Capitol Alert

Swearengin attacked by labor group in California controller’s race

Republican candidate for California controller, Ashley Swearengin, stands on stage at the California GOP convention on Sept. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles.
Republican candidate for California controller, Ashley Swearengin, stands on stage at the California GOP convention on Sept. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Associated Press

A labor-backed independent expenditure committee has started sending out mailers criticizing Ashley Swearengin, the Republican candidate for California controller in a sign that the contest has tightened leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

Million More Voters, sponsored by the California Labor Federation, reported Monday spending $271,000 against Swearengin, the Fresno mayor running against Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat.

Swearengin, viewed in some circles as the Republican with the best chance of winning statewide, lagged well behind Yee in a September poll. Yee has raised significantly more than Swearengin, reporting $840,000 in contributions since Aug. 1 to Swearengin’s $487,000. So far there has been no pro-Republican independent spending of the kind that marked past controller’s races.

Labor federation spokesman Steve Smith downplayed any union concerns that Swearengin was pulling ahead. The Million More Voters mailer, he said, criticizes Swearengin’s record in Fresno and encourages people to vote.

“I think if you look at where the polls have been … it’s pretty clear that Betty Yee is doing well in that race,” Smith said. “But we want to make sure that voters participate in this process and get out to the polls.”

Swearengin consultant Tim Clark said he has not seen the mailer yet. “Not surprising that the defenders of the status quo are concerned that Yee may not win,” Clark said in an email.

A federation-sponsored group has also done independent spending in the secretary of state’s race. In that case, though, the money supports Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles. Padilla’s opponent is Republican Pete Peterson, director of the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.

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