With just weeks left until East Bay voters begin casting ballots in the 15th Assembly district, the race continues to be among the most competitive in the state.
In the stretch run leading up to the June 5 primary, candidates running for the district that stretches from north Oakland to Hercules have transitioned from fundraising to now spending the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised over the past year.
Campaign filings submitted this week show that candidates spent more money in the first few months of 2018 than contestants in any other Assembly race in the state.
Leading the way in that spending is former Obama and Clinton strategist Buffy Wicks, who spent $158,351 to begin the year, and still has $323,575 on hand.
Berkeley school board member Judy Appel has the second-most left in the bank: $140,224.
Fellow Democrat Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, a nurse and El Cerrito councilmember, spent $43,658 and was bolstered by a California Nurses Association PAC, which spent $111,601 on her behalf. Combined with the PAC funds, Pardue-Okimoto has over $120,000 at her disposal for the stretch run.
Pardue-Okimoto and Wicks are now using their cash to hit the airwaves.
Both candidates released their first television ads this week, which the campaigns said will be airing on local cable.
In Pardue-Okimoto's 30-second spot, she tells her story of facing homelessness as a kid.
"I was born into a world of addiction and chaos," Pardue-Okimoto says in the ad. "But I had grandparents and teachers who believed in me."
The ad also details Pardue-Okimoto's current work in the newborn intensive care unit at Alta Bates Medical Center, and the fight to keep the hospital open.
Wicks' ad runs through her career in political organizing: pushing for better wages and benefits for WalMart workers, and working for President Obama in the White House after serving as a strategist on his campaign. The 30-second spot also touts Wick's endorsements from Senator Kamala Harris and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
"As our Assemblywoman, Buffy will deliver results for the East Bay," the ad reads. "Building more affordable housing, and fixing our homelessness crisis, improving our public schools, and transportation."
Among the other candidates in the field, East Bay MUD director Andy Katz has $119,999 left in his account. Oakland councilman Dan Kalb has $100,027 on hand, though he also owes nearly $80,000 in loans and unpaid bills. Berkeley councilman Ben Bartlett has $20,700 but owes nearly $18,000. Richmond councilwoman Jovanka Beckles has $15,393 available.
Beckles picked up an endorsement from the first candidate in the race to drop his campaign: writer Owen Poindexter, who sought to elevate the policy of universal basic income in his campaign.
"Today’s status quo was built by yesterday’s revolutionaries," Poindexter wrote in a Friday post on Medium. "I am endorsing Jovanka because she is one of today’s revolutionaries, fighting to bring us a better tomorrow."
Despite his announced withdrawal, Poindexter's name will still appear on the ballot for voters in the district. The field now stands at 11 candidates who are still vying to advance to November's general election.