With elections just days away, Assemblyman Jerry Hill is banking on his superior campaign chest to help him carry the day in the state Senate race, while his opponent, former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, is hoping that grassroots support from her home turf will help her narrow the gap and score a major upset.
In the closing days of October, Hill had a huge lead in expenditures made and a modest edge in cash remaining. According to campaign-finance documents, Hill has spent $946,300 since the beginning of the year in his quest to represent the 13th District, which stretches from San Mateo County to northern Santa Clara County and includes Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Atherton and Sunnyvale. Lieber, meanwhile, has spent $151,572 over the same period of time.
Campaign documents also show Hill with a roughly $50,000 edge in cash remaining. Hill, a San Mateo resident who has represented his city on the county and Assembly levels, has about $178,449 left, while Lieber has about $128,085. Hill received nearly 1,500 contributions for his Senate campaign, roughly three times as many as Lieber.
But Lieber, a Mountain View resident and perpetual underdog, hopes she can counteract Hill's financial edge with grassroots support from Santa Clara County, parts of which she has represented in the Assembly between 2002 and 2008. Lieber, whose campaign has been focusing on education and the environment, has received dozens of checks from northern Santa Clara County, including 78 from Mountain View and 51 from Palo Alto. She also contributed $100,000 to her own campaign, records show.
Lieber's list of contributors includes a number of local environmentalists, including former Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier and Michael Closson, executive director of the local environmental nonprofit Acterra. Among her biggest Palo Alto contributions is from Michael Kieschnick, manager of Credo Mobile, who gave her campaign $1,000.
Hill, despite his huge fundraising advantage, has received only five contributions from Mountain View and 17 from Palo Alto, campaign-finance documents show.
Hill's Palo Alto contributors include City Council candidate Marc Berman, who gave Hill's campaign $250, and former Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, who contributed $100. But his campaign also benefited from major support from Hewlett Packard, which gave him $3,900 along with another $3,843 in "non-monetary contributions."
Hill, meanwhile, received 264 checks from donors in his hometown of San Mateo. Lieber had not received any San Mateo checks as of Oct. 25, when the reporting period concluded. Hill also has the endorsement of some of the state's most prominent Democrats, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Labor unions, political-action committees and major corporations have also contributed mightily to Hill's fundraising edge. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California gave his campaign $7,800, as have the California State Council of Laborers PAC and the Plumbers, Steamfitters and Refrigeration Fitters, UA Local 393 Political Action Fund. Hill's other major backers include the California Healthcare Institute ($3,900), the California Dental Political Action Committee ($3,900), the California Beer & Beverage Distributors Community Affairs Fund ($3,900) the McDonald's California Operators ($3,900) and Monsanto Company ($1,500).
Hill's financial advantage further cements his status as the heavy favorite in the race to replace termed-out Sen. Joe Simitian. In the June primary election, Hill scored an overwhelming victory when he picked up 55 percent of the votes in a four-way race. Lieber had finished a distant second with 22 percent.
Lieber told the Weekly in a recent interview that her campaign made a decision to be stingy during the primary season so as to have funds available for the general election.