Capitol Alert

In California campaigns, biggest beneficiaries of outside spending won more than they lost

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson greets supporters during an election night watch party at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson greets supporters during an election night watch party at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Aseng@sacbee.com

About seven in 10 California candidates getting the most outside financial help from independent expenditure committees in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election ended up winning their races.

The committees pumped more than $50 million worth of TV ads, mailers and other advocacy efforts into legislative and statewide contests on this week’s ballot, according to state filings through Wednesday. The campaign for state superintendent of public instruction featured the most independent expenditures, $15.8 million, followed by Orange County’s 34th Senate District ($4.9 million); Sacramento’s 6th Senate District ($3.7 million); and the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District ($2.9 million).

The candidates in those races who had the most help from outside groups – spending that either supported them or criticized their opponent – won one-half of the time. The success rate was higher among the other 16 contests (see chart below) with the most outside spending.

There were some notable exceptions. Schools executive Marshall Tuck, who lost his challenge of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, had $10.2 million in outside help. And in the bitter Republican-vs.-Republican campaign in Riverside County’s 28th Senate District, virtually all of the $2 million in independent expenditures either supported former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia or pounded on her rival, county Supervisor Jeff Stone. Stone defeated Garcia by seven percentage points.

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

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