While political campaigns seemingly start earlier and earlier each election, fundraising is almost a non-stop function for most candidates seeking office.
Specific values for state races are hard to calculate and many campaigns’ publicly accessible numbers aren’t always immediately accurate, according to the candidates, as most donations under $5,000 and some late-file donations are not immediately listed on the California Secretary of State’s campaign finance page.
The Secretary of State’s campaign finance page is from a semi-annual calculation based on 24-hour reports of donations over $5,000 and is not inclusive of everything raised prior to when those reports were required.
According to the candidates, however, the numbers on the Secretary of State’s report are not nearly as much as they’ve raised.
The race for the 23rd Senate District now features two non-incumbent candidates since long-time incumbent Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, is being termed out. Wilk previously represented the 21st Senate District — the spiritual predecessor to the 23rd District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley.
Kipp Mueller, the Democratic candidate, and former Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, the Republican candidate, are the two highest-profile candidates now vying for Wilk’s seat — with Republican DJ Hamburger also throwing his hat in the ring.
Mueller is a civil rights and labor attorney who resides in Canyon Country. Mueller previously ran against Wilk in 2020 but lost in a tight race and is hoping to turn the seat blue for the first time.
According to a statement from his office on Thursday, Mueller raised more than $280,000 from more than 650 donations — which includes a $5,500 donation earlier this year from the campaign of Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, whose Assembly district includes most of the SCV.
“As a labor and civil rights attorney, Mueller represents working families, going toe-to-toe against both large corporations and the government,” read the statement from Mueller’s campaign. “He’s running because this district is known as the Forgotten District.”
Mueller’s largest donations, according to the Secretary of State, are from SEIU United Healthcare Workers West PAC and the California State Council of Service Employees — both of which were donations of $10,900 each.
Valladares also released a statement on Thursday — stating that her campaign has raised nearly $272,000. Valladares announced her candidacy in February, shortly after losing her state Assembly seat to Schiavo by 522 votes in November. Valladares’ total includes two $5,500 donations from the campaign accounts of Wilk and Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City.
“I feel blessed and thankful for the support from this district, region and state,” Valladares said in her release. “Add to that the endorsements our campaign is receiving from local leaders in the Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley and Victor Valleys … I’m energized to keep the momentum. I know Republicans can hold this seat.”
Valladares’ highest donation amount was $5,500 — which came from several donors, according to the Secretary of State.
Hamburger released a statement on Friday saying his campaign had raised nearly $6,116 since he announced his candidacy two weeks ago. Hamburger is a high school French teacher who also serves in the Army National Gaurd as a battalion staff officer.
“I feel blessed and invigorated by the support from this district, region, state and friends across the country whom I served with in our armed forces. Add to that the endorsements our campaign is receiving from local community groups,” read a statement from his campaign. “In the two weeks since launching this campaign, we have won the Antelope Valley Republican Assembly straw poll and saw the support our campaign has at the Fourth of July parade in Santa Clarita. I am energized to keep this momentum going. I know a Republican will hold this seat.”
Schiavo also announced fundraising totals on Thursday, stating that her 2024 campaign has raised over $400,000.
Schiavo’s only current challenger for the 40th Assembly District is Jason Aula, whose finance reports were not available on the Secretary of State’s website.