In a race devoid of a ton of money and energy, a half million dollar independent expenditure (IE) by conservative groups like EdVoice and the oil and real estate industries figured to shake things up. Part of what has happened is that blanket primaries in California allow for conservative interests in Democratic districts to attempt to get the more moderate Democrats elected.
In 2014, Bill Dodd, a strong candidate in his own right, did just that on the backing of his own robust fundraising with some help from business-oriented IEs. 2016 would appear a bit more tricky, as Cecilia Aguiar-Curry struggles to raise her own money, but interject $500,000-plus in IEs and it’s a potential game-changer.
Adding fuel to the fire on Monday were comments by Republican Candidate Charlie Schaupp who finished second in 2014.
He said, “I found out at the State GOP Convention about 10 days ago that IE money then was $300K for Aguiar-Curry. It is PG&E, Chevron, Realtors and others that want her in the ‘top two’. They have spent a lot on polling…and will keep polling, both real polls and push polls, to ensure Cecilia is in ‘top two’. When the polling shows she is slipping they will spend more IE money…That is why it’s now at $500+K. They did the same for Dodd last time.”
He explained, “Last poll numbers I heard was Wolk and I are on top, followed by Aguiar-Curry then Saylor (almost a 4 way tie)…then way back is Kropp. I am not sure how or whom they are going to spend their IE money on except to build up Cecilia in the polls…and attack ads. But I don’t know if the attack ads will be aimed at Wolk or me or all of us. All these monies supporting Cecilia are normal GOP backers.”
He added, “For what it’s worth the IE money will keep pouring into this race until the special interests are sure Aguiar-Curry is in the ‘top two’.”
Cecilia Aguiar-Curry told the Vanguard that she is not attempting to raise money personally from oil or tobacco interests. In fact, she said that she did receive a check from oil and she returned it.
She said, “I am not beholden to anyone and will not flip flop. Of all the candidates in this race, I’m the least likely to be swayed by special interests.”
Meanwhile, the Wolk campaign put out a statement, “This week, groups funded by big oil companies, like Chevron, Valero and Tesoro, and tobacco companies, like Philip Morris, spent over a half million dollars promoting one of my opponents.”
“They aren’t spending this money because they want to make our community better,” Dan Wolk said in a campaign email. “They are doing it because I have spent my career standing up to these special interests, effectively fighting for the environment and the health of our community.”
He added, “They think they can just buy a seat in the Assembly and don’t expect that I will be able to match them in the big money game.”
Later Mr. Schaupp wrote that, talking to PACs and lobbyists back in December, he realized that “political forces were already lining up behind Aguiar-Curry” in order to prevent Dan Wok from finishing in the top two. “They want to keep Wolk out of the ‘Top Two’ again. It was pretty clear then and has come to fruition now…”
Of course, Mr. Wolk himself is playing into that. As we noted, his campaign fundraising is fairly lackluster for a someone that most analysts expected to finish at the top in a relatively weak field of candidates. The reality is he is neck and neck with Don Saylor with just over $200,000 raised. That means that an injection of $500,000 by IEs could heavily sway the field.
Mr. Schaupp wasn’t done there, “And on polling, my sources told me in the Senate race Coppes and Yamada are leading, followed by Dodd. This means that Dodd will spend the ‘Max Amount’ from his war chest over the next 3 weeks to get into the top two…as well as the GOP leaning independent expenditure groups to protect the large investment they made two year ago into Dodd’s election to the Assembly. If Dodd doesn’t (make) ‘top two’ he is out of office and they lose their investment.”
The Dodd campaign, however, emphatically denied the accuracy of his comment. From our standpoint, it doesn’t pass the smell test. As we reported on Sunday, we expect Bill Dodd to win this one overwhelmingly and that poll would be stunning.
The question is whether the Assembly race poll that Mr. Schaupp cites is accurate – if it is, it could spell trouble for Dan Wolk unless labor money pours into the race. The problem that Mr. Wolk faces is that labor is not united behind his candidacy but rather split between him and Don Saylor.
That is not the only split. In a close race, the face that Dan Wolk and Don Saylor will split eastern Yolo County may play a role as well now. Many analysts believe that without Joe Krovoza’s presence in 2014, Dan Wolk would have finished in the top two.
While I agree with that assessment, I’m not sure that Dan Wolk would have defeated Bill Dodd in November – on the contrary, I’m pretty sure he would not have.
This sets up an interesting race in the Assembly District, one that might not be complete until November.
—David M. Greenwald reporting