Why deep-pocketed charter school advocates are pouring money into the governor’s race to support Villaraigosa

By Casey Tolan, Bay Area News Group

Get ready, California voters: A deluge of political TV ads is headed your way as candidates scramble for position in a crowded primary election and deep-pocketed donors rush to prop them up.

Millions of dollars have poured into the campaign for governor in recent weeks, kicking the race into high gear with a month and a half until the June 5 primary. It’s a sign of the increasingly competitive fight for second place behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — a struggle for political survival, as only the top two candidates will advance to the general election.

“It’s about to start raining down ads,” said Rob Stutzman, a GOP strategist in Sacramento. “I’m a little surprised it hasn’t begun earlier.”

The first drops fell Thursday as a pro-charter school committee hit the airwaves with a new ad backing former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Several prominent charter school supporters — Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan — have funneled a combined $9.5 million into the committee over the last week and a half.

That’s more than Villaraigosa’s campaign raised in all of 2016 and 2017, and helps cut down the $13.6 million financial advantage Newsom held over Villaraigosa at the end of 2017. The committee is run by the advocacy branch of the California Charter Schools Association, a pro-charter group. It can accept unlimited donations but can’t coordinate with Villaraigosa’s campaign.

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