Dwindling Dollars in Attorney General Race May Not Be Due to Recession

Categories: Politics
Monopoly man broke.jpg
Do I have any money? Not for you!
Guess what? Jackie Speier isn't running for Attorney General. Who knew? Now that we've gotten that out of the way, on to the article.

We thought it was interesting last week when the campaign of San Francisco District Attorney -- and would-be AG -- Kamala Harris sent out a press release noting she raised $1 million in the last six months of 2009. In all honesty, congratulations -- that'll buy a lot of pretzels. Yet, compared to past fund-raising totals at this point in the AG's race, this isn't a staggering sum.

So what gives? Well, when we talked to campaign managers for a number of the leading Democratic candidates for Attorney General, the answer was essentially the same: "Hey, it's a recession!" True that -- but there's another reason fund-raising may be down. And, even though no campaign manager would even think of saying it, it may have something to do with a current crop of candidates that haven't yet inspired Californians to come running, cash in hand.

But first, some numbers. Sorry:

Kamala Harris led the pack with $1.04 million in donations in the last six months of '09 and has a war chest of $1.25 million. Ted Lieu pulled in $577,074 over the same period and has $1.023M in cash-on hand. Rocky Delgadillo raised just over $500,000 in the latter half of '09 and has $1.19 million all told. And Alberto Torrico raised $411,000 and boasts a war chest of $1.13M. Meanwhile, Facebook macher Chris Kelly has cash-on-hand of $2.034 million -- but, then, he did write himself that $2 million check.

(Finally, it warrants mentioning that Harris' 2009 expenditures -- $1.15 million -- are around three or four times higher than her colleagues'.)

Anyhow, here's where we're going with this. During roughly the same time period in 2006, Delgadillo raised $1.6M and had a $2.2M war chest while Jerry Brown banked $1.4M and boasted nearly nearly $4M in cash

So while it makes sense that it's harder to shake down donors in a down economy, it also makes sense that it's harder to separate money from donors when you have a crowded field of candidates most voters haven't heard of. And while Brown and Delgadillo garnered slightly more money by this point last time around, that was a straightforward, two-man race between a well-known, well-connected former governor and a Southern California challenger who knew he had to fund-raise like mad to have a shot (he lost).

"I think money is on the sideline waiting to see where the strongest candidacy is going to emerge," University of San Francisco professor Corey Cook told SF Weekly. "It's not as if money isn't being raised and spent. This isn't the recession that's keeping money away. I think the race is taking longer to get started. This race doesn't seem to have a clear front-runner or even an idea of what the ideological scope of the field may look like yet. It's a wide-open field."

And it's a recession!

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