West Contra Costa County School Board member Charles Ramsey and former Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock are so far raking in the lion’s share of campaign money for the 14th District Assembly seat according to the most recent disclosures.
As of Friday, Ramsey reported donations of $300,000, Hancock $225,000 and Dave Brown, former chief of staff to Alameda County Supervisor Alice La-Bitker, reported $120,000.
The three candidates are seeking Assemblymember Dion Aroner’s seat, being made vacant because of term limits. The 14th District includes sections of cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, among them Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, El Cerrito and El Sobrante.
Ramsey’s list of contributors includes trade unions, police and fire department unions and businesses, including PG&E. Hancock’s contributors include many individuals, healthcare organizations women’s political organizations and broadcasting interests. Brown’s contributors include family members, individuals and some small businesses.
According to Bruce Cain, the Director of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, a candidate’s contributors list is an indication of a candidate’s policy positions but not a guarantee of how they will vote on those issues once elected.
“Contributions can tell you a lot about where a candidate already stands on certain issues,” he said. “For instance if there’s a lot of trade unions you have a good indication of how the candidate will vote on regulatory issues such as minimum wage, workman’s compensation making union labor a requirement on public projects, etc.”
However Cain did say that Ramsey accepting money from PG&E was interesting because of the energy company’s controversial association with last summer’s energy crisis.
“I think it’s pretty courageous for anybody to take money from PG&E in the 14th District. That’s taking a risk.” he said. “Especially with all the heat Gov. Gray Davis has taken for accepting energy money and that was before the energy crisis and the Enron debacle.”
But Ramsey’s campaign consultant Phil Giarrizzo said it would be inappropriate to make a value judgment on any single contributor.
Giarrizzo said that because a candidate takes money from a paticualal type of contributor it does not mean that “you are in that contributor’s pocket,” he said.
“Most contributors don’t donate money because they think they are buying votes, they contribute because they believe the candidate will listen and give a fair hearing,” he said.
State assembly candidates are required to submit contribution statements periodically throughout the campaign. The first filing date was Sept. 30, the second Jan. 10 and the most recent was Thursday. The Democratic Primary Election will take place on March 5th.
Individuals, unions and businesses are limited to $3,000 contributions and certain qualified small donor pacts can contribute up to $6,000. All three of the candidates have signed a voluntary campaign spending limit of $400,000.
Among Ramsey’s largest contributors are a wide range of trade unions including the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union #342, Sheet Metal Worker’s Locals 102 and 104 and the Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Union all of which contributed $3,000 each. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California contributed $6,000.
Other contributors in the $3,000 range include PG&E, the Association of California Insurance Companies and the California African American PAC. All toll, Ramsey has 37 separate contributions of $3,000 compared to both Hancock and Brown who both have 13.
Ramsey also lists financial backing by the Oakland Officers Association, the Richmond Police Officers and the Black Fire Fighters Association.
“Charles has an interesting coalition of supporters,” Giarrizzo said . “He has been a hard proponent of public safety, and that’s why you see the support police and fire and working men and women.”
Hancock’s list of contributors is predominantly represented by individuals who have contributed in the $100 to $500 range. Hancock contributed $67,000 of her own money to the campaign because she got into the race late, according to her Campaign Coordination Molly O’Shaughnessy.
Among her larger contributors are Assemblymember Dion Aroner, the Alameda National Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Political Committee State Account.
“She has a lot of support from the woman’s Caucus in the legislature,” O’Shaughnessy said. “As well as support from casual groups of women.”
O’Shaughnessy pointed to a recent neighborhood meeting in a neighbor’s home where a group of women met and discussed issues that were important to them and a decided to support Hancock. “After the meeting they got out their checkbooks it was like a mini-Emily’s List,” she said.
O’Shaughnessy added that two fund raisers, one hosted by Sen. Barbara Boxer on Feb. 2 and another hosted by Californian State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin on Feb. 10, are expected to raise significant donations.
Dave Brown’s contribution list also shows mostly individual contributors. His largest contributors, those in the $3,000 range, include Pinnacle Entertainment, INC., the Burger Family Trust and the Hollywood Park Casino.
Brown also shows support from at least two healthcare organizations, the Becton Healthcare Resources INC. and American Medical Response.
“I have over 500 individuals who have contributed to this campaign,” Brown said. “Mostly from friends, family and people I’ve worked with on public policy.”
Brown said he has garnered support from healthcare organizations largely because of the work he has done in recent years to provide medical insurance to working families.
He added that he has spent a good deal of time raising money for his campaign.
“I’ve been raising money mostly through word of mouth and many, many phone calls,” he said. “I don’t have the same institutional backing as by competitors do but we plan to raise enough to win this race.”