State Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) has raised nearly $1 million, almost twice as much as City Councilwoman Gloria Molina has collected in the 1st District race that will put a Latino on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, records show.
Nearly $1 out of every $4 donated to the Torres campaign has come from organized labor, including many unions representing county employees whose salaries are set by the board. The biggest county union has raised more than $100,000 from unions as far away as Michigan.
Molina has received $36,707 from women's groups as she seeks to become the first woman elected to the Board of Supervisors. The councilwoman also has raised more than $20,000 from developers and lobbyists for the Central City West downtown development plan. Molina negotiated zoning and use restrictions for the project and shepherded those changes through City Council.
In the final days before Tuesday's 1st District election, records show that Torres has raised $965,952 since the campaign got under way, while Molina has raised $550,999 for a total of more than $1.5 million--making it one of the highest-priced races in county history.
The stakes are high for politicians and donors. The winner will instantly become one of the most powerful Latinos in the country. For donors, the seat is important because the supervisors govern the nation's most populous county. The board controls a $10-billion budget and represents nearly 9 million people--a higher population than 42 of the 50 states.
The election was ordered by a judge who found that the all-Anglo board drew its district boundaries to split the Latino vote, denying political representation to the county's 3 million Latinos. The new district, which is 71% Latino, stretches from Silver Lake and Lincoln Heights east to Irwindale and La Puente.
Fund raising has become an issue in the race, with the candidates accusing one another of accepting money from special interests who have business before local and state government agencies. The candidates have had to raise large sums of money to deliver their messages--mostly through mailers, which are considered crucial because of the short campaign and huge supervisorial district.
The bulk of the money has been spent on printing and postage for mailers and on campaign staff, including professional political consultants. The campaigns also spent money to buy demographic and political data on the new district so that the candidates could tailor mailings. For example, mailers that feature Republican endorsements would target GOP voters.
Organized labor has given Torres $233,982--about 20 times more than Molina raised from unions--and is providing campaign workers.
"This is a big one for us," said Sharon Grimpe Correll, general manager of Service Employees International Union, Local 660, representing 40,000 county workers.
Correll takes credit for raising more than $100,000 from unions nationwide. "What happens here with the board has a tendency to spread all over the United States and certainly in California," Correll said.
Her local set up its own Torres campaign operation, spending $50,000 on mailers and phone calls to its 4,000 union members who live in the district.
The union also brought a successful lawsuit that threw out a voter-enacted $1,000-per-person limit on contributions, providing a big boost to Torres' fund raising.
Torres has received at least $24,000 from companies with business before the Board of Supervisors, including $20,000 from attorney Richard Riordan, whose firm receives county legal work.
Riordan, who also gave Molina $5,000 before the first round of balloting Jan. 22, said he is supporting Torres in the runoff. "I think he is somebody who can work with all kinds of people, conservatives and liberals," Riordan said.
Torres raised $117,000 from other politicians, including 15 fellow legislators. The largest amounts were loans of $25,000 from Assemblyman Mike Roos, $20,000 from Los Angeles school board member Leticia Quezada and $15,000 from Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles).
Molina drew $80,000 from her City Council campaign treasury, which includes money from City Hall developers and lobbyists.
She also has received $26,145 from her closest Democratic allies. Contributions included $10,000 from Rep. Esteban Torres, $8,645 from Assemblywoman Lucille Roybal Allard and $7,000 from Rep. Edward Roybal.
Both candidates have received money from a Malibu residents' group and from Hollywood celebrities. Molina received $100 from Steve Allen, $150 from Carmen Zapata and $250 from Susan Clark. Actor Iron Eyes Cody donated $250 to Torres.
One of the biggest contributions to Torres, a liberal Democrat, was a $25,000 loan from a man he says he has never met--Safi U. Qureshey, an Orange County Republican.