Campbell donors react to campaign switch

I made calls today to a bunch of Bay Area people who’d made significant donations to the gubernatorial campaign of Tom Campbell, who’s reportedly announcing tomorrow that he’ll run in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, instead.

David Teece, professor and director of the Center for Global Strategy and Governance at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business – where Campbell used to be dean – and his wife, Leigh, gave Campbell’s campaign $45,000 last March. “My wife and I support him 100 percent no matter which public position he’s running for,” Teece said this afternoon.

“One part of me is sad because I believe Tom is unquestionably the best person to be governor,” he said – a former state finance director, state Senator and Congressman with detailed, extensive knowledge of the state’s fiscal woes. “To have him not be the next governor, to me, is a great disappointment. The other candidates have one thing he doesn’t, which is a lot of money, but they don’t have the knowledge and experience that he has in government … They don’t have, off the top of their head, substantive answers.”

David Teece“On the other hand, I think he must have made a calculation that his chances are better – I think he’s probably right – in the Senate race, and I do believe if he can get through a Republican primary, he can win because he is what California is waiting for if the voters ever actually get to see him and understand him,” Teece said.

Campbell is “the kind of Republican that the country wants,” he said – a fiscal conservative who’s more liberal on social issues. “I don’t think a heavy conservative (like Chuck DeVore) can win in California, and Carly (Fiorina) has a lot of charisma and experience in the private sector, but this country is at a point where it needs some public officials … with a proven commitment to righting the economy and our society.”

Frances Nelson – president of Bohannon Development Co. which owns the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo – gave Campbell’s campaign $10,000 in August and another $10,000 in December, and said today’s she’s “tickled” by his decision.

“I think we need somebody like Tom Campbell in the Senate of the United States. at this stage of our lives. He certainly has the background and the savvy to be of real value to us,” she said.

Nelson had already made a campaign contribution to Fiorina, she said, “but of course Tom Campbell has been a friend of long standing, I’ve supported him on many prior occasions and I really would feel very comfortable at this time contributing to him. … Tom Campbell represents, to me, my ideal Senator.”

One donor was more taciturn. Kenneth Olivier, president of the Dodge and Cox investment management firm, and his wife, Angela Nomellini, of Hillsborough, gave Campbell’s campaign $48,000 in April. “All I’ve seen so far is the press reporting on it,” he said today, adding it would be “premature” to say anything about it. “We obviously like him as an individual but I really don’t have any comment on the switch.”

At least for today, Campbell was still billed as a gubernatorial candidate as the Commonwealth Club of California announced he’ll speak on Wednesday, Jan. 20 about “The Economy: National and California – What Government Must Do to Promote Recovery.” The event at the club’s offices, on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco, includes a 5:30 p.m. networking reception and 6 p.m. program; tickets are available online, costing $12 for club members, $18 for nonmembers and $7 for students with valid ID.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.