Local Government

Incumbents Get Lion’s Share of Campaign Funding in State Elections

Money is arguably the most important aspect of any political campaign, and among those seeking to represent the residents of Fullerton this is no exception. According to campaign finance data from the California Secretary of State’s Office, for Fullerton’s State Assembly and State Senate races, one thing is clear: incumbents are getting the vast majority of campaign funding, priming them for a significant advantage over their challengers in the upcoming primary elections on June 7.

As a result of redistricting, Fullerton is now divided between State Senate Districts 37 and 34.

Senator Tom Umberg, a Democrat who is running for re-election in the 34th State Senate District, which represents southern and western Fullerton, has received contributions from companies and organizations as varied as Warner Bros. Entertainment and Fresenius Medical Care North America, for $1,500 and $4,900, respectively. Others donating to Umberg include The Boeing Company, Kiesel Law LLP, the International Union of Operation Engineers Local 112, Sempra Energy, and Disney Worldwide Services, as well as individual donors. In total, Umberg’s campaign committee, Umberg for Senate 2022, has received just under $300,000 in contributions from various sources between January 1 and April 23 of this year.

Umberg clearly has a significant advantage in contributors and donors compared to his sole opponent Republican Rhonda Shader, the current Mayor of Placentia, whose campaign has received just under $20,000 in the same time period. Although some of Shader’s campaign contributors include organizations such as the Republican Party of Orange County, and the Personal Insurance Federation of California Agents and Employees, the bulk of donations have come from private individuals.

As a result of redistricting, Fullerton is now divided between State Assembly Districts 59 and 67.

State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, who is running for re-election in Assembly District 67 representing southwest Fullerton, has also taken up the lion’s share of campaign contributions. Her campaign has received contributions both from corporations such as Comcast as well as unions such as the IATSE Local 600 PAC, in addition to private donations. Overall, Quirk-Silva has received just under $250,000 in total campaign contributions between the beginning of this year and April 23.

One of Quirk-Silva’s challengers for Assembly District 67, Param Brar, also a Democrat, has faced quite a different financial situation in his campaign. Brar has received only $20,603 in campaign contributions throughout the first four months of the year, with the money coming entirely from thirty-three individual donors to Brar’s campaign, including Brar himself. Another challenger, Republican Sou Moua, does not currently have any available campaign finance information on the Secretary of State’s website.

An uncompetitive contest has not deterred contributors from donating to incumbent Assemblyman Philip Chen’s re-election bid. Chen, who is running to represent northeast Fullerton in Assembly District 59, has received around $255,000 in total campaign contributions from the beginning of this year to April 23. Contributors include Southern California Edison, the Pechanga Band of Lusieno Indians, Fresenius Medical Care North America, and the Laborers International Union of North America Laborers Local 652.

These contributions suggest that stability is clearly a factor in the financial decision-making by corporations, unions, and personal individuals with a stake in Fullerton’s State Senate and State Assembly elections. Barring any unexpected trends, it seems likely that California will remain on track to maintain an incumbent win rate of 98% in upcoming State legislative elections.