Fresno · Fundraising

Fresno’s marquee City Council race of 2022 gets pricier – with a year to go

As the 2022 Fresno City Council elections draw closer, two of the candidates for District 1 are pulling away in fundraising. 

The city released the campaign finance filings for the first half of 2021, which report all donations that the candidates have received from Jan. 1 through June 30. 

Along with the three people vying for Esmeralda Soria’s seat, Mayor Jerry Dyer and the three incumbents on the city council who are up for reelection in 2022 have all raked in tens of thousands of dollars in the first half of the year. 

Here’s a look their campaign finance filings: 

Cary Catalano (District 1)

Catalano, a public relations executive, outperformed Perea after hardly drawing any money last year. 

In 2020, Catalano received just shy of $1,700 in total contributions. That number ballooned to $111,402 in the first half of 2021. 

Catalano has $80,283 on hand. 

Notable donors to Catalano’s campaign include County Supervisor Buddy Mendes’ campaign ($4,900), former mayor Lee Brand ($1,000), County Supervisor Steve Brandau’s campaign ($1,000), the Elbow Room (owned by Mike Shirinian, $2,000) and Pismo’s of Fresno (owned by Dave Fansler, $2,022). 

“I am proud of the work our team has done over the past six months,” Catalano said in a statement to The Sun. 

“I’ve knocked on over 13,000 doors throughout District 1 which has allowed me to personally share my vision for the future of the City of Fresno. I am confident that my campaign will have all the resources it will need to be a very successful campaign.” 

Annalisa Perea (District 1)

Perea, a State Center Community College Trustee, followed up a strong 2020 with another successful round of fundraising. 

After pulling in over $120,000 last year, Perea bagged $85,759 in total donations for the first six months of 2021. 

Her cash on hand totaled $187,511 on June 30.

Notable donors include former Fresno Housing Authority CEO Preston Prince ($250), local businesswoman and retail cannabis applicant Kacey Auston ($500), Fresno County Economic Development Corporation President/CEO Lee Ann Eager ($500), Councilman Mike Karbassi ($1,000) and Councilman Nelson Esparza’s campaign ($2,000). 

“I’m very proud of the support my campaign has received so far, including all of the early endorsements and donations given that has allowed my campaign to grow to over $200,000 cash on hand as of today,” Perea said in a statement to The Sun. 

“District 1 residents understand that I will be a strong, independent voice for Fresno, and my plan is to continue to connect with the voters of District 1 every single day to ensure I have the opportunity to earn each and every vote.” 

Jeremy Preis (District 1)

Preis, a former Fresno police officer, kicked off his campaign for the District 1 seat in March, giving him just a few months of fundraising. 

So far, Preis has drawn $7,028 in total contributions with $4,494 in the bank. 

Although his totals are far behind Perea and Catalano, Preis did secure 19 separate donations. 

Jerry Dyer (Mayor of Fresno)

In his first six months on the job – which has seen Dyer deal with issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the LGBTQ flag – Fresno’s mayor pulled in $69,666. 

That number falls well short of when he was running for office a year ago, before Dyer was elected, when he brought in over $300,000 in fundraising. 

It’s the first time since before Operation Rezone that Fresno’s Mayor has been able to raise significant funds in an off-year. That’s due to a long-standing regulation that barred city elected officials from raising money other than just before an election.

That regulation was invalidated by a Federal appeals court and defended by the U.S. Supreme Court via a denial of certiorari.

In 2017, Dyer’s predecessor, former Mayor Lee Brand, raised a grand total of $10 during the January to June window of his first year in office.

Dyer currently has $61,354 in the bank. 

Notable donors include the Elbow Room ($2,500) and the Cosmopolitan Tavern ($1,000), whose future may be affected by the city’s potential dealings with Central Valley Fuego for the Selland Arena property. 

Miguel Arias (District 3)

The District 3 councilman has totaled $76,259 in fundraising over the first half of the year. 

After expenses, Arias has $61,411 in the bank. 

Notable donors include former councilman Blong Xiong ($100), Club One Casino owner Kyle Kirland ($1,000) and Lee Ann Eager ($600). 

Luis Chavez (District 5)

Chavez, the council president representing District 5, has brought in $77,600 in donations, giving him a cash on hand total of $89,809. 

Notable donors include Councilman Mike Karbassi’s campaign ($2,500), Chevron lobbyist Henry T. Perea ($1,000), Fresno Chamber PAC ($1,000) and the California Association of Realtors ($2,500). 

Nelson Esparza (District 7)

The council vice president and District 7 representative received $57,850 over the first six months of 2021, giving him $65,792 in the bank. 

Notable donors include the Assemi Group ($2,500).

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.