Capitol Alert

Campaign debt piling up for California legislative candidates

Then-Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, speaks to colleagues in 2011. Portantino, who is running for state Senate, listed $335,000 in oustanding debt in his most recent campaign filing.
Then-Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, speaks to colleagues in 2011. Portantino, who is running for state Senate, listed $335,000 in oustanding debt in his most recent campaign filing. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Candidates for the California Legislature are running into the red as they enter the campaign home stretch for the Nov. 8 election.

Recently filed reports with the state show that campaign committees of candidates for the state Assembly and state Senate reported more than $4.6 million in outstanding debt as of Sept. 24. That is about one-third higher than the outstanding debt listed at the end of June.

Former lawmaker Anthony Portantino, a Democrat running for Southern California’s 25th Senate District against longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, last week reported more than $335,000 in outstanding debt. The debt, the most of any November candidates, reflects hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills to ad buyers, printers, credit card companies and others as of Sept. 24, according to his filing.

Click here to go to The Money Trail.


Campaign committees of Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, an embattled Rancho Cucamonga Republican, listed $191,000 in total outstanding debt as of Sept. 24. Much of that reflects personal loans by Steinorth to past campaigns for city council, with some Assembly GOP colleagues loaning the Rancho Cucamong Republican money for his re-election effort.

Campaigns run up debt for different reasons. Many candidates loan their campaigns money to signal commitment to a race and attract other donations. And as an election nears, candidates sometimes cannot raise money fast enough to stay competitive, so some political businesses will take IOU’s. Those come with an understanding that a candidate will settle up after the election – a task made immeasurably easier by winning and having the ability to tap donors as a sitting officeholder.

Notwithstanding the debt load, Assembly and Senate candidates still had $39.2 million in the bank for the final six weeks of campaigning in their own races or sharing with more vulnerable colleagues. Democrats hope to gain seats and secure two-thirds majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

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