Tom Torlakson outspent Larry Aceves 5-to-1

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson‘s 2010 campaign outraised and outspent his rival’s in last year’s election by about 5-to-1, according to campaign finance reports filed last night.

Larry AcevesThe longtime lawmaker from Antioch raised about $2.47 million and spent about $2.49 million in 2009-10, while the campaign of Larry Aceves, a former school administrator from Fremont, raised about $504,000 and spent about $501,000.

The candidates’ campaign committees don’t tell the whole story, however – each had substantial independent expenditures made on his behalf.

The Association of California School Administrators funded an independent expenditure committee supporting Aceves to the tune of almost $2.46 million in 2009-10.

Still, Torlakson had the money advantage: An IE committee created in May by the California Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association spent about $3.95 million in 2010 on his behalf.

Torlakson and Aceves were the top two vote-getters in a crowded field of 12 candidates in June’s primary; Aceves actually finished on top with 19.2 percent of the vote to Torlakson’s 18.6 percent. But in November’s runoff for the nonpartisan seat, Torlakson dominated with 54.6 percent of the vote to Aceves’ 44.9 percent (as a write-in candidate drew off 0.5 percent of the vote).


Buchanan v. Wilson: The final AD15 numbers

Some of the numbers came in too late for inclusion in my roundup for tomorrow’s paper, but campaign finance reports filed today show the East Bay’s only hotly contested general election for a state legislative seat was quite costly.

Incumbent Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, raised $3.275 million and spent $3.266 million in 2009-10 to fend off a challenge from Republican nominee Abram Wilson, San Ramon’s mayor; Wilson raised $1.27 million and spent $1.258 million.

Buchanan defeated Wilson by a little more than 13,000 votes, a margin of 6.8 percentage points. It was a hard-fought race, but I think Buchanan probably scored the most crushing blow with an advertisement calling attention to the seemingly exorbitant salary paid to San Ramon’s city manager – something sure to irk many California votes in a year in which public salary and benefit scandals like the one in Bell attracted so much outrage. It cast a shadow over Wilson’s claim to fiscal conservative bona fides, and that was all she wrote.


Highest turnout in past 5 gubernatorial votes

The results are now certified, and California’s Nov. 2 election saw the greatest voter turnout – 59.6 percent of the state’s registered voters – in the past five gubernatorial votes, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reported this evening.

“I applaud the work of each county elections official and the more than 100,000 elections workers and volunteers who helped to make voting as easy as possible for every eligible Californian,” Bowen said in a news release.

Looking back, 56.2 percent of registered voters participated in the 2006 gubernatorial election; voter turnout for the 2002 gubernatorial election was 50.6 percent; and 57.6 percent of registered voters turned out in 1998. So last month’s was the highest gubernatorial election turnout since 60.5 percent of voters cast ballots when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson topped Democrat State Treasurer Kathleen Brown in 1994.

Was it Meg Whitman’s deep pockets, either directly or in backlash, that accounted for this surge to the polls? Was it the question of marijuana legalization? Was it part of the national political furor? All of those things, or none? Have at it, commenters.

Ballots cast by mail accounted for 48.4 percent of the votes cast in last month’s election; that’s up from 41.6 percent in 2006. The counties with the highest vote-by-mail voters as a percentage of total turnout were Mendocino (79.4 percent), Nevada (73.9 percent) and El Dorado (70.5 percent), though all voters in Alpine and Sierra counties cast ballots by mail.

“Vote-by-mail voting has steadily increased in popularity over the last 32 years since the law was changed to allow any registered voter to vote by mail,” Bowen said.

Overall, the counties with the highest turnout of registered voters were Sierra (81.9 percent), Nevada (80.8 percent) and Amador (77.6 percent), while turnout was the lowest in Imperial (49.8 percent), Merced (50.9 percent) and Fresno (52.2 percent) counties.

A new total number of gubernatorial ballots cast means a new threshold to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot: For the next four years, proponents will have to gather signatures from at least 504,775 registered voters – five percent of the total votes cast for governor last month – in order to put their measures to a vote. Proponents for a constitutional amendment will need 807,639 signatures, or eight percent of last month’s gubernatorial votes.


Redistricting, prisons and the new AG on ‘TWINC’

Last night on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” Lisa talked about the new citizens’ redistricting commission; I talked about the prison overcrowding case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court; and the Chronicle’s Marisa Lagos talked about Kamala Harris clinching the election for state Attorney General:


Nearly $7 million spent on CD11 campaign

California 11th Congressional District’s candidates, political parties and other groups spent $6.76 million on the campaign, according to new figures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Victorious Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, significantly outspent his opponent, GOP nominee David Harmer, $3 million vs. $2 million.

But it was the independent expenditures that put McNerney in the serious money: The vast majority of the $2 million spent by groups outside the campaign targeted Harmer or supported McNerney.

A great deal of the anti-Harmer money was spent in the final 10 days of the campaign, and the Republican’s supporters failed to match the dollars.

(Update: A caller reminds me that these totals do not include the money spent by groups that do not have to file with the FEC. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federal of Business spent money to help Harmer in this campaign.)

Here’s a breakdown of the totals:

MCNERNEY: $2.88 million, total contributions; $3.03 million, total expenses; $8,024 in debts; $38,008 cash on hand.

HARMER: $1.88 million, total contributions; $1.97 total expenses; $36,247 in  debts;  $36,247 cash on hand.

Independent expenditures totaled more than $2 million:

  • Oppose Harmer $1,358,010
  • Support Harmer $68,342
  • Oppose McNerney: $459,109
  • Support McNerney $140,899
  • TOTAL: $2,026,361

CD11: Harmer speaks out but no concession yet



UPDATE: DEC. 3, 2010, 4:41 P.M. Harmer made the call to McNerney about an hour ago, where he officially conceded and congratulated McNerney.

As it turns out, unsuccessful 11th Congressional District GOP nominee David Harmer isn’t missing. He was moving. Literally.

The lease on his San Ramon house expired Nov. 30, and he and his wife, Elayne, and their four kids, have been packing, moving and unpacking their new household. They didn’t go far; just a mile away to another house in Windemere, one that will allow his children to stay in their current schools.

But no, Harmer isn’t ready to concede even though he characterized his chances of overturning Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney’s victory as a miracle comparable to that of the parting of the Red Sea. (Read my full news story here.)

Prior to making that concession call to McNerney or issuing a statement, his skeletal remaining campaign staff wants to review the precinct-level voting data from Contra Costa County. Harmer says they are looking for irregularities that might indicate a problem, such as wildly out-of-whack results.

If they find major problems, they could request a recount or seek intervention from the House of Representatives, which could overrule the local election results. (The last time that happened was in the 1980s in an Indiana congressional race.)

“We haven’t been itching to contest the results, no one enjoys that,” Harmer said during a telephone call this morning. “What we have wanted to do is to understand what happened, and to the extent there are any questions about the accuracy or legitimacy of the process, we want to address those in a responsible way so that questions don’t linger into the future. It is for the benefit of all the participants.”

What are Harmer’s immediate plans?

Get a job and lose the 20 pounds he gained the on the campaign trail, he says.

The attorney has been campaigning full-time for the past 1 1/2 years, and the family savings account has dwindled, he says.

“I think you asked me at some point earlier in the campaign what I would do if I lost, and I said that the Harmer family would be grateful for the chance to serve but if we lost, the Harmer family would be grateful to return to normal life,” Harmer said. “That’s still true.”

He says he has no plans to run for public office again, although one “never says never.”

Harmer has run for Congress three times; in Utah in 1996, the 10th District in California in 2009 and the 11th District, where he lost by 1.1 percentage points.

“My feeling is that if we couldn’t do it this year, when could we do it?” Harmer said. “We were running during a predicted Republican wave and we couldn’t have had a better campaign operation. It’ s hard to imagine doing better.”

The toughest part about the outcome, Harmer says, has been dealing with not only his own disappointment but that of his family and supporters. They invested a great deal of time, emotion and money into his candidacy.

“It’s hard not to feel as though you let people down,” Harmer said. “But disappointment is different than regret. You never regret playing the game just because you lost.”

As for speculation about the financial state of his campaign, Harmer says the final numbers will show a modest surplus. He may even refund a portion of contributions made to his campaign after Election Day.