Will Business Jump into the Gov. Race?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Word that big money flowed into a charter school inspired independent expenditure organization in support of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa raises the question if major business interests will soon make a similar effort with money or endorsements.

As the governor’s race takes shape with less than two months to go before the June primary, impartial polling finds Villaraigosa in a tussle for second place with Republicans John Cox and Travis Allen. The top two regardless of party move on to the General Election.

The business community has generally stayed out of the fray so far. Certainly there have been no big dollar efforts like the recent contributions from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($7 million) and L.A. billionaire Eli Broad ($1.5 million) donated to the Families & Teachers for Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor 2018 independent expenditure.

Major business funding through an independent expenditure has not occurred although business interests, keeping a close eye on the governor’s race, considered for a time backing an effort to oppose a candidate they did not want to see in the corner office. Tom Steyer was a prime candidate for that attention, but since he did not run for governor the anti-campaign did not gel.

The business community is not monolithic but there are general, shall we say, appreciations for some candidates over others.

Large business donations have not appeared for either leading Republican candidate because the accepted wisdom in the business community, even in Republican oriented business groups, is that a Republican cannot be elected governor.

Will business make an effort to assure a Democrat they prefer gains the finals as the charter schools folks are attempting to do?

John Chiang has generated some interest from the business folks who are looking for someone to follow in Jerry Brown’s fiscally responsible footsteps. However, Chiang’s constant low poll numbers will keep the business donors money away.

As with the charter school supporters, business leaders appreciated Antonio Villaraigosa’s stance against the teachers’ union in Los Angeles, even though he was a former teacher union organizer. They also respected his stand against the single payer bill that was introduced in the legislature.

By contrast, poll leader Gavin Newsom has received the endorsement of big unions such as the California Teachers Association and the California Nurses Association while embracing the concept of single payer.

Union versus business under the capitol dome is a century old story, so edge to Villaraigosa. But is it enough of an edge to turn on the money spigots or gain endorsements?

Business usually doesn’t jump into the governor’s race. It took the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the recall election for the California Chamber of Commerce to offer an endorsement of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Business does not like uncertainty and risk. Business also does not want to be on the wrong side of a winner who has power to affect the bottom line. Given that, business at large probably holds back through the primary—and maybe the General Election, hoping to work with whomever comes out on top.

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