Two of the seven 37th District Assembly candidates, Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo (left) and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett (right), were targeted by critical campaign ads this week, paid for by the California Association of Realtors. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss and Paul Wellman

With less than a week before voters will pick the top two runoff candidates for the California State Assembly 37th District, the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee — California Association of Realtors has upped the ante on its attacks against Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, having spent close to $700,000 on negative mailer ads alone.

Bennett and Murillo have raised the most money in their campaigns — nearly $500,000 combined — and are seen as the two most likely Democrats to snag a seat in the runoff and the least likely to vote in the Realtors’ interests. The gargantuan amount of dollars the independent expenditure committee is spending on the negative attack mailers is out of the ordinary for the 37th District, which is in the middle of its first competitive race in decades.

Real estate interest groups are drilling down hard because it’s also the first real chance for a pro-real estate candidate to take the seat. Jason Dominguez is seen as the most pro-business Democrat in the race, so the ads appear to be designed to help him by tearing down Murillo and Bennett.

Just last week, the Independent reported that the committee had spent $250,000 combined against Murillo and Bennett. In just a week, the group has poured in more than double the amount of cash and likely will continue through November with the attack mailers.

The Independent reached out to the California Association of Realtors in Sacramento and never received calls back. A member from the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors confirmed that the local group has no ties or agreements with the mailers being sent by their parent organization and has little to no knowledge of the substantial amount of money spent on the mailers.


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