John Chiang off to fast start in money race for California governor

One reason not to discount state Treasurer John Chiang in California’s still-distant race for governor: He raised more money in the first six weeks of his campaign than Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an aggressive fundraiser with a higher profile, produced in the same period after declaring his candidacy last year.

john chang

Chiang raised about $2.3 million in the first 45 days of his campaign, according to a campaign finance report filed Monday, more than twice Newsom’s haul in his first six weeks.

Newsom has now been raising money for more than a year and holds more than $8.6 million in cash on hand between two accounts, according to state records.

Yet Chiang has about $3.3 million left over from his last campaign – money he could carry over to the 2018 election– and his initial fundraising reflects potentially significant connections in Southern California and among Asian Americans and politically moderate donors in a wide-open race to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown.


Among Chiang’s largest benefactors through June 30 was C.C. Yin, the owner of a McDonald’s empire in Northern California and co-founder of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. Yin has long backed Chiang, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, but also donated to Republican Meg Whitman – and served as her Asian outreach chairman – in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

This year, Yin gave Chiang $56,400, the maximum allowed. His wife, Regina, gave an additional $28,200.

While Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, has relied heavily for fundraising on his political base in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chiang has cultivated support around his home in Torrance. Alice and JP Wang, of Cerritos-based Golden Star Technology, gave Chiang $56,400 and $43,600, respectively. Jackson and Julie Yang of Torrance-based Seville Classics Inc., donated $50,000 each. So did Henry Chen, chief executive officer of Regal Wheel Corp., an automobile supplies company.

The Asian Americans for Good Government PAC and the state’s engineers union, Professional Engineers in California Government, each gave Chiang $10,000. Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, donated $8,400 from his campaign account, and Warner Bros. executive Howard Welinsky gave Chiang $5,000.

Newsom and Chiang are the first candidates in what is likely to become a crowded field. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has all but declared his candidacy. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, former state Controller Steve Westly and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are among other potential candidates.

Despite winning three statewide contests – twice for controller and most recently for treasurer – Chiang remains relatively little known. In an early measure of voter preferences, an October Field Poll put Chiang below Villaraigosa, Newsom and Garcetti.

Newsom, who has frequently lamented the cost of campaigning in California, said at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week that he plans to spend more time in Southern California to raise his profile there.

Dan Newman, a spokesman for Newsom, said in an email that the campaign “(feels) good about where we are at this stage” but is “by no means complacent,” having expected a large field of competitive candidates.

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