Coming out of the June primary election, neither Republican Ashley Swearengin nor Democrat Betty Yee looked very healthy financially for their state controller race showdown.
Yee had to spend heavily because she was in a tough battle with fellow Democrat John Pérez, the former Assembly speaker. Swearengin, Fresno’s current mayor, got into the race late and though she finished first in the primary, had spent quite a bit to improve her name identification.
But Yee had the edge.
Taking into account unpaid bills, she had around $56,000 in her campaign account. Swearengin, at the time, was almost $130,000 in the red.
As the two head toward the November general election, and early mail voting has already started, new campaign finance reports show Yee building on that early advantage and now with a clear fundraising edge. She raised more than $830,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30, and has almost $500,000 in her campaign account and around $40,000 in unpaid bills. Swearengin, by comparison, raised around $480,000 during that same time period and has just short of $215,000 in her account — but more than $105,000 in unpaid bills.
Both campaigns are heavily investing in slate mailers, which are direct-mail cards sent to voters by an organization that tout a group of candidates. Swearengin paid more than $105,000 for her appearance on several slate mailers. Yee spent even more, surpassing $140,000. Among those was a single $75,000 payment to be part of the well-known COPS Voters Guide, which has the look of being backed by law enforcement, though that isn’t really the case. Swearengin paid $10,000 each for the Budget Watchdogs Newsletter and the Woman’s Voice Voter Guide.
What voters probably won’t see are statewide television advertisements, though the Yee campaign says it is plannig some targeted television commercials. It’s not cheap. A week of TV ads statewide runs anywhere from $750,000 to $2 million, depending on variables such as when the ads run.
Tim Clark, Swearengin’s campaign consultant, said in what is expected to be a low-turnout election, campaign mail and phones will likely be more cost effective.
“Its all about efficiency,” Clark said. “How many voters can you reach with your message for every dollar spent.”