WESTSIDE — With the primary less than 75 days away, candidates for the 50th Assembly District are moving fast to get their names in front of voters, and the three democrats in the race are putting up substantial fundraising dollars to get it done.
According to campaign finance reports filed Thursday, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler raised $171,725 in the first two and a half months of 2012, far outstripping activist Torie Osborn, who brought just over $100,000 and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, who trailed just under $50,000.
The amount of money raised for the race between the three candidates comes in at a staggering $1.5 million since the beginning of 2011, far above what it would normally be said Crystal Litz, vice president of Cerrell Associates, a campaign management firm in Los Angeles.
“They are not normal numbers for this area, and not normal for an Assembly seat,” said Litz, who herself gave money to Osborn’s campaign.
The inflation factor in the cost of the race comes from what Litz characterizes as an “embarrassment of riches,” three solid candidates who are all vying for the same voters — wealthy, educated residents of the Westside who are as likely to pick up the candidates’ message on their smartphones as their local newspaper or mailbox.
“You’re always in fundraising mode in a seat like this,” Litz said, noting that the 50th is an expensive place to run in terms of airtime on local cable and the densely packed population that makes mailers a financial nightmare.
The political consulting community believes the race may cost a couple of million dollars by the end game in November, Litz said.
Up until now, the candidates have largely been beating the bushes for endorsements, appearing for debates or question and answer sessions for the Democratic clubs that pepper the district.
Butler and Osborn have both been strong with institutional endorsers, although each have a panoply of local leaders behind them. Bloom’s endorsers largely come from local government officials throughout the region.
Now, the three will see how far their warchests can take them as they begin the task of making sure the average voter knows their name and what they’re about.
Not that there is any such thing as an “average” primary voter.
According to statistics kept by the Secretary of State’s office, primaries over the last five years have brought out just over 30 percent of eligible voters. Notable exceptions to that rule were 2000 and 2008 when voters turned out to see the primary battle between George Bush and John McCain and later the battles between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Even in the dramatic years, however, those percentages bumped up to just under 40 percent of eligible voters.
In an off year, with only Obama on the Democratic ballot for president, it’s the diehards that will turn out on June 5, pundits said.
Osborn, for one, thinks that will help her candidacy.
Her monetary supporters in the most recent filing period between Jan. 1 and Mar. 17 are a varied group, mainly individuals giving small donations.
Compared to Butler, whose recent fundraising is in large part attributable to the support of other Democrats also running for office, Osborn can style herself the political outsider coming in to fix Sacramento to a largely receptive audience.
“This goes to the real issue for Californians which is mirrored in this race,” Osborn said. “People feel Sacramento is broken. They want someone who can reform Sacramento, not someone who is the culture of Sacramento. This is how I’m going to win.”
If the recent filings are any indication, Osborn is Santa Monica’s favorite in 2012. According to filings, Butler received donations from 10 people claiming a Santa Monica address.
Bloom, who has been on the City Council for over a decade, has 15 individuals and one political action committee under his belt.
Osborn has the endorsement of the Santa Monica Democratic Club and 58 individual contributions from people who live in Santa Monica.
While that is “a small concern,” Bloom has the capacity to overcome the deficit, said campaign manager Mark Edwards.
Bloom’s name is better known in the area through his time on the City Council and other positions including the Coastal Commission and the Westside Council of Governments.
“It’s a very solid advantage,” Edwards said. “In campaigns, a big chunk of your effort is just to tie your story to people and have people listen to your story. He’s starting off with cache because he’s the mayor of Santa Monica. That’s respected because it’s a successful city.”
It’s an advantage that Edwards believes will propel Bloom, despite the fact that his competitors both have more than three times the amount of money he does in their respective war chests.