At a maximum price of $6,250, candidate statements in voter information guides are a rare bargain in California campaigns.
Could the statements – or lack thereof – also have made a difference in last month’s tight race for controller?
Board of Equalization member Betty Yee was the only one of three Democrats in the six-person field to have a statement in the June 3 guide, which went out to 10.6 million voter households. She finished in second, 481 votes ahead of Assemblyman John A. Pérez, a former Assembly speaker who significantly outraised Yee but did not have a candidate statement. Pérez is seeking a full or partial hand recount in 15 counties.
The voter guide statements are meant to encourage candidates to comply with voluntary spending limits set by Proposition 34, a 2000 campaign-finance ballot measure. To be eligible to purchase a statement, controller’s candidates had to agree to spend no more than $5.44 million in the primary. Yee agreed to the limits but Pérez did not.
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Pérez’s primary spending, though, seems likely to be well below $5.44 million. Through Tuesday, Pérez’s controller committee had raised more than $2.2 million since January 2013. It had spent about $1 million through May 17.
Yee consultant Parke Skelton said Wednesday he was “stunned” when he learned that Pérez would not have a candidate statement. Yee’s 248-word voter guide statement noted several endorsements and called her “extraordinarily well qualified and a recognized expert in state budgets and fiscal policy.”
“Of course in a race this close you can look to any number of factors that could have made the difference. And a lot of things are beyond your control,” Skelton said in an e-mail. “But I definitely believe a candidate statement is worth 481 votes.
Asked if it was a mistake for Pérez to lack a candidate statement, campaign adviser Douglas Herman e-mailed, “No.”
Pérez wasn’t the only major-party contender to pass on a candidate statement. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, also did not accept spending limits. Swearengin finished first with 24.8 percent of the vote, but was outpolled in many places by Republican David Evans, a California City accountant who spent $600 and had a voter guide statement that said simply, “Most qualified for Controller.”