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Atkins-Block Race Will Test Loyalty Of Longtime Donors

Toni Atkins, left, and Marty Block, right, are pictured.

Credit: Courtesy Photos

Above: Toni Atkins, left, and Marty Block, right, are pictured.

State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins' primary challenge to state Sen. Marty Block is putting the pressure on donors who have previously been loyal to both candidates.

State Sen. Marty Block and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will be fighting for the same voters next June, but they’re fighting for the same donors right now.

The two Democrats, who are facing off over Block’s senate seat, have shared plenty of donors over the years, according to an inewsource analysis of campaign finance data.

At least 27.6 percent of the money Block has raised in itemized contributions (those donations for which individual contributor information must be disclosed) has come from donors who have also given to Atkins.

Atkins, who is prevented from seeking another term in the state Assembly due to term limits, is even more reliant on shared contributors: 43.2 percent of the money the speaker has raised has come from donors who have also given to Block.

“If it were a private company doing something like that, it’d be called bait-and-switch.”—State Sen. Marty Block

The analysis covers campaign contributions from Block’s first run for state Assembly in 2008 and Atkins’ first run in 2010 through June 30 of this year.

The senator said he expected many of the donors he shares with Atkins to rally around him in this current race.

Why?

“A lot of those overlapping donors – many who are loyal to me – gave to her 2020 account and were kind of misled not thinking she’d be running against me in 2016. So, it was not a bad strategy on her part,” Block said, referencing a campaign account Atkins set up in preparation for an expected run to succeed Block when he is termed out in 2020. “I’m sure it was effective at getting people who overlapped to give her money, thinking we were not running against each other.”

Block's Top Shared Donors (through June 30, 2015)

Donor Contributions to Block Contributions to Atkins Rank Among Atkins Donors
California Teachers Association $45,600.00 $35,600.00 6
Service Employees International Union Local 1000 $45,600.00 $16,400.00 35
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California $43,000.00 $46,400.00 3
Faculty for our University's Future (California Faculty Association) $41,600.00 $17,900.00 31
California State Council of Laborers PAC $41,200.00 $28,100.00 10

Source: California Secretary of State

When asked whether he believed it was deceptive of Atkins to open a 2020 account for eventual use in a 2016 run against him, Block replied:

“I think your listeners can decide that for themselves. If it were a private company doing something like that, it’d be called bait-and-switch.”

In a written statement, Atkins pushed back.

“This isn't about money, no matter what Marty says. He can boast about the money he is going to raise all he wants, but it really comes down to who the voters want to represent them — and I'll gladly match my record of fighting for San Diego against his,” she said. “It's amusing that Marty speaks of a ‘bait-and-switch’ — because that’s exactly what he did by telling me he wouldn't run for re-election four years ago.”

The speaker has claimed that she passed on running for the seat in 2012 because Block had promised to only serve one term. Block denies making any such promise.

Fishing in the same pond

Block will need to secure the support of those donors soon. He badly trails Atkins in available cash-on-hand.

As of June 30, Atkins had more than $610,000 in her 2020 campaign committee — all of which she can use in her run against Block, who had just under $80,000. Atkins also has more than $920,000 left over from her 2014 campaign — a portion of which she can transfer to this race.

Block said he wasn’t fundraising earlier in the year because he didn’t know Atkins would challenge him.

“They’re largely fishing not only in the same pond but in the same favored fishing spot in the same pond.”—Professor Carl Luna

“The 80 figure is from July 1 and that was well before I knew I had a (competitive) campaign,” Block said, predicting he’d raise “a million dollars and more for this race.”

Block raised nearly $900,000 for his 2012 Senate run (a race in which he won more than 58 percent of the vote).

Carl Luna, a professor of political science at San Diego Mesa College, said the overlap in the candidates’ donor pools comes primarily from the organized interest groups that have long been generous givers to Democrats.

“They’re largely fishing not only in the same pond but in the same favored fishing spot in the same pond,” Luna said. “It’s where Democrats statewide go to get their core money and then they raise their additional monies. They’re looking at labor unions. They’re looking at high-end business donors and then they have their own networks.”

Of the donors Block shares with Atkins, the five largest are labor unions. Of the donors Atkins shares with Block, three of her five largest are unions.

Atkins' Top Shared Donors (through June 30, 2015)

Donor Contributions to Atkins Contributions to Block Rank Among Block Donors
California Dental PAC