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Newsom corrals unions’ powerful dime

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Powerful labor unions from around the state are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of Democrat Gavin Newsom, helping to give him a boost against his Republican rival, Abel Maldonado.

The top 20 donors to the Newsom campaign are labor unions whose contributions are more than $258,000, according to finance records. The money is nearly 10 percent of Newsom’s total contributions, which are more than $2.5 million from donors statewide.

In contrast, Maldonado has raised much of his money from private donors. He started the general-election cycle in the red, but has since pulled himself out of debt.

Maldonado — a Santa Maria Republican who was appointed to the lieutenant governor position by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — is his own largest contributor, writing a $100,000 check on the last day of the filing period. His total contributions statewide are $1.4 million, according to finance records.

Not counting his own loan, the top 20 donors to the Maldonado campaign — only one of which is a labor organization — donated $138,000. Many of his donors are farmers and ranchers from the Central Valley, people who likely relate to Maldonado’s Hispanic background, political analysts say.

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It is no surprise that Newsom has tapped labor organizations across the state, according to political analysts. Labor unions have played an enormous role in this year’s state election as they try to push back on Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who has helped finance her campaign with nearly $120 million of her own money.

“Labor and pension groups doing business with the state are making calculations, and the idea of Meg as governor keeps them up late at night,” said Bill Whalen, research fellow with the Hoover Institute. “They are playing for keeps.”

Newsom did not have strong labor backing when he launched his failed bid for governor, according to Jim Ross, a San Francisco-based political consultant. He later dropped out of the race after facing trouble with fundraising. But he has managed to capitalize on labor’s financial activity in this statewide election.

“These big California unions have tens of thousands of members, so labor as a whole becomes an identity group in itself — a lot like the ethnic base,” Ross said. “They have a broad reach, they have great financial resources and they have the ability to help with [voter] turnout.”

Despite the nearly double war chest that Newsom has, polls show that he is only 4 percentage points ahead of Maldonado.

Aside from the money factor in the race, the recent accusations that Whitman hired an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper for nine years could have a ripple effect on Maldonado, Whalen said.

“This puts him in a very difficult position,” Whalen said. “In many ways he is tied to her hip. The better she does, the better his chances are of winning.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

 

 



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