In L.A. County supervisor campaigns, spending is likely to soar

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has two open seats. Here's how the top candidates' fundraising is going

Candidates competing for two rare open seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have raised a combined $4.6 million in advance of Tuesday's primary election, and analysts say spending will likely spiral much higher in coming months, as at least one race appears certain to head to a runoff.

In the hottest campaign — the race to succeed retiring Westside Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky — the three major candidates, combined, hauled in roughly $3.5 million to spend on television ads, mailers, consultants and strategists to help win over voters, according to recent campaign statements.

In addition to candidate spending, two groups supporting Bobby Shriver, a former Santa Monica city councilman and member of the politically connected Kennedy family, raised $258,000 to support his run with mailers.

An Eastside contest to fill the seat being vacated by Supervisor Gloria Molina has been less costly — about $872,000 — with former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis expected to cruise easily to victory.

Political analyst Raphael Sonenshein said spending for the primary could prove tame compared with the potentially millions more that could pour into campaigns after the polls close.

The two candidates with the most votes for Yaroslavsky's seat will face each other in the November general election, a contest likely to be much more hard-fought, Sonenshein said. Yaroslavsky's seat is considered a crucial swing vote on a five-member board that oversees a $26-billion budget and more than 100,000 workers, and competing interests will battle to help elect a sympathetic candidate.

"After the primary there will be a lot of organized groups looking at the lay of the land and looking at how to weigh in," Sonenshein said. "This is really just Round One."

Shriver, the fundraising leader, has a contributor list that includes singer Bette Midler; actor/director Edward Burns and his supermodel wife, Christy Turlington; fashion designer Calvin Klein; and Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Shriver is limited by campaign spending rules to accepting no more than $300 per contributor, but he added $1 million in personal funds to his campaign chest, bringing his total to nearly $1.9 million. TV ads showing the candidate in Westside and San Fernando Valley locales have been running regularly for weeks.

The two independent expenditure groups supporting Shriver have sent mailers to voters touting his business experience and support in the Valley. A private-sector trade union gave $100,000, and $50,000 came from Dean McKillen, the son of Patrick "Paddy" McKillen, a wealthy Irish property investor with Los Angeles holdings and connections to U2 guitarist The Edge.

The Edge and both McKillens are part of a group of investors that, for years, have wrangled with the California Coastal Commission over a plan to build five mansions on unincorporated land high above Malibu. The status of that project is unclear.

Challenger and former state lawmaker Sheila Kuehl tapped a network of friends and colleagues from her years in the Legislature, the law and academia to raise $1.2 million for the primary. When Shriver decided to partially self-fund his campaign, Kuehl's contribution limits were lifted and she received a number of large contributions, including a $75,000 infusion from the California Nurses Assn.

Kuehl has also received $26,500 from Molly Munger, a Los Angeles attorney and education activist; $11,500 from David Bohnett, a Beverly Hills philanthropist and tech entrepreneur; and several smaller chunks of cash from labor groups. Kuehl has used much of her funding to send targeted mailers to potential voters emphasizing her experience in the Legislature.

West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, meanwhile, has struggled to match the fundraising of Shriver and Kuehl, accumulating just under $400,000 for his long-shot run. His contributors are heavily represented by small-business owners.

Duran received a combined $34,500 from four billboard companies; $20,000 from Arakelian Enterprises, which holds waste-hauling contracts with the county; and $17,000 from Arman Gabay, who with a brother runs a development business.

A civil rights and defense lawyer who has fought in court for the right of AIDS patients to use medical marijuana, Duran also received $4,000 from Green Cross of Southern California, a collective. Duran, too, is focusing primarily on mailers and social media to spread awareness of his campaign.

In the race to succeed Molina, Solis has raised $765,000 since she launched her campaign last year. She has maintained a hefty lead in fundraising over her strongest competitor, Juventino "J" Gomez, who has raised $107,000.

Gomez, an El Monte city councilman and former aide to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, received a large share of his contributions from businesses in the San Gabriel Valley as well as $1,500 from the El Monte police officers' union.

Solis' support came from a variety of business and labor interests. On the business side, she received $1,500 from Central City Assn., an influential downtown business group, and $500 from Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. From labor, she received $1,500 each from the political arms of the Utility Workers Union of America and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

She also garnered support from elected officials and candidates for office in several of the cities within the 1st District, including La Puente, Baldwin Park, South Gate and Huntington Park, and from at least two candidates running for other county offices — $300 from James Hellmold, who is running for sheriff, and $100 from assessor candidate Jeffrey Prang.

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