The campaign cash battle in Sacramento contests

‘Strong mayor’ supporters, rent control opponents and Les Simmons are winning the money battle

The latest campaign finance reports are in for city of Sacramento contests, and they show that supporters of “strong mayor” and opponents of rent control are vastly outspending the other sides.

They also show that in the City Council runoffs, Les Simmons is now winning the money battle with Mai Vang in District 8 and Councilman Allen Warren continues to lead in campaign cash over challenger Sean Loloee in District 2.

More money, of course, doesn’t always translate to more votes. But it does mean more mailers, ads and other messaging to try to convince voters.

Here are the numbers:

  • On Measure A, which would give the mayor additional powers, the “yes” campaign has spent more than $1.1 million as of Oct. 17. That includes $536,000 in unpaid bills, since it reported $625,000 in contributions. The biggest individual donation is $49,000 from billionaire Ron Burkle, who became the lead investor last year in Sacramento Republic FC, which is set to begin play in Major League Soccer in 2023 and received a $27 million loan from the city last November to jump-start infrastructure for the team’s new $300 million stadium being built in the railyards north of downtown. UPDATE: On Oct. 27, the campaign received $15,000 from Centene, which is building a new campus in Natomas.

The opposition campaign reported spending about $425,000, including $221,00 by the committee sponsored by the local firefighters union, which also had $52,000 in cash as of Oct. 17. The Neighborhoods Against Strong Mayor committee reported spending another $166,000. And on Oct. 26, the neighborhood campaign reported receiving $45,000 from the International City/County Management Association.

  • On Measure C—which would create stronger rent control than the ordinance passed by the council last year—supporters reported spending about $175,000 through Oct. 17 and having $80,000 in the bank for the final stretch. With $160,000, the biggest donor by far is SEIU Local 1021, which represents 54,000 local government, nonprofit and health care employees in Northern California. UPDATE: On Oct. 28, the campaign received a $30,000 cash infusion from Tides Advocacy, a social justice group based in San Francisco.

But opponents, largely funded by real estate interests, reported spending $1.15 million and had another $225,000 in cash on hand as of Oct. 17. The National Association of Realtors has put in $250,000, while the California Association of Realtors put in another $167,500.

And now there’s an independent expenditure committee supporting Vang, sponsored by Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447 and IBEW Local 340, which reported spending $22,588 in mailers, digital ads and consulting.

A group of pastors have sent a letter demanding that the two union locals apologize for, and that Vang disavow, what they call a racist flier. Its narrative and imagery “promote the false and racist narrative of Black men as grinning, greedy, and incompetent con artists whose primary goal is to enrich themselves by avoiding work and having little to no regard for personal responsibility,” the letter says.

The pastors also write that the flyer “calls up the negative stereotype of the Black prosperity preacher who takes from his congregants, lives beyond his means, and delivers little to his community. We find your insensitivity appalling, particularly in a period in which we all are being called upon to reevaluate the role of anti-black racism in our nation. In short, the mailer is morally bankrupt as it crosses the line from vigorous campaign debate to racially offensive promotion.”

The leaders of the two union locals reply that the failure of Simmons to pay city water and garbage bills is fair game. “Everyone has a legal obligation to pay their City garbage and water bills,” they wrote to the pastors. “Candidates who are asking their fellow citizens to vote them into City office have that obligation as well, probably more so.”

Tecoy Porter, senior pastor at Genesis Church Sacramento, sent an email in reply: “While I am disappointed that you did not acknowledge the issues raised in our letter, it is my hope that as a union leader, you will one day be open be participating in the community conversation going on right now about race, discrimination, and inherent bais. Depictions of African Americans that perpetuate negative stereotypes cannot be tolerated.”

Simmons also reported receiving the maximum $5,850 for this period from the California Apartment Association, while Vang got $5,850 from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447, a city employee union.

Vang, a Sacramento City Unified Schools trustee, had led in fundraising and spending for the March primary and through mid-September. She and Simmons, a prominent pastor in South Sacramento, are vying to succeed outgoing Councilman Larry Carr.

  • And in District 2, Warren, who is seeking a third term, reported spending $194,500 through Oct. 17 and having $22,000 in the bank. Among his major donors, the local firefighters union has given him the maximum $11,700 this year. Warren was among the three council members to vote against putting “strong mayor” on the ballot.

UPDATE: On Oct. 28, Warren reported putting $65,000 from his development company into his campaign.

Loloee, who owns Viva Supermarket, says his campaign has spent $129,000 and had $21,000 in cash on hand.

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