Sandra Fluke, the lawyer and women's rights activist who won national fame for her advocacy of birth control coverage, is running for a state Senate seat in Los Angeles County, California this cycle. And because of California's unusual electoral system — in which only the top two vote-getters of any party in the primary advance to the general — her only general election opponent is a fellow Democrat, Ben Allen.
But though Allen and Fluke hold similar positions and say they're progressive, a longtime Republican donor has recently been spending heavily on Allen's behalf. Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post reports that real estate developer Bill Bloomfield, a former Republican recently turned independent, has spent $1.3 million to help Allen so far.
It's unusual for so much outside money to pour into a state Senate race, and all the more mysterious because the two candidates seem ideologically similar. Bloomfield told both LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times that he was doing it purely because he likes Allen personally, calling him "brilliant" and "ethical." Gene Maddaus of LA Weekly notes that Bloomfield is known for supporting education reform — but though Allen is a member of his local school board, he's not known for supporting the education reformers' agenda.
Through September 30, Fluke had raised about $1.1 million compared to Allen's $965,000. But the money pouring in from Bloomfield gives Allen a clear financial advantage — according to the California Secretary of State's figures, there's no comparable outside spending taking place on Fluke's behalf. Blumenthal also notes that two of the biggest donors to the Karl Rove-tied Super PAC, American Crossroads, have donated smaller amounts to Allen's campaign; see his full report at the Huffington Post to learn more.