State legislative races prioritize COVID-19 response over campaigning

Sacramento, State Capitol Building
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Fundraising totals for the first quarter of 2020 in Senate and Assembly races show a challenging year ahead for hopefuls as they shift their focus from campaigning to informing and connecting supporters affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

After releasing the end-of-year figures in January, the California Secretary of State’s office issued reports for the most recent reporting period lasting from Jan. 19 through Feb. 15, while also including total contributions from Jan. 1 for each candidate. 

21st Senate District

In the race for the 21st Senate District, Democrat Kipp Mueller, who is challenging incumbent state. Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, led in raising $136,206 for the latest period and a total of $152,466 since Jan. 1. Expenditures from this period surpassed $177,000 and reported a cash-on-hand total of $52,000. 

As with other candidates, Mueller’s campaign has shifted to virtual operations, and has organized Facebook live conversations with local doctors about the pandemic. 

“Running a campaign from our homes hasn’t changed that — we’re still connecting with our community every single day and will continue to do so,” Mueller said in a prepared statement. 

Wilk has focused largely on bringing constituents the latest from Sacramento on the state’s response to the pandemic, as well as keeping his office available for constituents. Among his initiatives, the senator held a tele-town hall with Antelope Valley doctors on Thursday to discuss the effects the coronavirus has had on mental health. 

Keeping the public informed during this time is a priority of his as he doesn’t believe “it’s appropriate to try to raise money when people are dying,” he said Wednesday. 

During the latest period, Wilk raised $70,362 and earned $81,662 since Jan. 1. Wilk’s expenditures for the same period reached $73,000 and his cash-on-hand tally surpassed $546,600.

Wilk led the March primary election, earning 51% of the vote across Los Angeles County and 57% in San Bernardino County, while Mueller earned nearly 20% in L.A. County and 17% in San Bernardino County. 

27th Senate District

State. Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, led the fundraising race in his bid for re-election against Republican Houman Salem. 

Stern, who has also kept busy in informing the public, raised a total of $6,645 since Jan. 1 and reported expenditures of $13,500 and a cash-on-hand total of $893,100. 

Salem reported $1,080 for the latest period, for a total of $1,130 since Jan. 1 and expenditures of $1,300. His ending cash tally was $1,200.

Salem said Wednesday he “had lost the money battle but I’m not worried in running a grassroots campaign,” adding that his campaign reached a slowdown in February when he became ill and presented COVID-19 symptoms but did not have access to testing at the time to confirm. Now recovered, Salem said he would like to take an antibody test. 

The two will face off in the November general election after March results showed the two qualified for a runoff with Stern earning 103,000 votes in Los Angeles County and 54,000 in Ventura County, while Salem gained 42,000 in Los Angeles County and 46,000 in Ventura County. 

38th Assembly District

In the 38th Assembly District, Republican Suzette Valladares led the race against Republican Lucie Volotzky, with a total of $28,359 since Jan. 1, or $25,754 from Jan. 19 through Feb. 15. She reported expenditures of $46,700 and a cash-on-hand total of $17,100. 

Most recently, Valladares announced the launch of Operation Childcare, “an effort to collect needed supplies and provide them to these local centers serving the children of health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and other frontline workers,” according to a campaign news release. 

Volotzky said Thursday she’s “currently working with my staff and friends on community projects, along with assisting friends in applying for their benefits” and suspects “the fall campaign season will be more ‘elbow bumps’ than handshakes.” 

The California Secretary of State’s office did not have filing information for her campaign and Volotzky said: “Money is tight for everyone.” 

Valladares led the primary election with more than 30% of the vote in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and Volotzky at up to 20% in the same counties. 

36th Assembly District

Incumbent Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, led the 36th Assembly District race against Democratic challenger Steve Fox by raising $75,701 since Jan. 1, or $66,901 for the latest period. The campaign reported expenditures at $45,000 and cash-on-hand at $313,900. 

Currently in office, “Assemblyman Lackey is just out working to make sure his constituents are being safe and healthy. This is not the time to campaign,” said Matt Rexroad with his campaign. 

Fox earned a total of $6,652 since Jan. 1 and $1,224 from Jan. 19 through Feb. 15. A total of $500 in expenditures and $1,400 in cash-on-hand was reported. 

Lackey led the March primary with 50% in Los Angeles County, 68% in San Bernardino County and 63% in Kern County. 

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