SACRAMENTO — For weeks, Secretary of State Bill Jones’ struggle to raise large amounts of money has led to speculation he’ll drop out of the Republican race for governor.
But with a Friday deadline approaching to stay in the race, and questions lingering about his financial wherewithal to afford a statewide campaign, Jones’ aides insist he’s in the race to stay.
“Those who believe that Secretary of State Jones will not get into the race are the same ones wishing that the volcano spewing ash is not going to explode, meaning it’s just wishful thinking,” said Sean Walsh, Jones’ deputy campaign manager.
Jones is one of three Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in the March 5 primary. The winner will take on Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in November.
Friday is the deadline to officially declare candidacy for the March ballot.
Although he’s the only Republican holding statewide office, Jones has not attracted the financial support believed essential to running in California.
Jones also angered some national Republicans when he jumped ship from then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s campaign to that of Sen. John McCain of Arizona for the 2000 presidential primary in California.
“If he can’t at this point have built up a pretty good campaign kitty, that suggests that his own party elite ... don’t give him much of a chance,” said Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Jones has raised about $2 million this year, including more than $500,000 in loans from corporations and individuals, according to campaign finance records.
That compares to more than $4 million raised so far by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan — who only has been collecting donations since July and who has millions in personal wealth to pour into his campaign.
Bill Simon, a businessman from Los Angeles, has raised more than $3.8 million. And Simon, a wealthy businessman also considered able to finance his own campaign, already has lent $300,000 and contributed $286,331 out of his own pocket to his campaign.
Davis has $31 million in his campaign account.
Even some of Jones’ financial backers and longtime friends fear he lacks the cash to mount a serious challenge.
“Looking at Jones’ prospects at this point, this late, that’s not a very encouraging sight,” said David Provost, a political science professor at California State University, Fresno, and a friend of Jones.
William Lyles, a Fresno businessman who lent the Jones campaign $100,000 in September, says Jones’ “only handicap is that he’s doesn’t come from one of the big population areas.”
Lyles exemplifies Jones’ backbone of financial supporters. They are longtime friends who are influential in the Central Valley and agriculture communities and who feel shunned by politicians they see as focused on Los Angeles and the Bay area.
Jones’ aides believe that support, along with similar feelings among other key voters, will be enough. They say they will rely on appealing to conservative, faithful voters in smaller areas where advertising is cheaper.
“We will have enough money to get our message out to the Republican primary voter who will show up at the ballot box,” Walsh said.
They also hope an anti-Los Angeles sentiment in other parts of the state will help.
“Twenty million and 30 million of television buys cannot erase perceptions that have already been formed about bringing ’big-city Los Angeles’ to small cities throughout the state,” Walsh said.
Indeed, strategists said, winning support in the fast-growing Central Valley is key to winning elections in California. But that alone may not be not enough.
“You have to have enough money to get your message across,” Provost said. “These days television is the best way to do that and that means you’ve got to spend an awful lot of money.”
On the Net:
Jones’ official campaign Web site is http://www.billjones.org. Campaign finance reports can be found at http://www.ss.ca.gov