Jimmy Kimmel, Alyssa Milano And Other Hollywood Figures Make Last Midterm Push As Showbiz Shells Out Record Sums To Candidates

UPDATED, with additional details: Showbiz figures headlined online town halls, fund-raising appeals and campaign endorsements in the final effort before Tuesday’s midterm elections.

A group of 16 industry figures trekked to Michigan to campaign with the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson. Both are running for reelection.

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“It was an immersion into campaigning and an immersion into politics,” said Mathew Littman, a strategist who leads the set of politically engaged actors, writers and other creatives known as the Entertainment Industry Working Group. Among those who took part were Gabrielle Carteris, Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Littman called the trip “incredible,” but said that he has been realistic about the prospects for the party overall on Tuesday, with hopes of keeping losses down in the House if Republicans take control and of retaining the Senate.

Midterm trends favor the party out of power, and polls suggest that Republicans may make substantial gains, particularly in winning control of the House.

Despite the headwinds for Democrats this cycle, it did not depress fundraising this cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, showbiz sources have donated almost $57 million to federal campaigns and committees, exceeding the level donated in the last midterm, 2018. Democrats drew 87% of the contributions and Republicans collected 13%, more lopsided than any other midterm election since CRP has collected records.

The top candidate recipient of showbiz money was Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), drawing about $1.2 million in contributions from entertainment sources in his effort to retain his seat against Republican Herschel Walker. The top donor was producer Ted Snowdon, who has donated more than $3 million to candidates and committees.

That was evident in the entertainment figures who have been lending their names to various campaigns. Barbra Streisand, Martin Sheen and Ken Burns are among those who have filled inboxes with urgent voting and fund-raising appeals. “The future of our country and democracy would depend on the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections,” wrote Jeff Goldblum, who also was featured in an email from Democrat John Fetterman’s U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania.

“Forget what side you are on. Nevada needs a sane person in the Senate,” Jimmy Kimmel said in an ad spot that was as much a “non-endorsement” for Republican Adam Laxalt as it was an endorsement of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Fetterman, rather than Mehmet Oz, whom she helped launch a TV career, perhaps got the most attention over the weekend.

On the right, there was some buzz over Chuck Norris’ endorsement of Republican Blake Masters, seeking to unseat Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ). “Chuck Norris knows the results in Arizona before Fox News,” Masters’ campaign wrote in announcing the endorsement. Fox News, of course, first called Arizona for Joe Biden in 2020, much to the anger of Donald Trump and his allies. Like Trump, Masters continues to falsely claim that the presidential election was stolen.

In Los Angeles, the mayor’s race, now coinciding with the November general election, has split the industry between backers of Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and mall developer Rick Caruso.

Bass has a long list of celebrity endorsements along with the backing of Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has helped bankroll an independent expenditure committee to support her campaign. Katzenberg has contributed $1.85 million to the effort, which has also drawn donors like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, along with Westfield Property Management, Caruso’s shopping mall rival.

But Caruso has drawn figures like Chris Pratt and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, the latter of whom issued letter outlining his reasons for backing the developer.

“I don’t normally support political candidates. But in this election, there’s too much to lose,” Pratt wrote on Instagram, per the New York Post.

Sarandos wrote in the letter, “The entire machine of the Democratic Party had aligned for a candidate that is part of the very system that is failing this city.”

The most recent poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, showed Caruso closing in on Bass. Among likely voters, Bass had 45% and Caruso had 41%.

Campaigns also made last-minute appeals to boost turnout.

In an Instagram Live chat with Alyssa Milano, Bass noted that “only 12% of Angelenos have voted so far. And you don’t even have to go to vote. All you have to do is mail it in. And it is supposed to rain Monday and Tuesday, and you know how we are when it rains.”

Milano noted that Bass was endorsed by President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “It makes me feel incredibly humbled and honored, but also the thing is that Rick Caruso is not a Democrat. And so I am the only Democrat in this race.” She noted that Caruso changed his registration “three weeks before you are filing for mayor and then spend $100 million. Do you know how many people could be housed for $100 million?”

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