A new independent expenditure committee formed Friday to help push Antonio Villaraigosa into the fall runoff for California governor.
Veterans of campaigns for President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton formed the Villaraigosa Governor of California 2018 Super PAC. Its launch comes as public polls show Villaraigosa holding onto second place in the June primary, trailing fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom.
Under California’s election system, the top-two primary finishers, regardless of their party, advance to a rematch in November.
While it’s unclear how much the pro-Villaraigosa committee hopes to raise, a source familiar with the group’s plans said its leaders will draw from a swath of donors who got to know the former Los Angeles mayor while he served as chairman of the Democratic National Convention in 2012, and through his turn as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Such committees can accept unlimited contributions but are barred from coordinating with Villaraigosa’s campaign.
The committee’s TV and digital media effort is led by SKDKnickerbocker’s Bill Burton, a top Obama campaign spokesman and deputy press secretary in the White House who went on to run the pro-Obama Priorities USA Super PAC.
Amy Levin, with Obama and Clinton alum Joel Benenson’s Benenson Strategy Group, is handling polling and Tracy Austin, a veteran of Newsom’s campaigns, is working on fundraising.
Michael Trujillo, a Democratic strategist who has worked with Villaraigosa for nearly two decades, is serving as a senior strategist to the committee.
Two outside committees are raising money to boost Newsom’s chances in the race. One is led by former Newsom aide Peter Ragone and another by the California Nurses Association.