By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Candidates in the North Coast race to replace Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey are on pace to break local fundraising records as political newcomer Stacey Lawson closes the gap on Assemblyman Jared Huffman.
Lawson raised more money in the most recent fund-raising cycle than any other candidate in the crowded field, putting additional pressure on Huffman, D-San Rafael, who long has been considered the front-runner.
Lawson’s take, $169,200 in contributions plus $100,000 that she loaned to her campaign, outpaced Huffman’s total of $136,846 for the period that began April 1 and ended May 16. Candidates were required to file fund-raising statements by Thursday.
Huffman still leads in total fundraising with $1,000,487. But Lawson is catching up, having raised a total of $909,497 despite joining the race several months after Huffman.
Lawson has spent the most among the 12 candidates, about $768,000 so far. Including her personal loan of $100,000, her campaign has about $230,000 in cash on hand, but she owes $124,000 in debts and obligations, according to the report. And some of the remainder is earmarked for the general election, Lawson said.
Lawson said she loaned money to her campaign to be prepared to respond to negative attack ads.
“We’ve been hearing and watching other campaigns launch negative attacks against us, so even though we were the leading fundraiser in this period and have been the leading fundraiser since we got into the race, we just wanted to make sure we have the funds ready,” Lawson said.
Huffman has spent about $568,000, leaving $428,000 on hand, while his campaign owes $133,000 in debts and obligations.
“I’m pleased by the fact that we continue to have, by far, the most donors and dollars raised from within the district, and I think that’s important,” Huffman said. “The folks that are supporting me are also voting for me.”
In the June 5 primary, voters will narrow the field to two candidates who will go head-to-head in November to represent the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, which runs from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, excluding Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and the Sonoma Valley.
Lawson’s fund-raising success is not a surprise, considering her connections and how she’s been running her campaign, said David McCuan, associate professor of political science at Sonoma State University.
“She actually has to raise more money,” McCuan said. “She is going to have to overcome the hurdles of any new candidate.”
If she gets through the primary, Lawson could be a challenging competitor to Huffman, in part because she has focused her campaign on the economy, a key concern for voters, McCuan said.
Norman Solomon, the activist and author, landed solidly in third place, raising $103,800 in the period, for a total of $630,602.
“He has more than enough resources for him to get done what he needs to in the course of this campaign,” said Tom Higgins, a political consultant Solomon’s campaign. “Norman’s fundraising is gaining momentum each and every day.” Solomon was unavailable for comment because he was traveling outside of cell phone range, Higgins said.
Although Solomon has name recognition, he probably hasn’t raised enough money, McCuan said. His campaign has $97,400 cash on hand and owes about $18,700.
“I think he needs to raise another $100,000 to have a shot at this,” McCuan said. “He needs to grow into voters that don’t self-identify as activists or progressives.”
Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams raised $30,640 for a total of $189,549. All of the top four fundraisers are Democrats. She has $18,319 on hand.
The June primary is the first test of the state’s new top-two primary system, in which voters will choose the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to face off in the general election. Given the North Coast’s liberal demographics, observers anticipate two Democrats will move on.
A fifth of the funds Huffman raised during the reporting period, $24,890, came from political action committees, with the largest contributions from the American Medical Association, the Committee on Letter Carriers and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Executives at E&J Gallo Winery were among the top individual donors to his campaign.
Lawson’s largest donors were primarily investment professionals and business executives, and she did not report contributions from political action committees during the most recent cycle. She previously accepted $6,000 from two PACs, Emily’s List and the Women’s Campaign Fund, she said.
“Both of these organizations are about helping to elect pro-choice Democrats to office, and increasing the number of women in office,” Lawson said.
Solomon received $3,498 in donations from political action committees and individual contributions from a range of donors. “He’s not taking any contributions from lobbyists or corporate PACs,” Higgins said. Solomon’s fundraising reflects a grassroots campaign, with nearly 6,000 individuals contributing less than $100 each on average, Higgins added.
The eight other candidates — four Democrats, two Republicans and two candidates with no party preference — are considered long shots because of a lack of funding and weaker name-recognition.
Staff Writer Lori A. Carter contributed to this report.