Legislative candidates, ballot measure campaigns and independent groups spent at least $680.8 million during California’s 2016 election cycle, according to recently filed state disclosures.
The total, based on end-of-year reports by dozens of candidate-controlled and ballot measure campaign committees, as well as hundreds of filings by outside spending groups, exceeds the estimated $420 million in total spending in state contests during 2013-14. That cycle featured eight ballot measures, less than half of the 17 on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Both estimates exclude payments to other campaign accounts, as well as transfers between accounts controlled by the same candidates, to minimize double-counting.
The total also does not include activities by Republican and Democratic party committees, which pay for voter registration, get-out-the-vote and other expenses not directly tied to candidate and ballot-measure campaigns. And it does not count spending in federal races.
The main campaigns for or against the 17 measures on the Nov. 8 ballot, along with several other involved committees, reported almost $485 million in total spending through Dec. 31.
In addition, all 80 Assembly districts and 20 state Senate districts were on the ballot last year. The cycle also featured several special elections to fill vacancies in both houses.
The highest-spending Nov. 8 legislative campaign was that of Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, whose campaign committees reported almost $4 million in itemized expenditures to win back the Torrance-area seat he carried in 2012 but lost two years later. The second highest was Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, whose campaign reported almost $3.1 million in itemized expenditures, records show.
The top-spending Republican campaign was that of former Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Manhattan Beach, who reported $2.5 million in itemized payments for his rematch with Muratsuchi.
Outside groups were active in both contests as well as many others, spending more than $83 million during the cycle.
The most expensive legislative contest involved the special elections to fill the state Senate seat of former state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who went to Congress. Total spending in the special primary and special general elections for the San Francisco East Bay district topped $12.1 million, with more than $9.6 million worth of TV ads, mailers and other advocacy by outside groups. State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, won that contest and re-election in November.