Newcomer takes funding lead in Assembly race

Venture capitalist Joshua Becker overtakes Rich Gordon, Yoriko Kishimoto in funds raised

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

Joshua Becker, whose campaign for Ruskin's seat is a little more than three months old, has received $219,643 in campaign contributions, according to financial statements filed Monday. His two opponents in the Democratic primary, San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon and former Palo Alto Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, have raised $195,360 and $161,464 as of Dec. 31, respectively.

Becker took the lead in the fundraising race despite being the only political newcomer in the race. A venture capitalist who calls himself an "innovation Democrat," Becker is banking on Silicon Valley support to get into Ruskin's seat in the 21st District, which includes 13 cities from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Ruskin will be termed out at the end of this year.

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

Becker, who sits on the University of California Board of Trustees, said he has received most of his support from people who have worked with him in the fields of clean technology and education. His contributors include executives from companies such as TerraPass, Saber es Poder, and Renewable Funding -- companies in which Becker's venture firm, New Cycle Capital, had invested. They also include an assortment of University of California executives and Bay Area venture capitalists.

Unlike his opponents, Becker hasn't held an elective office in the 21st District. But he isn't completely new to politics. In May 2008 Becker co-founded the group Cleantech and Green Business Leaders for Obama, which brought environmentalist leaders together to support Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Like Obama, Becker is hoping to attract supporters with the promise of change.

"What people are hungering for are new ideas and new approaches in California," Becker told the Weekly Monday. "People are kind of fed up and disappointed."

Gordon also presents himself as a "change" candidate, even as he emphasizes his decades of public service in San Mateo County. 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 website, Gordon calls for government reform, including 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.

Gordon's list of endorsements includes U.S. Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Spier, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, and a long list of local officials. Most of his endorsers and contributors are from cities such as Redwood City, San Mateo and Menlo Park. They include Palo Alto City Council members Yiaway Yeh and Gail Price.

But Gordon's 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.

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 referred to herself as a "grassroots candidate" and said she is not daunted by the fact that she is now trailing Becker and Gordon in campaign fundraising.

Kishimoto's campaign chest has been bolstered by a $65,000 loan she had made to her campaign. She has received fewer four-figure checks than her two Democratic opponents, but has earned the support from council members, neighborhood groups and local officials from all over the Peninsula.

Kishimoto, who had organized the Peninsula Cities Coalition focusing on high-speed rail, said she's confident her background in business, clean technology, transportation and land use will ultimately lift her past her two opponents. Her list of supporters includes most current Palo Alto City Council members and mayors of Menlo Park, Los Altos, Belmont and Sunnyvale. She also said she is in the process of putting together a signature drive in hopes of widening her base of support.

"I think the numbers are close enough that they will make me a little more hungry for more fundraising," Kishimoto said. "I think the race is very, very competitive."

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Like this comment
Posted by I'm Not Buying
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Is Josh Becker the Democratic Party's version of Steve Poizner, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina? None of these candidates bothered to run (plus two didn't bother to vote) and serve their local communities where voters could have learned more about them, their policies and their ability forge compromises for the public benefit. All are wealthy Silicon Valley types who think they're too sophisticated for the issues that affect the daily lives of people who work and live in Peninsula communities.

Yoriko Kishimoto and Rich Gordon did it the right way, the hard way. We know who they are and what they stand for. California needs to reject these multi millionaires and go with candidates who have been previously vetted by the voters. They each have voting records and support from people we trust.

Supporting a fellow who has never had to deal with tough issues relating to transit, housing densities, employee pension regulations, neighborhood crime, safe routes to school, general fund deficits, preservation of open space and blight in redevelopment zones is dangerous. These thorny issues don't always have easy answers but usually have people passionate about the different aspects in each.

The 21st Assembly seat is not for sale to the new rich kid on the block.

Like this comment
Posted by Maria of West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Please tell me who besides Whitman didn't vote. Even as a Rebublican, won't vote for someone who hasn't voted in the past, even if she is McCain's preferred peerson, certainly would have considered her IF as a citizen she had voted.

Lord help us if Gordon gets in. He talks, but doesn't follow through and doesn't return phone calls (although others in his same capacity have!).

Like this comment
Posted by It's true
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Whitman and Fiorina have very poor voting records. This information is all over the internet.

Like this comment
Posted by Gunther Steinberg
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Another case were the media keep judging who will win by ho has raised the most money. Together with the foul judgment by the Supreme Court relating to money in politics, we will see more and more newly rich start to buy political office. That spells the conversion of Democracy into Plutocracy and should be rejected by all voters, regardless of party, on a matter of principle.
While usually inactive in politics, I will do what I can for Rich Gordon, who has been a very good Supervisor.

Just because they have money, does not recommend any of these millionaires for political office. Huffington thought he could buy the republican primary some years ago, but an even worse candidate won it with better propaganda, but thankfully lost.

If money raising is now the criterion for getting an elected office,
woe be us.

Like this comment
Posted by Reading the same article?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Ironically, Yoriko is only candidate who is funding her own campaign.

Like this comment
Posted by Been There, Seen That
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:08 am

"venture capitalist from Menlo Park" = A Richie-Rich with nothing better to do (see John Boyle, MP City Council).

Thanks, but no thanks, Josh.

Like this comment
Posted by Let's get this straight
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:13 am

In times like these - with California ranking 46th in the US on secondary school funding among other issues - we need people that can think out of the box and have political experience generally. We have plenty of career politicians working for us in Sacremento already, why not open up the field to those with a broader base of experience?

Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:31 am

Amazing! Anyone that has worked around Candidate Becker certainly would not find him to be the idle rich! He is a whirlwind, multi-tasking to meet his job needs as well as contributing to community funds and nonprofits. His energy is boundless, the kind of thing that we need to move us through these difficult times in California. The fact that he has accountably worked to fund his campaign should not be held against him.

Like this comment
Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

Really? Josh Becker a "richie-rich with nothing better to do". If you read the article or looked into Becker's background you would see that all of his support came from people that he's worked with in his many ventures, including a majority of which were non-profit. For most of his life he has been hyper-active in the community, starting and working with organizations that find solutions to the many problems that our current legislature is completely inept to even address. If he didn't follow the path of others in the race through everyday politics than that's even better! He is a super intelligent, fresh face, that understands how the system works through his extensive policy work. He's the only one I trust to finally bring change to our broken state.

Like this comment
Posted by Who can fix Sacramento?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I am very interested in Josh Becker's candidacy. He has been a real positive contributor politically through Clean Tech and Green Business Leaders for Obama, and Full Circle Fund, which have inspired and empowerd many thousands of others to take action for positive new solutions.

To fix Sacramento (which is a complete and utter mess), seems to me we need some bold innovation and fresh new leadership in the Assembly.

Rich Gordon is too much of a politician. Yoriko is intriguing, but Josh Becker is not only super bright and but his connections to the innovation sector as well as to key folks in the Obama administration, could be a game changer in Sacramento. He is definitely not like Whitman -- he has voted and been actively involved all his life. Seems to me that's the kind of combination we need.

Plus he has young kids in the public schools and would e motivated to prioritize education improvements as well.

I'll be watching as the race unfolds. Should be fascinating!

Like this comment
Posted by Not fooling me.
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm

An Assembly member with no government experience? Running a company and being a good guy isn't enough. First off, running your own company is the worst experience for working with nearly 100 other Assembly members. Governing is hard and takes a whole lot of accommodation and time.

Let Becker apply for a commission seat, run for School Board or city council. Voters need to have a chance to see him in action. Can he play fair and get something (anything) accomplished in the grinding world of government. Voters want to see his voting record and I don't mean how he would have voted had he been on a commission, a school board or a city council.

Like this comment
Posted by M Casanova
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 3, 2010 at 11:04 pm

In response to Mr. Steinberg, Been There, Seen That, and a few others, there seems to be a faulty assumption that by virtue of his past job as a venture capitalist Mr. Becker is a frivolous millionaire and that he has bought his candidacy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that Mr. Becker has managed to raise the money he has thanks to people - voters, just like you and I - who over the years, and through his track record, have come to trust him and believe in him and his capacity to change the horrible mess in Sacramento. Mr. Becker is one of the most socially conscious persons I have ever met, deeply devoted to improving his community. Look up what he has done, you will be surprised by what he has accomplished.

Like this comment
Posted by Don't Jump The Line
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:57 am

I went on the California State web site to see who has given Becker money. It was educational. These may be people in the venture capital world but where are the names of people who have been involved in Menlo Park or San Mateo County? Becker's web site has no endorsement list. Where are the environmentalists who he claims to have gathered up for his Environmentalists for Obama organization? Who were these people?

Were any of these people involved when the Stanford's Trail issue landed at the Board of Supervisor's Chamber? DId Becker even know this was an issue and that Rich Gordon delivered the vote from the Board to force Stanford to withdraw their cheesy plan?

This is just one issue and there have been many where Becker never showed his face.

I don't care that Becker is wealthy. Hats off to him but he needs to find his humility and start his political career at the local level, just as Kishimoto and Gordon have. Don't jump the line! It's just too arrogant.

Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2010 at 11:33 am

Don't jump the line! It's just too arrogant.

Why does the name Schwartenegger come into my head

Like this comment
Posted by Who Dat?
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 7, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Has anyone ever heard of Josh Becker? Was he a participant in the downtown/El Camino Real Study? Did he speak out when the Derry Project was hijacked by the council's private negotiating team? Was Becker involved in the Cadillac site project discussion? Is he a proponent of High Speed Rail? What does Josh think of the pension problem in cities on the Peninsula? Does he support the Redwood City development of the salt pond?

Who is this fellow and why does he want to represent us in Sacramento? He's got a whole lot of explaining to do and fast.

Hope his advisors have the time to tutor this guy.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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