SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS/AP) — Just as the race for governor of California heats up, a coalition of labor groups is cooling its $8.6 million drive to stave off Meg Whitman’s challenge to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.
Officials with California Working Families for Jerry Brown said they have accomplished their goal — ensuring that Brown did not lose ground in the polls over the summer while Republican candidate Whitman ran her own aggressive ad campaign.
Whitman, a billionaire, has spent $104 million of her own money so far.
KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman on California Race for Governor
The labor groups were concerned that Brown’s absence from the airwaves would leave him far behind Whitman, said Bob Balgenorth, president of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California.
Polls show the candidates statistically tied. Balgenorth said Brown’s supporters did not want a repeat of the 2006 governor’s race, when Democratic nominee Phil Angelides survived an expensive and bruising primary only to start the general election campaign with little money.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign went on the air immediately after the June primary with negative ads targeting Angelides, crippling the Democratic candidate from the beginning.
“We knew that we were going to be massively outspent, and we had to be smart about our advertising and online efforts,” said Lou Paulson, president of the California Professional Firefighters. “Meg failed to build a lead, but her negatives have gone through the roof and Jerry Brown is well-positioned for the fall campaign.”
Brown, who had $23 million cash on hand at the end of the last reporting period in June, has said his campaign will ramp up starting with the Labor Day weekend.
KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman on Race for California Governor (Pt. 2)
The Whitman campaign has criticized Brown all summer for relying on the labor groups, which must act independently of Brown’s own strategists. Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera said Wednesday that the group’s suspension of advertising at the same time Brown is gearing up his campaign suggests the two were coordinating activities.
Whitman has accused Brown of being in the pocket of public employee labor unions and would advocate on their behalf if elected.
“I would ask what does this kind of coordination get the unions?” she said.
Beginning in June, the labor coalition ran a series of four advertisements on cable television and posted banners and online videos on the Internet, said campaign director Courtni Pugh, an official with Service Employees International Union California.
The coalition’s final ad criticizing Whitman’s tenure as chief executive of eBay will come off the air Friday. Its senior
strategist, Larry Grisolano, said the coalition will continue but will have a much lower profile, keeping its options open.
Rivera said Whitman is comfortable with her position heading into Labor Day, the traditional start of the fall campaigns.
(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)