The fundraising race for one of the more hotly contested seats in California’s March 5 Primary Election is heating up with less than six weeks to go until Election Day.
There were two candidates for the 23rd Senate District who had all of their campaign-finance paperwork in by the most recent deadline last week, which indicated the leading candidates for the two biggest parties were neck and neck from the results of their fundraising efforts for the past 12 months.
Combined, the two raised more than $1 million.
Republican Suzette Martinez Valladares is trailing Democrat Kipp Mueller by about $3,000 as of the end of 2023, with Mueller reporting $557,046 versus $553,987 for Valladares, for the period ending Dec. 31 on their Form 460s.
Valladares also outspent Mueller by a little over $100,000 during that same time period, ($299,336 to 197,787).
The candidates also had to file what they’ve raised in the first 20 days of the year, which indicated that Mueller, a labor and civil rights attorney, raised $23,663, while Valladares raised $11,100. The differences in fundraising and spending left Mueller with about $150,000 more in the bank as of Jan. 20.
Mueller said he’s heard from the district on the problems its residents want addressed in Sacramento.
“We’ve been immersed in the community and getting a lot of positive feedback,” Mueller wrote in a statement emailed by campaign spokeswoman Lindsay Bubar. “It’s clear that our district is ready for a state senator who will deliver on addressing our cost-of-living struggles, housing affordability, homelessness and more.”
Valladares, a former member of the state Assembly, said her local fundraising stands as evidence of the support for her priorities she has from residents in the 23rd, and took a shot at her biggest opponent.
“Our region is ready to have me fight for change — lower taxes, tougher public safety laws and do battle with Gavin Newsom on his policies that have hurt California families and workers,” Valladares wrote in a statement emailed by campaign spokesman Tim Rosales. “What we don’t need is a Newsom puppet like Kipp Mueller, who is supported by far-left special interests, and will just rubber stamp more failure.”
D.J. Hamburger, an educator and battalion staff officer in the Army National Guard, also is running as a Republican.
His campaign did not have a Form 460 on file for the period ending Dec. 31. The information available indicated he had about $59,200 raised by the end of September, with the lion’s share, about $52,000, coming from loans.
Hamburger said reconnecting Sacramento with reality would be a priority for him if he’s elected.
“Our neighbors are exhausted from the parade of perennial candidates seeking political fame instead of servants trying to fix our problems,” Hamburger wrote Tuesday in an email. “And everyone that has signed up to help out on VoteHamburger.com have invigorated me to keep fighting for our valley.”
Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, is terming out in December after serving two terms in the Assembly and two in the Senate.
The district Wilk was elected to represent has skewed slightly left in registration numbers since November 2020 due to redistricting from the 2020 Census.
Based on the last voter-registration report from before the 2020 election to the 60-day report released Jan. 5 ahead of Election Day, the 23rd Senate District has about 27,000 more registered voters than the 21st Senate District Wilk was elected to represent in 2020.
There are about 7,000 more Democrats and about 1,700 more Republicans in the 2024 report, putting the difference in registration between the two parties now at 40.3% to 30.17% with two months left.
Registered independent and Green Party voters also saw their numbers grow over the past four years — independent voters increased by about 5,700 while the Green Party gained about 600 voters.
But registration isn’t everything. Despite the Democratic Party having more than an 8-point advantage in registration numbers for the 2020 election, Wilk won by a little over 6,000 votes against Mueller, 199,342 votes to 193,202.