A look at campaign finance reports for city of Sacramento election candidates

Steinberg, Ashby, city council incumbents and more

It’s not always about the issues. Sometimes, it’s just about money.

That was the case recently, at least, when Sacramento candidates for mayor and city council submitted their first campaign-finance disclosure documents of the year to the city.

Leading the fundraising pack, perhaps unsurprisingly, was former state Sen. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The mayoral candidate brought in $242,996 to his coffers last year (most of it raised since he announced his candidacy in October).

His donors vary from high-profile lobbyists like Darius Anderson (who gave $3,300) and Kings arena developer Mark Friedman ($3,300), to Anthem Blue Cross ($1,000) and AT&T’s political action committee ($1,000). The California Nurses Association PAC ($11,000) and the PAC for the California Association of Realtors ($11,000) were Steinberg’s top donors of last year.

The candidate ended the year with $195,331 cash on hand. But he also has a Steinberg for Lieutenant Governor 2018 account filed with the state, which as of the end of 2014 had $1,460,456 in cash on hand. The Sacramento city clerk has stated that a majority of these funds can be transferred to his mayoral-campaign coffers.

That’s a lot of coin. And yet Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who is Steinberg’s most formidable challenger, released a statement last week announcing that her fundraising was in “a virtual tie” with the former pro tem.

“Steinberg and Ashby both have approximately the same amount of campaign dollars in their Mayoral campaign bank accounts,” Ashby campaign strategist Josh Pulliam wrote in an email.

Not entirely accurate: Ashby raised a total of $162,212 last year—nearly $83,000 less than Steinberg—and her campaign ended 2015 with $154,28 cash on hand.

She drew support from such individuals as developer David Miry ($1,000) and Phil Oates ($3,300), and major groups like firefighters associations in San Francisco, San Diego and Riverside, and the Sacramento County Probation Association’s PAC ($3,300). Her largest donors were the Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522 PAC ($11,000) and the Sacramento Police Officers Association Political Activity Fund ($10,000).

She’ll need more of that green to catch Steinberg, if an unverified opinion poll leaked last week truly has its thumb on the race.

A poll by the Oakland-based public-opinion firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates dated January 29 has Steinberg up 54 percent to 24 percent over Ashby among likely voters (based on 602 telephone interviews between January 26 and 28). Candidate Tony “The Tiger” Lopez (who did not file a campaign-finance report) came in at 8 percent on the poll. Candidates Russell Rawlings ($235 cash on hand) and Jrmar Jefferson (did not file) didn’t register in the poll.

According to the survey, Steinberg also lead Ashby in total favorability (62 percent to 28 percent) and overall name recognition (83 percent to 43 percent). It’s unclear yet whether Steinberg’s campaign commissioned the poll; he did spend $6,250 this past year on opinion polling with Juan de Leon Research. FMM&A did not return two calls to discuss the survey.

No one had filed papers with the city to challenge any of the four incumbent council members as of this past Tuesday. Only Councilman Steven Hansen has a potential opponent, namely local singer-songwriter and activist Jenn Rogar. But Rogar has a big hill to climb if she’s going to run a legitimate campaign. Hansen raised $79,923 last year, and has $113,201 cash on hand.

Councilman Eric Guerra has $23,927 on hand, and Councilman Larry Carr $28,905. Councilman Allen Warren, who has not stated whether he will run for a second term, has only $5,814 on hand. The deadline to declare to run is March 11.

Perhaps a reason there are few challengers to council incumbents might be the lack of public funding for campaigns. Council cut public-financing of campaigns from its budget during the recession.