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Campaigns, political action committees pour millions into 80th Assembly races

The two Democrats competing for an open seat in the 80th Assembly District have raised hundreds of million of dollars each in a pair of races that have also attracted more than $2 million in independent spending by business and labor groups.

Democrats Georgette Gómez and David Alvarez are in a run-off to fill the partial term left open when former Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez stepped down in January. They’re also competing with Republicans John Vogel Garcia and Lincoln Pickard in a primary for the subsequent term in the newly reconfigured 80th Assembly District.

Gómez is leading fund-raising with $681,346 in campaign funds for the special election and $199,958 for the general election primary. She is followed by fellow Democrat David Alvarez with $596,187 for the special election and $188,834 for the primary.

Vogel lists campaign contributions of $22,638 while Pickard did not file any campaign finance disclosures. Candidates must file reports on their contributions and expenses if they spend more than $2,000 on campaign activities.

Labor organizations figure as the largest donors to Gómez’ campaign. A number of those contributed the $9,700 maximum for small contributor committees, including the California Teacher’s Association for Better Citizenship; Pace of California School Employees Association; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; State Building and Trades Council of California; California State Pipe Trades Council; Service Employees International Union; California State Association of Electrical Workers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; California Professional Firefighters; Professional Engineers in California Government; California State Council of Service Employees.

Alvarez’ campaign received maximum contributions of $9,700 from the California Association of Highway Patrolman and the California Association of Realtors.

Political action committees have also invested heavily in the race with more than $2 million in independent expenditures aimed at hurting or helping the two front-runners.

The largest of those is a committee called “Nurses and Educators for Georgette Gomez for Assembly,” which spent about $895,000 on television ads, mailers, text messages and phone-banking in favor of Gomez and against Alvarez since March.

Recently a business PAC, the “Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class, including Energy Companies who Produce Gas, Oil, Jobs and Pay Taxes,” spent nearly half a million dollars in support of Alvarez’ campaign. Campaign filings show the organization spent $127,600 on television ads opposing Gómez and $349,886 on advertising in favor of Alvarez.

Gómez’ campaign held a press conference on May 26 to protest that spending, calling it “Big Oil’s attempts to buy this election in our community” and decrying what they said are “dirty political attacks” against her.

Alvarez said he’s not focused on independent spending towards his race, noting that candidates are forbidden from coordinating with PACs.

“The Gómez campaign has turned this into a nasty, negative campaign, which I choose not to respond to,” he said.

Voters in the 80th Assembly District will see two separate sections on the ballot for the seat, including one for the special election for the partial term and one for the next full two-year term. Election day is Tuesday, but voting is underway through mail ballots and extended voting hours at vote centers.

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