesday she is launching a “grassroots” campaign, saying she will offer a “new voice” to voters who have soured on big-money politics.

Renteria, a Central Valley native and Democratic insider, shocked the political establishment last week by filing a statement announcing she was running for governor without speaking publicly about her bid. Though she has worked in government and on campaigns, she has never held elected office. On Tuesday, she offered no specifics about where she stood on the most pressing issues facing the state, saying only that her policy positions would be rolled out in the weeks ahead.

Though the June 5 primary election is less than four months away, Renteria dismissed the need to raise millions in campaign funds to introduce herself to Californians and compete with the four Democrats already in the race.

She said she planned to get her message out through social media and what she said would be grassroots campaigning, saying these efforts have greater effect in the Trump era.

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“Politics is broken and we need to get back together again and change our culture of politics,” Renteria said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. “The way you do that is to get some new voices.”

Renteria joins a race that’s already well underway with a crowded field of top Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin.

Newsom has been campaigning for three years and sits on a formidable campaign war chest of $16 million. The lieutenant governor, Villaraigosa, Chiang and Eastin have spent more than a year campaigning across California, and the four already have taken part in televised debates, lined up endorsements and aired online campaign ads.

Along with facing those strong political head winds, Renteria’s late entrance means that she will be left off the list of speakers at the California Democratic Party’s annual convention in San Diego this weekend. The gathering is a pivotal stop for any candidate trying to enlist the support — in money, endorsements and campaign volunteers — of the state’s most powerful labor unions, liberal activists and other Democratic faithful. Newsom, Villaraigosa, Chiang and Eastin are all scheduled to address the full convention Saturday, and the party’s endorsement is up for grabs.

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Renteria did not say if she will attend the convention.

“We’re going to do it differently,” Renteria said. “If I’m running a traditional campaign where you are looking to raise $10 million … that wouldn’t work at this point.”

Renteria said a whole new generation of politically active Americans is “rising up and speaking,” including women, so-called Dreamers and high-school students marching this week to protest the lack of political action against gun violence and last week’s deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school. She did not directly mention whether the rise of the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct played any part in her decision to run, though political pundits argue that is her opening if she has one in the race.

Renteria, 43, worked for Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan in Washington before running for Congress in an unsuccessful 2014 bid to unseat Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford). That was her only run for public office until now.

After working for the Clinton campaign, Renteria was hired by state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to be his chief of operations.

Renteria’s campaign announcement follows a week of rumors and speculation whipped up by her silence after she filed papers with the secretary of state’s office declaring her intention to run for governor.

She did not initially speak with reporters and did not release a statement confirming her campaign.

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On Saturday, Renteria posted a tweet that only added to the mystery surrounding her bid: “I will be communicating more next week. But, in the meantime, I’ve always been motivated by making a positive difference, and that hasn’t changed. Look forward to sharing more soon, Amanda.”

Renteria added on Tuesday that she decided to enter the race after attending a debate at UCLA last month where Newsom and Villaraigosa sparred over how they became rich.

“After attending the @Univision debate in Los Angeles I decided I had to get in. I saw the two frontrunners quickly descend into an argument over who became more rich by the use of their political power. This isn’t what politics is supposed to be about,” Renteria tweeted Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, her campaign posted a video online that contained no information about her background or policy positions.

The haphazard campaign rollout baffled many California political observers and stoked conspiracy theories about why such a savvy political veteran would consider jumping into a race so late and without a campaign apparatus already in place. Some openly questioned whether her campaign was designed to undercut the only other Latino candidate in the race, Villaraigosa.

Newsom calls suggestion of voter suppression from Villaraigosa camp ‘sad’ and ‘desperate’ >>

Renteria dismissed that speculation as “Trump conspiracy-like, based in zero fact.”

“At first I laughed,” Renteria said. “The idea that I would ever make a deal is completely and totally inconsistent with who I am and what my career choices have been.”

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Villaraigosa was in Sacramento for a campaign stop Tuesday and had little to say about Renteria’s decision to join the race.

“I wish her luck,” Villaraigosa said succinctly. “You know, everybody has a right to run.”

Renteria said she had planned to announce her campaign March 1 but filed for office last week to ensure she would be included in the state voter guide.

She said she was unaware that the paperwork would create such attention and that she decided not to comment because, at the time, she was uncomfortable about campaigning while “being paid by the taxpayers” as an employee of the attorney general’s office. She left her job last week.

“Frankly, it got a ton of attention, so we said, ‘Fine, let’s speed up our process,’” Renteria said. “It was earlier than I would have liked, but that’s what happens when you’re in a campaign.”

When asked if Hillary Clinton might support her, Renteria said she hasn’t asked her former boss.

“I think this is about going directly to the voters,” she said.

Updates on California politics


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