- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - With nearly eight months to go until the November election, Gov. Jerry Brown reported Monday that he has raised nearly $20 million for his re-election campaign, far outpacing the two leading Republican candidates competing for the right to challenge him.

In a quarterly campaign finance report, the Democratic governor’s campaign said it had $19.7 million in the bank as of mid-March, much of it raised from corporations and unions.

One of the GOP candidates, former U. S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, reported raising more than $1.3 million since announcing his candidacy in January. He has $903,000 cash on hand.

He reported spending $527,000 so far this year, including more than $230,000 for campaign consultants and staff.

“As Neel continues traveling around the state talking with Californians about the issues that are important to them, it is clearer than ever that he is the right candidate with the right platform to hold Governor Brown accountable for his failed leadership,” his campaign manager, Pat Melton, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Brown, Dan Newman, said in an email that with Kashkari’s current fundraising and spending levels, “he may need a Wall Street bailout to keep pace” with other lesser-known GOP candidates.

The other top Republican seeking the office, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, had until midnight Monday to file his report on fundraising and spending. Donnelly raised $375,000 last year and ended 2013 with about $54,000 on hand.

The primary in June will be the first gubernatorial contest held under California’s new format in which the top two vote-getters move on to the November general election regardless of their party affiliation. Given Brown’s name recognition and the Democratic Party’s large statewide edge in voter registration, he is expected to have little trouble advancing to the runoff.

This year’s race is expected to be far less costly than the 2010 gubernatorial contest, when Brown’s campaign spent $36.5 million in his successful bid, and the campaign of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman spent $178.5 million. Of that, about $144 million came from Whitman’s personal fortune.

Brown also was aided in 2010 by at least $26 million in spending by independent groups that supported him, mostly labor unions.

In Monday’s filing, Brown reported expenditures of $156,000, including $60,000 spent on his behalf for fundraisers and polling. He has paid $30,000 to his campaign consulting firm, SCN Strategies, and $25,000 to political adviser Ned Ruthrauff, who also serves as a director in the office of the governor.

Brown received tens of thousands of dollars from health care and insurance companies, public employee unions and Hollywood celebrities.

The contributions include $54,400, the maximum, from Bank of America and Zuffa LLC, which promotes Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts, and $5,000 apiece from actors Kirk Douglas and Robert Downey Jr. Brown also received $3 million from the Democratic State Central Committee.

By comparison, California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte has said his party cannot afford to spend in statewide races and will be using its limited money only in specific races it deems competitive.

Kashkari’s contributions include $27,200 each from his onetime boss, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and his wife, Wendy, as well as $27,200 apiece from his parents, who still live in Ohio. He also collected thousands from Indian business owners, including $2,500 from Vijay Bist, who owns a chain of Indian restaurants in Silicon Valley. His company, Amber India Restaurants, also gave $2,500.

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