By Collin Breaux and Breeana Greenberg
In the lead-up to the 2022 midterm elections, candidates in the State Senate and Assembly races have ramped up their fundraising efforts, with the slate of Democrats vying for seats to represent South Orange County and North San Diego County cities narrowly etching out their Republican opponents in monetary contributions.
Seventeen days ahead of the Nov. 8 election, GOP candidate running for the 74th State Assembly and the 36th and 38th State Senate districts had cumulatively raised more than $3.33 million in monetary contributions, according to the most recent campaign finance statements.
Based on the filings, or 460 Forms, with the California Secretary of State’s office—which covered all contributions and campaign expenditures up until Oct. 22—their Democratic challengers in the three races had together collected more than $3.57 million, not including loans or nonmonetary donations.
In the race for the 74th State Assembly district, San Clemente Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan, a Democrat, is looking to unseat incumbent Republican Assemblymember Laurie Davies. As of the late October filing, Duncan had raised about $517,450—slightly more than Davies’ $511,149.
Over in the 36th State Senate race, which covers Dana Point and San Clemente, it was Republican candidate and State Assemblymember Janet Nguyen who had significantly more money in the war chest compared to Democratic candidate and Huntington Beach Councilmember Kim Carr.
Nguyen reported collecting just north of $1.27 million—considerably higher than Carr’s $355,182 raised as of the Oct. 22 filing period.
However, the race that appears to be the most competitive—and expensive—was for the 38th State Senate seat, which represents San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Mission Viejo and other cities in North San Diego County.
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, the Democratic candidate, had received just shy of $2.7 million in monetary contributions, and had, as of late October, spent more than $3.77 million on her campaign.
Republican candidate and former auto business owner Matt Gunderson collected more than $1.55 million toward his campaign, and spent roughly $2.5 million in his bid for the State Senate seat.
The South County races are “probably” the most competitive elections in Orange County, Republican Party of Orange County Executive Director Randall Avila said when asked for perspective on the funds raised by candidates and the local legislature elections in general.
The elections are “heating up” and becoming toss-ups as the Nov. 8 election date draws near and more money and attention is “poured into” the area, he said last week.
The Democratic Party of Orange County did not respond to requests for comment.
Candidates for state races are required to file 497 forms, or late contribution reports, if they receive $1,000 or more in the 90 days before the election or $5,000 or more any time other than the 90 days ahead of the election.
A review of Duncan’s and Davies’ 497 forms appeared to show that the majority of Davies’ funds was donated by businesses, organizations and Political Action Committees, while Duncan received significantly more funds from individual donors.
Davies reported raising about $639,637 from businesses, organizations and PACS including Amazon, AT&T, Chevron, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, Sempra Energy, Southern California Edison and the Walt Disney Company. The Republican candidate had also received $119,374.00 from 112 individual donors as of late last week.
Duncan raised $297,869.00 from businesses, organizations and PACs, including the California Teachers Association/Association for Better Citizenship Small Contributor Committee, the California Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernadino Counties’ Community Action Fund.
The Democratic candidate has received $201,078.45 from 417 individual donors.
As of late October, Duncan had outspent Davies by roughly $87,000. In their respective 460 forms, Duncan reported spending roughly $629,000 on his campaign, while Davies spent roughly $542,000.
Looking at the race for the State Senate’s 36th seat, financial contributors to Nguyen’s campaign included Amazon at $2,500, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at $1,500, Chevron at $4,400, 7-Eleven at $2,000, the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association Political Action Committee at $1,000 and the Lincoln Club of Orange County Political Action Committee at $4,900.
As for Carr, she received a $4,900 contribution from the International Union of Operating Engineers, and $1,000 from Planned Parenthood of Orange County and San Bernardino Counties Action Fund Political Action Committee. There were also contributions from the California Teachers Association/Association for Better Citizenship totaling $14,550, and the California State Council of Laborers Political Action Committee of $4,900.
Speaking about Nguyen’s campaign, Avila called her a “prolific” fundraiser, stating that it’s not surprising how much she’s been able to raise considering her tenure in the state legislature to bring “common sense’ to Sacramento. Her campaign funds, Avila added, are a sign of confidence from voters.
As for the 38th State Senate District, Blakespear received donations from the California Democratic Party at $250,000, the San Diego County Democratic Party at $200,000, the Democratic Party of Orange County at $150,000, NARAL Pro-Choice California at $3,500 and the Association of California School Administrators Political Action Committee Small Contributor Committee at $9,700.
Gunderson received donations from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians at $9,800, the Republican State Leadership Committee at $4,900, the California Association of Health Facilities at $2,500, Sempra Energy at $2,000, the California Forestry Association Political Action Committee at $1,000 and 7-Eleven at $2,000.
Avila said while it’s “never fun” to be on the lower end of the fundraising aisle, Gunderson is running in the thick of an area also contending with another showdown between Republicans and Democrats in the form of 49th Congressional District candidates Mike Levin and Brian Maryott.
Neither Gunderson nor Blakespear are known names with the general public, Avila said, and Blakespear’s name recognition is limited to Encinitas,
Voters in Orange County—where there tends to be “crossover” between the left and right—will take a second look at Gunderson, who has stood out from the Republican Party on many issues, including for being pro-choice, Avila said.
“Matt’s done an incredible job with what he has,” Avila said. “We’re confident in his chances.”
The legislative elections present opportunities to hold onto seats in the case of Davies and pick up new ones with the Senate races, Avila said. Orange County will become a lot more red across the board, from Congress to city councils, after the midterm elections, Avila predicted.
“We’re going to have a stronger Orange County,” he said.
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at email@example.com
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.