Uber, landlords, UC employees and dentists spending millions in ad battle for East Bay state Senate seat

More than $4 million in outside money has already been spent in the race for the District 7 state Senate seat representing the East Bay, making it the most expensive Senate race in the state so far this year.

First the money came from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, representing 30,000 service workers in the University of California system. The union formed an independent committee to support its past president, Kathryn Lybarger, and backed it up with nearly $2 million, along with some cash from other labor groups. That committee has spent at least $1.9 million so far blanketing local stations with TV ads.

Lybarger’s own committee, with a fraction of the cash, is running digital ads.

The television ads were an early boon for a relatively unknown candidate up against several longtime East Bay politicians in the race, including Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, former Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles and Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb.

But now ads opposing Lybarger, and supporting Arreguín are hitting local airwaves, funded and sponsored to the tune of over $1 million by Uber, the ride-hailing app giant. And another group called “Housing Providers for Responsible Solutions,” has also put their money in the race, opposing Lybarger and supporting Arreguín.

These “independent expenditure committees,” similar to PACs, are allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money and spend it on whichever candidates they like — so long as they do not coordinate with the candidates’ committees, which are limited to contributions of up to $900.

Lybarger, who served as immediate past president of her union, said that she has not been involved in her union’s decisions on campaign spending or endorsements.

“I’m honored that medical assistants, x-ray techs, cooks and janitors have the belief in me to do this work in the state Senate, enough to put their hard-earned dues to help me get elected,” she said in an interview.

This isn’t the first time that AFSCME has spent big in support of a state Senate race. In 2022, the union spent more than $1 million to help Hayward City Councilmember Aisha Wahab win the District 10 Senate seat over Fremont Mayor Lily Mei. The spending in that race — $7.7 million — made it the most expensive state Senate race in the area’s history.

In January, the California Dental Association spent $160,000 on mailers for Arreguín’s campaign. In a statement, the CDA told this news organization they support candidates committed to “solving the challenges experienced by the dental profession and their patients.”

Arreguìn, who said he didn’t know about the mailers until he received one at his home last weekend, said the California Dental Association has supported him because of his work on public health issues, like Berkeley’s 2014 soda tax.

But the association was also a major donor to the senator currently holding the seat, Nancy Skinner, who introduced and helped pass legislation sponsored by the dental association to increase transparency around dental insurance plans.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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