Sonoma County Residents Say Yes to Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act

* State Senator Mark Leno, Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin, Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell and Petaluma City Council Member David Glass Join State and Local Leaders to Support Proposition 15, California Fair Elections Act on June Ballot

By Press Release

Santa Rosa - On the heels of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on corporate money's role in elections, State Senator Mark Leno (D - San Francisco), Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin, Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell, Petaluma City Council Member David Glass came together with community leaders today to educate the Sonoma County community about Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, a ballot proposition which would get elected officials out of the fundraising game and focused on solving California's problems.

"Candidates have to spend way too much time fundraising under the current system," said State Senator Mark Leno. "If we had Fair Elections public financing of campaigns, elected officials would be able to focus entirely on the public policy work they were elected to do rather than fund raise."

Since 2000, over $1 billion has been raised by California politicians, buying special interests unprecedented access but shutting out the rest of us. That's why polls show nearly three out of four voters want to change the way elections in California are financed.

"Increasingly, typical California voters of every party agree that the relentless influence of special interest money shuts our voices out of the debate," said Cloverdale Mayor Carol Russell. "That's one reason I support Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act - to regain our rightful place by beginning to break the unhealthy connection between political donations and public policy."

Authored by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, the California Fair Elections Act would establish a voluntary pilot project for California's Secretary of State races in 2014 and 2018. Candidates would qualify for public financing if they agree to strict spending prohibitions and raise a large number of $5 contributions from Californians. The pilot program would be funded primarily by fees on lobbyists, lobbying firms, and lobbyist employers, with no taxpayer dollars going to candidates.

A version of the California Fair Elections Act is already in place in seven states and two cities. Nearly 400 candidates were elected using only fair elections funding in their 2008 campaigns, and the programs enjoy popular support across party lines. National surveys show that two out of three voters support public financing.

"I support Proposition 15, because under a fair elections system, candidates from any background who show a broad base of support can run for office," said Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin. "Sadly, financial barriers have kept many talented women and other financially-challenged candidates from running for elected office. Passing Proposition would open the political process to candidates of all backgrounds."

When these financial barriers are eliminated, as they have been in Arizona and Maine, more women and people of color are allowed to run for office. In Arizona, Former Governor Janet Napolitano was elected under the fair elections system and the number of Latino and Native American candidates running for office nearly tripled in the first year that the system went fully into effect, from 13 in 2000 to 37 in 2002.

Voters are ready for elections that money can't buy. In an October 2009 survey, likely June 2010 voters supported the California Fair Elections Act by a nearly 3-1 margin. Support held strong across all political parties and geographic regions of California with support of 65% among Latinos, 65% among Democrats, 65% among independents, and 59% among Republicans.

"Under a fair elections system, elected officials truly represent voters, not campaign donors," said Trent Lange, chairman of the California Fair Elections Campaign. "Public financing has freed elected officials across the country to pass bi-partisan, groundbreaking legislation that is only possible when our leaders do not fear retribution from powerful special interests."

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