With the oil industry funneling millions into campaigns for moderate candidates in Democrat-on-Democrat battles in three districts, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is stepping up to boost a more liberal incumbent.
Steyer reported $500,000 in independent expenditures in support of Jim Beall’s re-election campaign in the 15th Senate District on Thursday. Meanwhile, an independent expenditure committee funded by Chevron and Valero has spent nearly $340,000 supporting Beall’s opponent, Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose.
“Oil companies are spending tons of money against Senator Jim Beall because he puts clean air and the health of California families before the profits of corporate polluters,” Steyer said in a statement. “Senator Beall is a principled leader with a commitment to doing what’s right for his community, and that’s why he has our strong support. If we want our leaders to stand up to powerful interests and do right by our families, we can’t allow Big Oil to bully them into silence.”
Steyer intends to use the funds for radio advertisements launching soon to support Beall and plans to monitor other races with heavy oil spending.
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Incumbent Democrats are being challenged in re-election bids in several districts this year. Capitol insiders say the oil industry is trying to push out liberal Democrats who supported Senate Bill 350 and other climate change legislation passed last year.
Campos responded on Friday, saying Beall’s campaign is a way for Steyer “to purchase a new toy and experiment with his theories.”
“To the thousands of residents who call Senate District 15 home, this campaign is about basic issues like jobs, healthcare, and the opportunity to receive a quality education,” she said in a statement. “We didn’t all start at Phillips Exeter Academy.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with Campos statement at 2:45 p.m. on May 20, 2016.