Though the 2010 governor's race is still three years away, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, has deposited almost $1 million into an independent expenditure campaign encouraging his long-time friend and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell to run for governor.
O'Connell, a Democrat, has served as the state's elected schools chief since 2002, and has publicly flirted with running for governor, but has not announced his candidacy. He is termed out of his current office in 2010.
The infusion of campaign cash from Hastings presumably is an effort to pump up O'Connell's public profile, as the state's schools chief would likely have to beat out better known potential Democratic candidates in a primary, such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Jerry Brown or losing 2006 Democratic candidates Steve Westly or Phil Angelides.
"Jack and Reed have a long history together," said O'Connell political adviser Mollie Culver of the donation. "A lot of Jack's supporters have encouraged him to look at all of his options, including running for governor."
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Culver noted that fundraising is "always a major challenge and it is very nice to have such friends encouraging him."
The money from Hastings, a former member of the state board of education, would have to be spent independently of any official O'Connell for governor campaign - if he even runs - due to California campaign law, which limits the amount a donor can give directly to a candidate for governor to $22,300.
Hastings reported the $992,220 donation to the "O'Connell Leadership 2010" account late Monday afternoon.
O'Connell could not immediately be reached for comment as he was teaching in Los Angeles.