Almanac

News - February 10, 2010

Becker takes funding lead in race for Assembly seat

by Gennady Sheyner

Menlo Park venture capitalist Josh Becker has surged past two political veterans in campaign fundraising, all but ensuring a tight three-way primary-election contest for Ira Ruskin's seat in the state Assembly.

Mr. Becker received $219,643 in campaign contributions in 2009, according to financial statements filed Feb. 1. His two opponents in the June Democratic primary, San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon and former Palo Alto Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, had raised $195,360 and $161,464, respectively, by the end of the year.

Mr. Gordon has received much of his support from San Mateo County attorneys, Realtors and labor leaders. Ms. Kishimoto has relied on checks from local environmentalists, politicians and neighborhood leaders.

Mr. Becker has been boosted by the district's high-tech sector. His more than 300 contributors include many technologists and CEOs, including professionals from such firms as Google, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Apple and Cisco, and executives from companies in which Mr. Becker's venture firm, New Cycle Capital, has invested.

Like Mr. Becker, Mr. Gordon presents himself as a "change" candidate, even as he emphasizes his decades of public service in San Mateo County. Mr. Gordon, who officially announced his candidacy last March, is currently in his 12th year on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and has previously served on the county Board of Education.

On his campaign Web site, Mr. Gordon calls for the abolition of a law that requires two-thirds approval in the Legislature for passing the state budget. He also calls for increased education spending and universal health coverage for California's children.

Mr. Gordon's list of endorsements includes U.S. Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, and a long roll of local officials. They include John Boyle and Andy Cohen of the Menlo Park City Council and former council member Mickie Winkler, Portola Valley council members Maryann Moise Derwin and Steve Toben, and Chris Thomsen and Lorraine Rumley of the Sequoia Union High School District.

His campaign also received $7,800 in contributions from the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 467 and six $3,900 checks from attorneys in the Burlington-based law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Ms. Kishimoto, who served on the Palo Alto City Council for eight years before reaching her term limit in November, has her base of support in Santa Clara County. She has received fewer four-figure checks than her two Democratic opponents, but has earned the support of council members, neighborhood groups and local officials from all over the Peninsula.

Her campaign chest was bolstered by a $65,000 loan she made to her campaign.

Ms. Kishimoto's list of supporters includes Atherton council members Jerry Carlson and Elizabeth Lewis, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline and former council members Chuck Kinney and Steve Schmidt, and Portola Valley Councilman Ted Driscoll. She also said she is in the process of putting together a signature drive in hopes of widening her base of support.

Sean Howell contributed to this report.

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