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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

CA: Brown's Dilemma

Clint Reilly, who ran Kathleen Brown's 1994 campaign, reflects on campaigning against a foe with superior resources:

As we entered July, Wilson had a huge financial advantage. Ultimately, he outspent us by more than 2.5 to 1 during the time I worked for Brown. Because we were decisively behind during the summer, I chose to spend money during the summer to close the gap. I reasoned that unless we were in the hunt after Labor Day, Wilson’s vastly superior bank account would bury us at the end.

As it turned out, bad polls in September and October choked off our fundraising and we ran out of money.

Of course I was roundly criticized. Press, pundits and competitors fed on my carcass for weeks after Brown lost badly in November. At a well attended UC Berkeley post mortem on the race in January 1995 – ill-timed on my birthday – I remarked that I felt like a cadaver at my own autopsy

Campaign professionals – like sports coaches – are often confronted with two unpalatable options. In 2006, then-Treasurer Phil Angelides faced the same problem against Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Behind in the summer and drained from a costly primary against Steve Westly, Angelides decided not to compete with Arnold’s summer television blitz. By September he was so far behind that he was never able to make a dent in the Governor’s 20-point lead. Angelides lost by the same margin as Kathleen Brown.

This year, Whitman’s summer assault by mid-June had already closed a post primary gap of 5 points enjoyed by Brown. Now, I believe, she has already moved ahead by mid-single digits . Unanswered, she will reach Labor Day with an insurmountable head start.

Reilly concludes that Brown needs independent expenditures by labor in order to survive. But labor's stance is more anti-Whitman than pro-Brown, as the LA Times reports:

The television ads seize on the millions of dollars organized labor is spending to help elect Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, warning that if he's victorious, he would be "their governor."

Labor leaders watching the spots, which are funded by billionaire GOP nominee Meg Whitman, should be so lucky.

Unions are indeed reaching deep into their pockets to help Brown, whose campaign needs the cash to compete with Whitman's personal fortune. But how much return they will get on their investment under a Brown governorship is unclear.