Newsom’s booster fundraiser benefit becomes a sinkhole with union, tribal and tech money

SACRAMENTO – There has always been little doubt that Gov. Gavin Newsom would have the financial advantage in California’s recall election, but the fundraising gap between the governor and his main GOP challengers has grown into a chasm that is growing rapidly.

Newsom, a Democrat, raised nearly $ 16.5 million to defend himself in the recall contest scheduled for this fall, with much of the money pouring in over the past two weeks. He also raised $ 9.3 million for his re-election campaign in 2022.

In other words, the governor attracted about twice as many as all of his Republican challengers combined. The next closest candidate, San Diego businessman John Cox, raised $ 7.7 million, most of it out of his own pocket.

The governor was spurred on by an injection of funds from mega donors, including unions, the Democratic Party, tech billionaires, tribal communities and real estate developers – a broad coalition that includes both traditional progressive donors and commercial interests.

Several factors have helped to strengthen Newsom’s advantage: for starters, it can raise unlimited funds to fight a recall; state contribution limits do not apply to recalled office holders. Donors to his Republican challengers, on the other hand, are limited to the normal maximum of $ 32,400 per campaign.

Newsom has also benefited from California’s exit from the coronavirus pandemic with a booming economy and an unexpected budget surplus of $ 75.7 billion. His campaign released its first TV commercial on Thursday, saying the state is “roaring back” and highlighting a plan to send many households tax rebates of $ 1,100.

David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University, said the timing was clearly on Newsom’s side. He said the governor took advantage of this good fortune and gradually set up a fundraising “tsunami” to drown opponents on the air.

“It’s a very difficult time to raise funds if you’re a Republican,” McCuan said of the California pandemic rebound. “Dollars are a reflection of the candidate’s share price and a forward-looking average.”

Newsom’s biggest checks include $ 3 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, $ 1.5 million from the California Association of Realtors and $ 1.32 million from the state Democratic Party, including some services in-kind such as digital media.

However, Newsom’s opponents say the governor’s lead in fundraising is not necessarily an indicator of how voters are feeling. Several accused the governor of using his office for the benefit of large donors such as the unions of state employees.

Cox, whom Newsom beat in the 2018 governor’s race, said Newsom’s advantage is to be expected when “politicians are doing people a favor.” He said he expects voters frustrated by the state’s myriad of issues, including summer power shortages and the homeless crisis, to feel differently from wealthy donors.

“So much is mismanaged in this state that I will only need a tiny fraction of what he is capable of getting from his buddies and favor seekers,” he said of the comment. by Newsom.

Cox, a multimillionaire and tax lawyer, said he plans to spend even more of his own money in an attempt to defeat the governor, although he declined to say how much.

Newsom’s next closest competitor, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, has around $ 2.4 million. Despite less fundraising, a spokesperson said Faulconer had a growing base of supporters and was “confident that our campaign will have the resources and support we need to defeat Gavin Newsom’s big-money political machine.” .

Faulconer’s biggest contributors include a multitude of Southern California real estate developers. Among them were three members of the Marcil family, owners of Palos Verdes Investments, a company that remodels apartment complexes.

Together, the Marcil family have donated over $ 194,000 to Faulconer’s campaign committees to run for governor in 2021 and 2022. Candidates can raise funds for both committees simultaneously.

The other two prominent Republicans in the race, reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner and former U.S. Representative Doug Ose, are well behind in reported fundraising. Jenner raised around $ 295,000 while Ose raised around $ 157,000.

Jenner’s biggest donors include a handful of wealthy out-of-state Republicans. For example, Arizona billionaire Bob Parsons, who founded internet domain company GoDaddy, and his wife, Renee Parsons, each donated $ 32,400.

Nathan Click, a campaign spokesperson for Newsom, rejected the attacks by his opponents, saying: “The governor is in a strong position. We don’t take anything for granted.

McCuan, the political scientist, said it was clear that in order to compete with Newsom’s fundraising operation, GOP challengers will need to appeal to conservatives outside of California. So far, they have all struggled to attract large non-state donors, despite a flurry of Fox News and conservative recall-focused media segments.

“The way Republicans can fundraise is to get out of state and nationalize and demonize (Newsom),” McCuan said. “That’s what it will take.”

Dustin Gardiner and Nami Sumida are the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email:, Twitter: @dustingardiner, @namisumida

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