Independent groups have spent more than $12 million to influence the outcome of tomorrow's primary contests for state legislative seats, campaign finance filings show.
The figure exceeds spending on state legislative races in the 2010 primary, when the Fair Political Practices Commission tracked more than $7 million in independent expenditures for those contests. The independent committees, which are prohibited from coordinating with the candidate's campaign, can raise and spend unlimited amounts.
Spending by outside groups has surged since voters approved contribution limits for candidate campaigns in 2000. This year's flurry of independent expenditures comes as the state readies for the first run through of a new top-two primary system, which puts candidates of all political leanings on the same primary ballot and sends the two who get the most votes to a November runoff. That process and new political district maps, which were drawn by an independent panel, resulted in more competitive races. Independent groups are already active in more than 50 of the 100 legislative races up for grabs this year.
The battle for the 46th Assembly District, an open, safe Democratic seta in the San Fernando Valley, has attracted the most cash. Outside groups have reported spent $2.03 million so far, mostly to support or oppose charter school executive Brian Johnson in the crowded contest. Johnson's supporters, which include EdVoice and former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst education advocacy group, have spent more than $1.35 million to boost his bid, while the California Teachers Association reported dropping $467,543 to oppose his candidacy.
Spending in the open 69th Assembly District has also exceeded $1 million so far. Five candidates are running to succeed termed-out Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, in that Southern California seat. Much of the spending there has come from labor committees backing Democrat Julio Perez and business groups supporting moderate Democrat Tom Daly.
All independent expenditures of $1,000 or more must be reported online via the secretary of state website within 24 hours. Here is a list of the races that have attracted the most spending as of this morning.