Names of the game
Whom — not necessarily what — candidates know makes all the difference
Along with illustrating sharp funding disparities favoring most Democratic candidates, recently obtained financial disclosure records of candidates from both parties in newly configured districts for Congress and the state Senate and Assembly read much like a who’s who list of Pasadena and Los Angeles County political figures past and present.
Perhaps the best example of this locally is the race for the 41st Assembly District, formerly the 44th Assembly District prior to last year’s redistricting, in which Democrat and longtime Pasadena City Councilman Chris Holden is pitted against political newcomer Donna Lowe, running on the Republican ticket.
The lengthy list of the seven-term councilman’s heavy-hitter supporters begins with Holden’s dad, Nate Holden. A former aide to longtime LA County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Nate Holden went on to serve as a Democratic state senator in the 1980s, and later as a Los Angeles city councilman. Now long retired, he contributed $3,900 to his son’s election efforts in August 2011, according to campaign financial disclosure records filed Oct. 5 with the state Secretary of State’s Office.
Along with Nate Holden are some other notable locals who also gave early in the campaign: Pasadena’s William Wardlaw, a general partner in the Freeman Spogli & Co. investment firm, husband of US Court of Appeals Judge Kim Wardlaw and former adviser to former LA Mayor Richard Riordan ($250); developer Bill Burke, onetime head of the LA Marathon, husband of former county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and currently chairman of the AQMD Board of Directors ($1,000); former LA Councilman Richard Alatorre ($500); and LA County CEO William Fujioka ($250), the records reveal.
However, local celebrity backing is not exclusive to Holden and the Democrats. In both the races for the 49th Assembly District between Democrat Edwin Chau and Republican Dr. Matthew Lin, and the race for the 25th Senatorial District, formerly the 21st District, big-name contributors are playing a major role.
“The Republican candidates have run some aggressive campaigns, but the [GOP candidates in] the races for Assembly and state Senate don’t have a lot of funding,” said Pasadena political consultant Fred Register. “Because of that, typically, you would have to favor the incumbents.” In Register’s opinion, the race to watch is in the 49th Assembly District, which includes Alhambra, Arcadia, El Monte, Montebello, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino and Temple City and, as Register said, is a “district that is very much in play.”
Lin, an orthopedic surgeon, is the first Asian American to serve on the San Marino City Council, while Chau, a lawyer, is a member of the Montebello Board of Education. Chau, who also served as a judge pro tem, has gained the support of Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu, herself up for re-election in a congressional district that now, after redistricting, includes Pasadena, and her husband, Assemblyman Mike Eng. After six years in office, Eng terms out of the Assembly seat that either Lin or Chau will assume after the Nov. 6 election. Chu served in that seat prior to her husband being elected to it soon after she left for Washington to become the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress.
The popular Lin took more than half the ballots cast in the June primary, compared to Chau’s 35 percent and Mitchell Ing’s 13 percent. From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, records show Lin collected $893,000, with major contributions coming from other doctors, medical groups, auto dealerships, lawyers and real estate interests. Wardlaw also contributed $1,000 to Lin’s campaign, as did both Andrew Cherng, founder of Panda Express, and Peggy Tsiang Cherng, Panda Express CEO. Other notable contributors include former Alhambra City Councilwoman Mary Louise Bunker, who gave $200; Sing Tao Newspapers, which gave $500; and the San Marino Firefighters Association, which donated $3,900, records show.
Chau has taken in more than $645,000 — nearly half that amount coming since July 1, and nearly one-sixth of the money coming from two personal loans to his campaign, one for $77,000 and the other for $23,000. Other top contributors to Chau’s campaign have been Chu, who gave $2,000 from her well-funded congressional campaign, and Eng, who contributed $3,900 from the Michael Eng for Assembly 2010 campaign, records show.
A number of teachers and school administrators from the Montebello school district also gave money to Chau, among them Superintendent Barbara Pell, who contributed $1,000, and Kathy Brendzal, a principal with the school district. Among contributing teachers was retired physics teacher Harry Manos.
Manos, who state records show gave money to Chau two separate times for a total of $225, was teaching at Schurr High School in Montebello in December 1990, when he was arrested on suspicion of having sex with a male teenager. Manos allegedly picked up the teen while he was hitchhiking. When police searched Manos’ home, they found an adult human penis preserved in a jar of formaldehyde, according to published reports. Manos’ lawyer, who contended the teen fabricated the story, argued the penis was from a medical cadaver and given to Manos as a gag gift. The judge disallowed the use of the penis as evidence, and a jury voted 10-2 in October 1991 to acquit Manos. After the District Attorney’s Office declined to refile charges, Manos, who was 50 at the time of his arrest, returned to teaching at Schurr.
Neither Chau nor members of his campaign returned numerous calls for comment on the Manos contributions.
In the race for the 25th Senate District, formerly the 21st District — which now includes Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, San Marino, Glendora, Claremont and part of Upland — longtime and well-funded incumbent Democrat Carol Liu has her hands full with Republican challenger Gilbert Gonzalez, who, like Lowe, is also a young newcomer, but one clearly with connections he can bank on.
According to his financial statements, filed three weeks ago, Gonzalez, a 2003 Pitzer College graduate who serves as director of public and government affairs for Safeway Corp., has gained support from Riordan, who is currently pushing a new 401k-style retirement plan for LA city employees. Riordan contributed $3,900 to Gonzalez’s campaign.
A former senior director of Economic and Business Policy under LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Gonzalez also has in his corner conservative Charles Munger, Jr., of Pasadena. Munger is also the brother of liberal Molly Munger, author of the K-12 schools-funding Proposition 38.
Charles Munger is also heavily bankrolling the Yes on Proposition 32 campaign to prohibit payroll deductions from going to political candidates and causes, and the campaign against Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to tax the rich and raise the state sales tax in order to pay for universities, community colleges and other state expenses.
A physicist by trade and son of billionaire Charles Munger, of Berkshire Hathaway fame, Munger also gave Gonzalez $3,900, according to state records, as did Paul Rusnak, owner of Rusnak Motors in Pasadena. Rusnak’s daughter, Victoria, ran an unsuccessful campaign in the spring primary for the 41st Assembly seat now sought by Lowe and Holden. Victoria Rusnak raised $480,000 — $350,000 of it her own money — in the losing effort.
Gonzalez has also won over retired LAPD Commander and onetime Pasadena City Council District 7 candidate Margaret York, wife of LA County Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who gave $150 to the campaign. All told, Gonzalez took in more than $155,000 in contributions since January, with $54,169 on hand as of Oct. 5, according to state records.
Despite Gonzalez’s substantial help, however, Liu, a veteran campaigner who previously served in the Assembly, has raised nearly double the amount of donations, recording a total of nearly $334,000 in contributions — $100,000 of which came in the form of a personal loan, records show — since the start of the year.
Other top contributors to Liu include the entertainment industry, Indian gaming and horse racing interests, unions, employee PACs, state and local firefighter and law enforcement associations and PACs, medical associations and corporations, pharmaceutical companies, teacher associations and the building industry.
Many of Liu’s contributions were for $1,000 or more, while others were for much more, like the Southwest regional Council of Carpenters, which gave $3,900, as did the state Building and Construction Trade Council PAC.
Some local leaders onboard with Liu’s campaign include Pasadena City Councilwoman Margaret McAustin and Pasadena City College Board of Trustees member Jeanette Mann, both of whom contributed $125. Former Pasadena Board of Education members Marge Wyatt and Susan Kane contributed $250 apiece. And Sharon Bonner, CEO of Planned Parenthood, gave $100.
The 41st Assembly District — which as the 44th District was represented by outgoing Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino of La Cañada Flintridge — consists of Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena, and now, instead of La Cañada Flintridge, includes the eastern Los Angeles County community of Claremont, as well as Rancho Cucamonga and Upland, both located in San Bernardino County.
In contributions, Holden easily outpaced Lowe, an unabashed conservative businesswoman and mother of four from Claremont who, according to her Web site, belongs to the Claremont Conservatives Tea Party and served as a board member with the Mountain View Republican Club. Lowe, who currently serves as spokesperson for Claremont Taxpayers for Common Sense, took in $127,548 throughout the campaign, compared to Holden’s $455,759.
To date, Holden has collected nearly 10 percent of his money from unions and professional associations representing the medical and dental fields, as well as firefighters and police officer associations and PACs. He has also elicited support from some of Pasadena’s top leaders, including Mayor Bill Bogaard, who gave $750, Councilman Victor Gordo, who contributed $250, former Councilman Bill Crowfoot, who gave $250, and former City Manager Don McIntyre, who gave $500, according to state records. In addition, Wyatt donated $500.
Holden’s also collected money from a few more widely known celebrities, such as Gale Anne Hurd, producer of the popular show “The Walking Dead” and owner of the Vertical Wine Bistro in Old Pasadena, who gave $200, and All Saints Church Rector Emeritus George Regas, who contributed $500. Mark Davis, an executive with the Oakland Raiders, contributed $1,000, and high-profile attorney Mark Geragos also threw support to Holden with $1,000. Former Little Rock 9 student and Pasadena resident Dr. Terrence Roberts kicked in as well, giving $250 to the campaign. Elenor Beroukhin-Gabay and Mahboubeh Gabay — who work for the Charles Co., a Beverly Hills-based real estate development and investment firm owned by Arman Gabay, owner of property in Altadena being eyed by Wal-Mart for possible store locations — also each gave $1,000 to Holden’s campaign.
Holden has also tapped into the entertainment industry, with contributions pouring into the campaign from Warner Bros. Entertainment ($3,900), Sony Pictures Studios ($1,000), Disney Worldwide Services Inc. ($250) and the Motion Picture Association of America ($250). Holden also received $1,500 from the Barona Band of Mission Indians.
In sharp contrast, Lowe’s contributors appear to be a small army of homemakers, retirees, small business people and private citizens giving amounts of between $50 and $500 — mostly $100 donations — with a smattering of contributions of $1,000 from eastern LA County and San Bernardino County businesses, and donations of between $1,000 and $3,900 from the campaigns of other Republican lawmakers running for office in other parts of the state. The campaign of Walnut Republican Sen. Bob Huff, who’s running for re-election, was listed among the top elected donors, giving $3,900 to both Lowe and Gonzalez. Lowe, who personally loaned her campaign $6,406, received numerous contributions of $100 or more from West Valley residents, among them longtime Republican Mary Dee Romney of Pasadena, who contributed $250.
In the congressional race between Chu and Republican Jack Orswell, Federal Elections Commission records show the former Assemblywoman and Monterey Park mayor has raised $932,302 since last year in total individual contributions and $1.2 million in total contributions. Orswell, on the other hand, appears to be faced with an uphill battle, raising just $113,494 in total individual contributions for a grand total of $124,500 in all donations, as of Oct. 5.
Orswell, a former FBI agent who is now an environmental consultant based in Monrovia, is endorsed by the California Republican Party, the Greater San Gabriel Valley Lodge of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the Pasadena Police Officers Association, the California Chapter of the Republican Hispanic National Assembly, outgoing Republican Congressman David Dreier, the Upland Police Officers’ Association and the National Nonpartisan Latino Peace Officers Association for Law & Order.
Chu, on the other hand, boasts page after page of official endorsements from county leaders, city councils and school boards across the West San Gabriel Valley, including Sheriff Lee Baca, the Pasadena City Council, a majority of the PUSD school board and local Congressman Adam Schiff.
Chu is also endorsed by members of city councils in Alhambra, Baldwin Park, El Monte and Monterey Park, where she and her husband both served on the council.
“I’d be surprised if the legislative races are very close,” Register said. “The Republican candidates have run some aggressive campaigns, but the races for Assembly and state Senate don’t have a lot of funding. Because of that, typically you would have to favor the incumbents.”