There’s still some June 7 Primary Election money coming after all. Not as much as media outlets hoped for, had Republicans been going at it all the way to a contested convention, but the tap has been opened by U.S. Senate Candidate Kamala Harris.

Before Donald J. Trump became the “presumptive nominee” for Republicans, media people across California were licking their chops over expected truckloads of money from the GOP candidates and supporting groups.

The expectation was that Cruz, Kasich and of course Trump would do something we hadn’t seen here in 40 years: They would pay attention to the Golden State and shower advertising moolah on us ala El Nino.

When The Donald won Indiana everything changed in an instant. Cruz and Kasich stepped aside and despite some disgruntled Republicans who are talking a “third party” candidate, the sound we hear most is footsteps of former anti-Trumpians running to the bandwagon, throwing themselves on the lets-go-with-a-winner pile.

All those visions of Presidential PAC money pouring into our state were just hopes and dreams. And due to a little known or remembered law from just a few years ago that pushed most all propositions from the primary to the General Election in November (when we may have as many as 18 statewide propositions to consider), it’s slimmer pickins this round.

At the end of the first quarter of 2016, California Attorney General Kamala Harris had $5 million or so in the Senate campaign war chest. Her fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez gathered about $2.3 million.  The three Republican candidates, Tom Del Beccaro, Duf Sundheim and Ron Unz had comparatively very little.  

Who?  That’s just the point. It’s all about name recognition in politics. Harris and Sanchez are known in politics but not overall, so as their ads roll out first and foremost the message will be ala “Hi, my name is..” and “Please remember me”.

Even before the start of her TV spots, Ms. Harris had also burned through lots of money inside her campaign, including heaping $600,000 on some 19 campaign consultants by the end of 2015. She has also been getting some heat about other alleged extravagant spending on the campaign.

Then there’s the topic of whether there are conflicts of interest on issues like the probe of the San Onofre shutdown. Critics like former San Diego City Attorney (and Democrat) Mike Aguirre contend Harris has been less than forthcoming with answers. Others suggest she is trying to protect other California Democrat leaders by ignoring the questions.

There’s also the charge that Harris is too cozy with Planned Parenthood in the investigation of the people behind the controversial videos about the organization.

Meanwhile if any story is too hot and gets in the way of the Senate campaign, the candidate or her office staff can simply say “We don’t comment on a continuing investigation” and try to move on. 

Kamala Harris also has the power of her pulpit, able to create news as she does her day job. It’s a bully pulpit, indeed, making it easier to change the subject. She did that today issuing a consumer alert about some mortgage loan scams.

Still, most everyday Californians don’t know who she is, nor do they recall names of the competitors, though Ms. Sanchez has been in the public spotlight for years in Congress (and was famous for knocking ol’ “B-1 Bob Dornan” out of Congress).

So for now until June 7, you’ll be seeing a lot of the photogenic Harris on broadcast TV and cable channels. The message will be similar as it was when she ran for Attorney General wayyyyy back in, when was it? Oh yes … way back in 2014. That race was not because she loved the AG spot not as a career but as a stepping stone to the U.S. Senate.  Barbara Boxer’s earlier than expected, self-imposed retirement kicked all into high gear.

In the first round of the new Harris TV ads the star is Elizabeth Warren. Harris supported Warren in her own Senate race. Some of the consultants who worked for the Massachusetts politico in her upset win over Republican Scott Brown are on Team Harris today.

In the commercials there is also the predictable litany of how Harris “took on predators and gangs”, helping to save “women and children,” and how she “sued the big banks” and money went to consumers. In the ads, Warren simply says Kamala Harris is “fearless”.

Not too long ago, the idea of using a too far left or right personality endorsement would have been avoided by candidates. It became an art form, trying to avoid sounding like a Republican or Democrat.

But in this zany political year, the era of Trump … and Sanders … and an increasingly left wing Hillary Clinton, it says a lot about where California is today … and where it’s going.

The bigger question? Are people really paying attention?

It’s only just begun.






Categories: Political Analyst Mark Larson