It’s a good thing well-heeled GOP candidates like Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner and Carly Fiorina can finance their own campaigns because the state Republican Party sure can’t afford to.
State finance reports released Thursday showed the California GOP is raising less and spending more than its Democratic counterpart, leaving the party in shaky financial condition four months into an election year.
Actually, shaky is probably an improvement for California Republicans. Two years ago, the party was running in the red, with $3.2 million in the bank and $3.4 million in unpaid bills.
While the top-of-the-ticket names running for governor and Senate can be counted on to either raise enough money or write their own checks for serious campaigns, the down ballot races and legislative candidates depend on help from the party to get out the vote and help fight the general election battle.
From a glance at the finance report, GOP candidates looking for that help could have a long wait this fall.
So far this year, the state GOP has taken in $1.2 million in contributions, but spent almost $2 million. As of March 17, the party had $1.3 million in the bank and $320,000 in unpaid bills.
Republicans can thank Jerry Perenchio that the numbers weren’t worse. The reclusive former owner of Univision gave $500,000 to the party last month, adding a much-needed bit of gloss to the financial figures.
The Democrats, on the other hand, have better than $9.1 million in the bank and only about $3,000 in debts. They’ve raised $3.5 million this year, but, more importantly, they’ve only spent about $1.3 million, which means the war chest keeps growing.
While the Democrats have received six-figure contributions from Hewlett-Packard, the California Real Estate PAC and a variety of unions, they got $250,000 from Hollywood producer Stephen Bing, who has been the state’s largest individual political contributor since 2000, at $58.5 million and counting.
The trend doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon, either. On Thursday, the state Democratic Party reported $370,000 in new contributions.
The Democrats are likely to need every nickel. Both Whitman and Poizner are candidates with the deepest of deep pockets, which means that whoever wins the GOP primary for governor likely will be able to spend whatever’s needed against Democrat Jerry Brown this fall.
Much of that party money will be used to make sure Democrats get out to the polls to back Brown, who will have the welcome advantage of running in a state where Democratic registration runs far ahead of the Republicans, 45 percent to 31 percent.
But those voters brought in by the party-paid get-out-the-vote effort don’t just vote for governor and senator. They also cast ballots for other, lesser-known Democrats, which is one reason Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and that Poizner, the state insurance commissioner, is the lone Republican in a down ballot statewide office.
That party cash can be focused on targeted races, where it can make a big difference in a tight contest. If the state GOP can’t step up its fund-raising to close the gap with the Democrats, any Republican elected governor could find it lonely at the top.
John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.