Republican state Senate candidate Andy Vidak got a $161,500 boost to his campaign last week from the California Association of Realtors.
And it comes at just the right time.
Both Vidak, of Hanford, and his Democratic opponent, Leticia Perez of Bakersfield, have been slow to raise funds since they both advanced in the May 21 primary for the Fresno-Bakersfield area 16th Senate District. This week, voters begin casting mail ballots for the July 23 runoff.
The California Association of Realtors, a trade group, recorded the $161,500 expense last week as an independent expenditure, meaning the money won't go directly to Vidak but will be spent on radio, television and online advertising on his behalf.
Perez got a welcome influx of support last week, too: a $92,141 independent expenditure from Californians for Good Schools & Good Jobs.
According to the latest campaign finance report, Vidak had $83,000 in his campaign coffers as of June 8. He has raised more than $1 million for the special election. Perez had $61,000, also having raised more than $1 million.
The two are vying to replace former Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio, who resigned in February.
Vidak nearly won the seat outright in last month's primary, coming up just short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
— Kurtis Alexander
Realtors' donation flagged by Senate leader Steinberg
Check-marking the wrong box on a campaign finance form is not always cause for concern. But in the Vidak-Perez Senate race, details are everything.
On Tuesday, a Perez supporter filed a complaint with the state, alleging that the California Association of Realtors should have reported that its money is being used to oppose Perez. Instead, the group reported that its money is being used to support Vidak.
The alleged misstep, while it may seem small, is drawing rebuke from the Senate's biggest name, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
In a statement to The Bee on Tuesday, Steinberg took umbrage with the California Association of Realtors: "Senate Democrats were already troubled by the misguided decision of the California Association of Realtors to oppose Leticia Perez with six-figure independent expenditures, but, now, the vitriolic and highly partisan smear campaign they're waging against her represents a new low — and appears to cross every legal line."
The California Association of Realtors denies the allegations by Steinberg and others. "We think our reporting is accurate and transparent," said Don Faught, the association's president.
The complaint was filed by Selma Democrat Doug Kessler, also the Region 8 director for the California Democratic Party.
— Kurtis Alexander
New Super-PAC to help Valley GOP congressmen
Former Republican Congressman Richard Pombo is heading up a newly formed Super PAC, which will focus on electing — or keeping in office — Valley-based Republican and conservative congressmen.
The federal political action committee will be known as Empower Central Valley. Pombo is the chairman — and its public face. As with so many other such independent organizations, everyone else — including donors — will remain anonymous.
But Pombo, a Tracy cattle rancher, did say that "ag interests are all gearing up to get involved." He said many contribute significant amounts of money to Republican causes and committees, but the money ends up being sent to out-of-state candidates.
"With other PACs, very little is spent in California," Pombo said. "They raise money here, but spend it in Ohio."
Empower Central Valley, he said, will spend its money in the Valley.
The first order of business is ensuring that Hanford Republican David Valadao in the 21st District and Turlock Republican Jeff Denham in the 10th District hold on to their respective congressional seats. The two have earned the PAC's initial endorsements.
Both will almost certainly be Democratic Party targets next year. Beyond that, the PAC will look to get involved in other Valley races that may be competitive, be they working to keep a Central Valley Republican in office or hoping to oust a rival Democrat.
The PAC's initial budget, based on the current targeted seats, is $1.2 million, Pombo said.
"We can expand, based on need," he added.
The PAC is, by law, independent of the candidates it supports.
It is permitted to raise unlimited funds and, in turn, advocate for the election of federal candidates.
— John Ellis