Harris, Sanders lead presidential candidates in Berkeley fundraising

Kamala Harris kicks off her presidential candidacy in Oakland on Jan. 27, 2019. Photo: Katherine Bricceti
Kamala Harris kicked off her presidential candidacy in Oakland on Jan. 27, 2019. Photo: Katherine Bricceti

All of the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination have found donors in Berkeley, according to the latest data from the Federal Election Commission. California Senator Kamala Harris – who grew up in Berkeley – and returning contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lead both in number of donors and total amount raised so far.

The FEC data show so-called itemized donors, who give more than $200 to a candidate. Some candidates – particularly Sanders – are known to raise more from small-dollar donors (smaller donations account for 84% of Sanders’ national total, compared to 37% of Harris’). Individuals can donate a maximum of $2,700 per election to a federal candidate, but some donors double that limit by giving separately to the primary campaign and the general election campaign (even though only one candidate will end up in the general). The data are for donations through March 31, 2019 – and it’s still more than nine months before the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucus on Feb. 3, 2020, so exercise caution in generalizing from the numbers so far.

Berkeley donations to 2020 presidential candidates

CandidateNumber of Berkeley individuals who donatedNumber who maxed 2019 donations*$ total of itemized donations
Kamala Harris899$65,002
Bernie Sanders575$30,150
Elizabeth Warren272$17,313
Julian Castro42$13,020
John Delaney42$12,825
Tulsi Gabbard31$12,704
Kirsten Gillibrand62$11,300
Jay Inslee81$9,950
John Hickenlooper42$9,564
Andrew Yang151$7,543
Pete Buttigieg101$6,200
Beto O'Rourke70$5,448
Amy Klobuchar90$4,879
Marianne Williamson20$1,255
Cory Booker40$1,150
* The federal maximum is $2,700 per election. If donations are earmarked separately to the primary election and to the general election, individuals can legally give $5,400

Two Berkeley politicians are among the individual donors to Harris: State Senator Nancy Skinner ($350) and Councilwoman Sophie Hahn ($500). Harris also attracted maximum donations of $2,700 each from well-known Berkeley authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. Former Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has donated $250 to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

While Harris and Sanders leading the Berkeley fundraising may be unremarkable since they also lead in national fundraising, some of the other data diverge from both national and California trends. Warren stands third in Berkeley fundraising, although she is fifth nationally in money raised this year.


New Jersey Senator Cory Booker came in a distant second to Harris in California fundraising, but in Berkeley Booker was a miserable 15th out of 15 (surely it couldn’t be because he’s a Stanford graduate). Even author Marianne Williamson – Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual advisor – topped Booker in Berkeley. A handful of very enthusiastic donors elevated three decidedly second-tier candidates (in terms of polling and fundraising) – Julian Castro, John Delaney and Tulsi Gabbard – into Berkeley’s top six.

At this early point in the campaign, Texan Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg are trailing badly in Berkeley, despite national fundraising and publicity success. Buttigieg — mayor of a town that’s slightly smaller than Berkeley — is in 11th position, nudging out O’Rourke who placed 12th.

One candidate not on our table, but also with a roster of Berkeley donors, is President Donald Trump. 22 Berkeleyans have given to Trump’s 2020 campaign – with the earliest Berkeley donations on Dec. 5, 2016, for a total of $6,591. Since Jan. 1, 2019 (which is more comparable to the recently launched Democratic campaigns), five Berkeleyans have donated a total of $737.50 to Donald J. Trump for President.