Is the Self Driving Car Safety Issue Crashing a U.S. Senate Race?

What could go wrong?  Many candidates use trendy issues to get attention for their own campaigns, but not many do the opposite.  Folks hanging around the water cooler, along with appointed U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, are wondering what the real goal is behind Dan O’Dowd’s unusual campaign ads.  Is Padilla’s campaign for U.S. Senate still a safe bet?

We will admit to being somewhat entertained by watching TV ads that show drivers not able to control their Teslas while they drive erratically and sometimes even crash into objects.  Dangerous driving is not funny, but it is hard not to be entertained by O’Dowd’s well-edited ads.  

O’Dowd is a candidate for U.S. Senate in California.  There are 23 candidates running for Senate.  There are also 12 candidates running to fill the remainder of V.P. Kamala Harris’ unexpired term.  Yes, there are two elections for U.S. Senate on the June ballot as Calpeek discussed in March.  Until now, the election was dull and Padilla was expected to be easily elected to the seat to which Governor Gavin Newsom appointed him.  

Enter wealthy tech executive O’Dowd who says he wants voters to focus on the safety issue of self-driving cars and he is spending big, as in millions, to get people, or voters, attention.  The main question around the water cooler is this just a clever campaign tactic?  Is O’Dowd trying to find an issue that will elevate his candidacy so he can give the well-established Padilla a run for his money?  O’Dowd claims to be using his campaign platform to focus on dangerous computer software.  Some have speculated that O’Dowd is using a political campaign to run ads so that he has more protection from a libel suit that could be brought by Tesla.  Or maybe he likes being able to run TV ads that are less expensive for candidates.

O’Dowd opened a campaign committee on March 18, 2022 called “Dan O’Dowd for a Safer Country”, but the FEC reports show no activity to date.  Apparently, this is not the first time O’Dowd has considered running for U.S. Senate.  He opened a campaign committee in 1994 with about $80,000.

Padilla’s campaign finance reports show that he has over $7 million cash on hand.  That sounds like enough to beat back a challenge from an unknown, late entry candidate, but O’Dowd is a billionaire who appears willing to spend millions on TV ads alone.  Padilla’s consultants say they are not concerned, but if you have to say it…

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