Committee formed to back California candidates with ‘courage’

Sacramento Bee, 3/28/12.

One of several new independent committees hoping to influence elections for the California Legislature under the state’s new top-two primary system is stepping up its efforts.

Govern for California, an effort to back state legislative hopefuls who display “courage,” filed paperwork to create an independent expenditure committee last week.

One of the group’s co-founders, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger adviser David Crane, said the group has identified up to five candidates — two Democrats, two Republicans and one decline-to-state — to potentially support in the June primary.

Crane, a Democrat, said he and his partners in the effort found few candidates who met their standards of displaying intelligence, financial literacy and courage, which he defined as “a willingness to die for something greater than themselves.”

“We know they have to make compromises all the time because that’s the nature of legislating, but you want someone who makes compromises both after knowing all the facts, but they’re doing that compromise because they care about something really important,” Crane said.

Crane said he contributed $250,000 in “seed money” for the effort. He expects more contributions to come in next month , adding that he and other supporters are willing to put up “whatever we think is necessary” to make a difference in the campaigns.

“The scarce resource is not going to be money, it’s going to be candidates,” he said.

Govern for California is one of several new independent expenditure committees looking to capitalize on the competitive match ups created by the state’s new political maps, which were drawn for the first time by an independent commission, and the top-two primary system. Under the process approved by voters in 2010, the two candidates who win the most votes in June will advance to the November runoff, regardless of their party affiliation.

Crane, investor Ron Conway and WalMart Board of Directors member Greg Penner, both of whom are registered no party preference, announced the creation of their group in September, citing opportunities created by the political changes.

Other possible efforts include an SEIU-backed committee that is expected to support Republicans and a coalition backing moderates supported by the California Dental Association, California Medical Association, California Association of Realtors, California School Employees Association, SEIU-UHW and State Building and Construction Trades Council.