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California Interest Groups Offer Frank Lesson To Candidates

Ben Bradford

Ben Bradford

More than 30 candidates for California offices sat with pen and paper, as a panel of major political fundraisers discussed, bluntly, how to curry favor, seek endorsements, and receive campaign contributions.

The all-day forum put on by the Leadership California Institute in Sacramento included meetings with former legislative leaders and advice about how to talk to media. Institute president Paula Treat says money is part of the process.

"We’re trying to explain to [the candidates] this is how you would approach them with honesty, integrity, not lying," says Treat.

"I think this was a very frank conversation they gave us to be able to raise some money from the PACs [political action committees]," says Stanislaus County Assembly candidate Cindy Marks, a Republican. "Money is a big factor."

"Learning kind of the dos and don’ts, just that insight is invaluable," says Riverside Assembly candidate Sabrina Cervantes, a Democrat.

Here are some of the highlights:

Moderator Mike Madrid, a political consultant with GrassrootsLab, which runs the Leadership California Institute, started things off by emphasizing the importance of the panel and their organizations.

"These five people, politically, know your district, not only better than you, but better than your consultant," Madrid explained to the group of potential candidates. "Their whole life is looking at and reading the data, the metrics, the outcome, the voter turnout, the partisan breaks, the electoral histories, not just this cycle, not the last two cycles, probably for 15-20 years."


Alma Hernandez with Service Employees International Union said answering questions honestly is the best policy.

"If you don't know - say you don't know," Hernandez said. "If you're charter schools, or not, or collective bargaining agreements or not. Tell us. We will find out. We go through your press. We know what you've said to other folks."

"It's  just a common courtesy, don't lie."


Continuing that thought, Hernandez said she wouldn't want to run for office because of the extensive reports they run on the candidates.

"We know why you got divorced, when, if you got a traffic violation when you were 16 - it's pretty amazing," Hernandez said.


She urged attendees to not take money from one group and then vote against them. Hernandez also advised candidates to keep nagging groups for money - it's their job.


Laiza Garcia with the California Association of Realtors said candidates will probably not have to go negative during a campaign - leave it to third parties.


Carlos Marquez, with California Charter School Association, was asked about filling out questionnaires to receive an endorsement from PACs even if a candidate won't realistically get endorsed.

"Try to make the time. You're going to have to learn about these issues as some point. We try to use our questionnaire as a tool for both instruction and evaluation. We put a lot of time into the questionnaire."


Janus Norman with the California Medical Association said candidates should always meet with PACs, even if they don't agree with every point of a PACs agenda.

"Tactically speaking not having conversations with people doesn't make any sense. The level of which you invest going after their endorsement is a resource question you have to figure out. But not having a conversation just tells people 'people come and make sure I never get to Sacramento,'" said Norman.


Norman explains the importance of a candidate's "win number," how much money or votes they need to win.

"If you want to impress me, know your win number."

Ben Bradford

Former State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covered California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio 

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