After a dizzying array of high-profile endorsements for 18th Assembly District candidate Rob Bonta in recent weeks, the campaign of his fellow Democratic opponent Abel Guillen is attempting to reverse its fortunes this week with the news of Bonta’s $147,000 in unpaid campaign bills. Campaign finance reports released this week reveal that despite outgaining Guillen in fundraising totals during the late spring reporting period in May and June, Bonta has racked up unpaid bills of more than $70,000 and nearly doubled its total debt over the course of the entire campaign cycle. A majority of the unpaid bills are owed to Bonta’s Sacramento-based campaign consultant Duffy & Capitolo.
Bonta, vice mayor of Alameda, raised $69,318 in campaign contributions during the period ending June 30, while spending $150,268 and holding $131,439 in cash on hand, according to the reports. Guillen, a Peralta Community Colleges trustee, reported receiving $43,874 with $58,327 in expenditures and $23,605 in cash remaining.
Guillen’s campaign was quick to point out its opponent’s ballooning unpaid bills. “Rob Bonta earned a gold star for edging out Abel Guillen in the latest fundraising report,” said Pat Dennis, a spokesperson for the Guillen campaign, “but he deserves a gold medal for racking up a record breaking debt of over $147,000 going into the general election, a feat no serious candidate for Assembly has accomplished in recent memory.”
Last month, Bonta outmaneuvered Guillen in gaining the exclusive endorsement of the state Democratic Party even though he gained the vote of just a single member of the local 18th Assembly District Central Committee. Democrats, some from Southern California, pushed Bonta over the 60 percent threshold for endorsing state candidates. A few days later, Bonta won the pivotal backing of progressive leader and current Assemblyman Sandre Swanson. In addition, last week, Bonta grabbed a share of the California Nurses Association’s endorsement. In January, the labor union had given its support solely to Guillen.
The impressive number of endorsement has fostered a perception in the district that party leaders in Sacramento and labor groups have begun to rally around Bonta. Campaign finance reports appear to lend credence to that assumption. The campaign committee for Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s 2014 run for the state Board of Equalization recently gave $3,900 to Bonta, along with $1,500 from Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. Bonta’s campaign also transferred campaign donations to current lawmakers, albeit, in much smaller amounts. He donated $500 to Assembly Speaker John Perez’s campaign, $250 to South Bay Assemblyman Paul Fong and another $250 to Swanson’s state senate committee for 2016.
Bonta’s support among public safety employee unions has been crucial to his rise to the Alameda City Council and possibly beyond. The all-important Oakland Police Officers Association contributed $7,800 last June, according to campaign finance reports, along with an additional $3,900 from the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, which has donated $11,700 to Bonta’s campaign.
The strength of Guillen’s campaign going in the primary was perceived to be his backing from the nurses and teachers’ unions. CNA upped its contributions to $15,600 with a $7,800 donation in early June. However, with news of the union’s split endorsement, that advantage may now be negligible with the election less than one hundred days away.