Assembly 65 swing-seat spending tops $5.2 million


Sharon Quirk SilvaTwo years ago, legislative Democrats pulled off an upset in the heart of conservative Orange County.

“I was a surprise win in the last election,” Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, said in a recent interview of her four-point victory over Republican Chris Norby. “And from the moment I won, there has been an effort to take back this seat.”

Quirk-Silva isn’t exactly giving up her seat without a fight.

As of October 18, the first-term Democrat had spent roughly $2.4 million this year to stave off her Republican challenger, Young Kim. To put that number into perspective, the Democratic governor of New Hampshire has spent roughly the same amount on her competitive re-election campaign, according to recent figures from the Associated Press.

young kimKim, a former aide to GOP Congressman Ed Royce, is no pauper either, having spent $1.4 million over the same period.

With its two fundraising powerhouses, the campaign for the 65th Assembly District is on track to be one of the most expensive races — at any level — in the country. Combined spending by both candidates, the two political parties and various independent expenditure committees is on pace to exceed $5.2 million.

Spending on the race had already surpassed the $4.7 million mark on October 18, when the candidates had another half-million dollars at their disposal in cash on hand. Those preliminary figures also don’t account for other late expenditures expected to be spent on this weekend’s get out the vote efforts.

Big labor, big business fund Quirk-Silva’s campaign

Just two years ago, Maplight estimated each member of the California State Assembly, on average, raised $708,371, an average of $970 every day during the 2012 cycle. So, where is all of this additional money coming from?

On Quirk-Silva’s side, the funds can be traced back to both big business and big labor through party committees. Of the $2.65 million raised for her campaign, nearly $2 million has come from either the California Democratic Party or various Democratic central committees throughout the state. Those Democratic committees have accepted large checks from special interest groups that routinely lobby the Legislature, including insurance companies, defense contractors, oil companies and labor unions.

Kim’s campaign, which has raised $1.8 million, owes a third of its support to the California Republican Party, which has relied heavily on political activist and physicist Charles Munger Jr. for its support.

Race to decide Assembly supermajority

Both sides have invested big money in the race that could decide whether Democrats hold a two-thirds supermajority in the lower house, and thus have the votes to raise taxes without any GOP defections. And understandably, tax issues have taken center stage in the race.

In its early endorsement of Kim, the Orange County Register highlighted her position on taxes. “Ms. Kim is the better choice when it comes to protecting taxpayers and restoring the beleaguered California economy,” the paper wrote. “In her bid to serve the residents, she has focused on fixing the education system, making California more business-friendly, improving public safety and dealing with California’s crippling water and infrastructure issues.”

Taxpayer groups have also played an active role in the campaign. Eariler this month, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, took umbrage with a mail piece from the Quirk-Silva campaign that implied an endorsement.

The first-term Orange County Democrat put her name alongside the taxpayer organization’s name, stating their shared support for Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund Act. The not-so-subtle goal of the slick mailer was to associate Quirk-Silva with the state’s most trusted taxpayer group, which has endorsed Kim. Coupal described it as “the most unusual attempt at deception we’ve seen this election.”

Neither side forgetting grassroots

The questionable tactics by Quirk-Silva’s campaign demonstrate the challenge that Democrats have in holding the seat. Although Democrats have a 1.7 percentage-point advantage in voter registration, the district is considered a “lean Republican” seat, according to the ATC Partisan Index, which ranks districts based on their competitiveness in the 2014 election.

The GOP’s hope for reclaiming the seat stems from a candidate who delivered a strong showing in the June primary. Kim, a first-generation Korean-American immigrant, earned the highest vote percentage of any GOP legislative challenger in the June 3rd primary, garnering 55 percent of the vote in the Democratic district.

She won voters over with her powerful immigrant success story.

“As many immigrant families did, my parents worked hard and struggled, but they also instilled in me the value of individual responsibility and living within a person’s means,” Kim wrote in a personal narrative featured in the Orange County Register earlier this year.

Kim’s message appears to be resonating with Asian voters, who have returned their absentee ballots at a slightly higher rate from two years ago. According to absentee ballot data from Political Data Inc., Asian absentee voting is up a point from 2012, while early voting by Latinos is down a point. The net gain of two points for Asian voters over Latino voters is expected to benefit Kim.

Political Data Ballot Tracker

Republicans are also optimistic about the party breakdown of returned absentee ballots. Of the 27,372 absentee ballots that have been returned, 45 percent have been from Republicans, an 8 percentage-point advantage over Democrats, according to Political Data’s ballot tracker. That’s an improvement from 2012, when Republicans held a 6 percentage-point edge in absentee ballots.

Enticing volunteers with Korean BBQ

But don’t think that Kim’s advantage in early voting has made her complacent. On Thursday afternoon, Kim’s campaign enticed Republican activists to participate in the final weekend’s “Get Out The Vote” efforts by offering Korean BBQ.

“We need as many volunteers as possible to contact voters and tell them to cast their ballots for Young Kim, and I’m hoping you can join us,” Kim’s campaign wrote in its latest email alert to supporters. “Our office will be open 9a-9p every day between now and Election Day, with 3-hour shifts of canvassing and phone banking.”

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Two Nov. 4 races critical for maintaining Prop. 13

It’s late October and that means there are a lot of people out there wearing masks. But this isn’t about Halloween. This is about all the fake taxpayer interests – organizations and candidates – who are trying to gain an advantage in the upcoming election by portraying themselves as defenders of homeowners and Proposition 13.

At some level, we at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association ought to be pleased that others are attempting to use our name and the Prop. 13 label. This fakery, if nothing else, is an acknowledgment that taxpayer issues are very important to voters – even in a left leaning state like California. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Perhaps.  But we should not – and will not – countenance deception.

Exhibit A in the “fake” category is in the hotly contested state senate race in Orange County between Janet Nguyen and former Assemblyman Jose Solorio.  Nguyen is a solid pro-taxpayer candidate and Solorio is a typical liberal politician who would, if given the chance, repeal Prop. 13 in a heartbeat.  The problem for Solorio is that this district is in Orange County whose voters are more conservative and hostile to higher taxes.

That is why Solorio has enlisted the services of none other than Governor Jerry Brown himself to do both radio and television ads in a flailing effort to convince voters that, no – he really does like Proposition 13.  But recent polling suggests that Orange County voters aren’t fooled and that HJTA’s strong endorsement of Janet Nguyen is far more powerful than the Governor’s push for Solorio.  (The fact that Solorio consistently received “Fs” on HJTA’s legislative report card while he was in the Assembly makes his attempt at deception particularly difficult.)

This contest is critical for the preservation of Proposition 13.  It is the most high stakes race in the entire state because if Janet Nguyen wins, this will prevent the tax-and-spend California Legislature from passing tax increases at will and placing anti-Proposition 13 constitutional amendments on the ballot.

In addition, it’s not just candidates who attempt to hold themselves out as pro-taxpayer just to fool voters.  In the current election cycle, a group we’ve never heard of before is selling its endorsement in favor of local tax hikes and left leaning candidates.  The so-called “California Republican Taxpayers Association” has no bona fides as a legitimate taxpayer association.  Moreover, its use of the word “Republican” has party officials incensed and strongly considering litigation for trademark infringement.

Finally, the most unusual attempt at deception we’ve seen this election is a mail piece from Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva who is running against pro-taxpayer Republican Young Kim.  Like the Nguyen-Solorio race, this is a battle being fought in mostly conservative Orange County. And, like Solorio, it is hard for Quirk-Silva to hide her anti-Prop 13 animus.  So what is her strategy?  Simple – she puts her name beside Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in a mail piece which simply notes that both she and HJTA support Proposition 2 – a mostly meaningless initiative on the November ballot.  (Prop. 2 is a marginal improvement to the state’s existing “rainy day” fund law so we support it.  Note, however, it is not the hard spending limit we would prefer).

By putting her name next to HJTA, is Quirk-Silva attempting to associate herself with the “gold standard” of California taxpayer groups Apparently so.  But this plan could easily backfire by giving Young Kim an opening to inform voters that it is she who has the endorsement of the HJTA Political Action Committee.

These examples are but a few of the often silly efforts at attempting to trick voters into believing that anti-taxpayer interests are not what they really are.  Voters need to be aware of this treachery.  Fortunately, most know who to trust.  And it sure as heck isn’t the candidates and groups who are “Jarvis Jesters.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

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