California Sen. Alex Padilla is campaigning hard — just not for himself.
Padilla, a former aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson, is entering the crowded Democratic field for governor and trying to make the case that he is the best choice to take on Donald Trump in 2018.
A number of polls show a competitive race, but they also show candidates from both parties are eager for a debate — or a contest — in the state’s governor’s race.
Two of them — former state Sen. John Chiang and state Sen. Dianne Feinstein — have emerged as favorites as candidates for Senate control.
Democratic leaders in the state Legislature have started exploring ways to expand the field even more.
The goal is to show that there is much more at stake for Democrats than just a governor’s race in 2018.
“The race for governor is part of a much larger struggle for Democrats across the nation,” said state Democratic party chairwoman Christy Smith. “We think it is important that voters get a chance to know where the candidates stand on key issues, and to learn where they stand on the issues. It is also critically important that we expand the number of candidates on the ballot, because we are going to have a lot of choices in the governor’s race.”
Padilla has entered the race as a moderate Democrat who is trying to distance himself from the party’s liberal wing. He has said he is focused on creating jobs by cutting taxes and regulations.
But he is still an open candidate, and his campaign staff is still trying to hammer home the liberal message.
Padilla has been fundraising in the low single digits, and he’s already spending between $1 and $2 million — mostly on TV ads. The campaign has also been spending heavily on campaign consultants, according to multiple campaign sources.
On its website, Padilla has posted a number of signs in his district reading “Make America Safer,” and the message under the video is “