For a race that will shape how California continues to battle the Trump administration, the contest for California attorney general has been more “blah” than buzzy.
Conventional wisdom is that incumbent Democrat Xavier Becerra will handily defeat Republican Steven Bailey on Nov. 6 and continue adding to the more than three dozen legal challenges his office has pursued against President Donald Trump policies to date. Becerra took 46 percent of the vote in a four-candidate June primary to Bailey’s 25 percent.
The near-certainty of Becerra’s election victory hasn’t stopped donors from pouring more than $6.8 million into his campaign since 2017, with more than $900,000 of that money coming in just between July 1 and Sept. 22 this year, state records show.
With a broad range of duties, from writing ballot initiatives’ titles and summaries to defending state laws and drafting certain regulations, the attorney general’s office has a potentially enormous impact on numerous interests.
Here’s a look at some of the attorney general’s biggest donors.
- Members of the plaintiffs bar contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Becerra’s campaign over the last 18 months. Mark Robinson Jr. of Robinson Calcagnie Inc. gave $14,600, an amount matched by Kabateck Brown Kellner partner Brian Kabateck; Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Thomas Girardi of Girardi & Keese and others. The Consumer Attorneys of California Political Action Committee made a contribution of $7.300 last month, according to filings with the state.
- Organized labor groups have been the biggest source of donations to Becerra’s campaign, followed by the legal industry, according to the election-finance tracking website Dollar Dollar Bill. A coalition of firefighter unions, building trades, real estate agents, prison guards, nursing homes, Sempra Energy and Chevron Corp. spent nearly $400,000 on an independent expenditure campaign supporting Becerra and opposing Bailey prior to the primary. Becerra has been a long-time ally of labor, which is increasingly looking to California for shelter from a hostile Trump administration.
- Seven members of the Southern California firm of Hueston Hennigan gave Becerra a combined $31,000 last month. The firm is active in state investigations in litigation. Hueston Hennigan represents IMDb.com in a lawsuit challenging a California law barring the movie aficionado website from publishing actors’ ages.
- Latham & Watkins partner George Mihlsten maxed out with $14,600 in contributions to Becerra’s campaign. Mihlsten is a politically connected land-use attorney who supported Becerra when he served in Congress.
- Stuart Liner, managing partner of Los Angeles boutique Liner LLP before its merger with DLA Piper in 2017, also gave the maximum contribution of $14,600. The entertainment and real estate lawyer gave more than $66,000 to the campaigns of California Democrats, including Becerra, in 2017, records show.
Despite the prolific contributions, neither Becerra nor Bailey, a former El Dorado County Superior Court judge, have been seen on the airwaves much since they finished first and second in the primary. During a recent two-month reporting period Becerra’s campaign spent more on a single slate mailer than on television ads.
There has been no publicly available polling on the attorney general race and no debates since the primary.
“No one has really asked” for one, said Becerra campaign consultant Roger Salazar.
Bailey, a retired El Dorado County Superior Court judge, has tried to position himself as a law-and-order candidate, an opponent of the state’s so-called sanctuary policies on undocumented immigration and a prosecutor who would not be “obsessed with Donald Trump.” But he’s been dogged by an ongoing ethics investigation into his tenure as a judge, and his fundraising—just under $500,000 for the two-year election cycle—trails Becerra’s by a large margin in a state where all statewide officeholders are Democrats.