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Friday, July 11, 2008

November Update: Republicans Fuel Aghazarian's Senate Campaign Against Wolk

Republican Party Gives Big Money to Aghazarian

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert reported yesterday that the California Republican Party poured roughly $345,000 into Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian's state Senate campaign last week. Aghazarian is running for the seat of termed-out Sen. Mike Machado and is opposed by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk who represents Yolo and Solano Counties.

That means that the Republican party has already dumped over one million dollars into this race. However as the Capitol Alert points out, that may have more to do with the lack of competitive State Senate Races than anything else.

The same article reported the party donated $595,000 to former Assemblyman Tony Strickland. Strickland is running against former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson down in the Santa Barbara-Ventura area in a campaign to succeed termed-out Sen. Tom McClintock (who is now running for Congress against Charlie Brown).
"The races are the only two of the 20 Senate seats up for election in November where competition is expected."
The Capitol Alert goes on to argue this is an uphill battle for Republicans. The most recent voter registration statistics show that Democrats hold a 47 to 31.5 advantage. Four years ago, Gary Podesta, a former Stockton Mayor, challenged Machado. He spent nearly $10 million to unseat him.

However, that was almost a different district. In October of 2004, Democrats held a 10-point registration advantage over Republicans, now they hold a 15.5 point advantage.
"Allan Hoffenblum, the publisher of the California Target Book, which analyzes political races in the state, said the Aghazarian donation was to send a message to GOP donors.

"It is a statement by the GOP leadership that they are going to take that race seriously," Hoffenblum said.

In the early money race, Aghazarian has a significant financial advantage, with more than quadruple the cash-on-hand of Wolk.

As of mid-May, Aghazarian had $530,000 in the bank, with $44,000 in debts. Since then, he has received another $105,000 from three local GOP county committees as well as the big recent check from the state party. That brings his rough total to $936,000.

Wolk had $176,000 in her treasury as of mid-May, with $20,000 in debts.

The Democratic Party, however, is expected to have plenty to spend to contest both seats in the fall. The California Democratic Party reported more than $7.9 million in the bank as of May, a $3.8 million advantage over the Republican Party, which reported $4.18 million."
Hoffenblum went on to say that no Democrat in California will lose for lack of money.

SIEU May Back Redistricting Measure on November's Ballot

Meanwhile, the lack of competitive races will further fuel a push for redistricting.

The big news on that front might be that SEIU, one of the largest unions in the state, may buck the Democratic Party and back Proposition 11, the redistricting measure on the November Ballot.

Anthony York at Capitol Weekly reports SEIU is considering backing Proposition 11, the redistricting measure on the November ballot:
"The fact that SEIU finds itself divided, and possibly at odds with Democratic Party leadership over redistricting is the latest illustration of an internal belief that the union, which represents nearly 2 million people nationwide, is powerful enough to take its own stand, regardless of what other political or labor leaders may think."

"We're large enough to take risks," says [Courtni] Pugh. "We're going to do what's best for working people, and for our membership."
York writes:
"If SEIU does wind up backing Proposition 11, it would be in the face of opposition from Democratic Party leadership in Washington and Sacramento, and from some other state labor groups...

But under the direction of President Andy Stern, SEIU has sought to assert itself as a national political force, orchestrating a divorce from the country’s largest labor organization, the AFL-CIO, and affirming its political independence."
York also points out that during the last election cycle, the union won 11 of the 12 Democratic legislative primaries it participated in.

That includes here in the 8th Assembly District, where union-backed Mariko Yamada was able to pull off what was widely considered a monumental upset primarily due to an influx of independent expenditure money from unions and union support on the ground.

From a political perspective however, this potential move by SEIU makes little sense--threatening to alienate allies and weaken their overall political clout.

It would seem like electing Barack Obama should be the biggest focus from the union--and that is clearly the case.
"Pugh says SEIU members from California will be farmed out across the Western states, developing ground campaigns and focused on boosting Latino turnout nationwide to help boost Obama’s prospects."
Nevertheless, if SEIU carries through on this threat on Proposition 11, it will carry with it some interesting ramifications. In our opinion, that would be a huge strategic blunder for a union that has been mired with internal turmoil and has shwon itself to be an effective organizer on the political front.

In mid-June, the Vanguard wrote more extensively on the redistricting issue. The core belief is that it likely will not have the positive impact that its backers believe.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting