Political Fundraising · Politics

Fresno Unified’s most controversial board member faces six-figure challenge. He has $642 in the bank.

With less than half a year out from the June primary, the the redistricting process in the rear-view mirror, state and local races are heating up as candidates jockey for the pole position in fundraising. 

Candidates reported fundraising numbers at the end of January for the second half of 2021. 

Here’s a look at the fundraising totals for the Central Valley’s Assembly and Senate races, as well as some hotly-contested local jobs up for grabs in Fresno County: 

14th Senate District

The 14th Senate District figures to be one of the highest profile races across the state as two incumbent Democrats battle it out to stay in office. 

Anna Caballero comes into the race with the most overlap from her old district to the new 14th district, but her hometown of Salinas has been drawn out. 

That opens the door for Sanger Democrat Melissa Hurtado, who retains portions of Fresno County from her old district but loses the Bakersfield voter base. 

Also in the Senate…

8th Assembly District

While two Democrats will fight for the Senate seat on the west side of the Central Valley, two incumbent Republicans are in a similar position for the Assembly district covering much of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Redistricting efforts by California’s citizen-led commission drew two GOPers – Asms. Frank Bigelow (R–O’Neals) and Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) into a single district.

Bigelow starts a six-month foot race with a decidedly heavy-handed fundraising advantage, boasting more than double the war chest of Patterson.

The fact that the two are likely to face off against each other poses bigger quandaries as campaign season enters full-swing. For starters, the two veteran Republicans share the same Sacramento-based fundraiser – Wendy Warfield & Associates.

Where money isn’t concerned, however, Patterson has some edge. The district is anchored in Fresno, the city Patterson led as Mayor in the late 1990s. The newly-drawn district includes 65 percent overlap with Patterson’s current 23rd district.

Both Patterson and Bigelow entered the Assembly in 2012. Whoever wins in 2022 will serve their final term under California’s current term limits rules.

Also in the Assembly…

Fresno County Board of Supervisors

Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes holds a significant lead in fundraising in a potential rematch of their 2014 contest for the same seat. 

Mendes won that election handily as 62 percent of voters supported him.

Meanwhile, Fresno County Supervisor Board Chairman Brian Pacheco is won Fresno County’s 2021 Moneybags Award, boasting the largest campaign war chest at the end of the year.

Fresno City Council

Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria revealed a couple weeks ago that she will run for the Assembly, avoiding a potential shake-up in the race to replace her.

While it appears to be a two-person race at the moment based on the fundraising figures, if a current candidate gets appointed to serve through the rest of the year, that person would certainly have a significant edge in the election that supersedes fundraising.

Fresno Unified School Board

In what is shaping up to be a highly-contested November, Trustee Terry Slatic is facing a major challenge from school psychologist and special education teacher Susan Wittrup. 

Wittrup is currently dominating the field in fundraising, posting a six-figure haul and keeping almost all of her cash on hand as the race starts to heat up. 

Without raising a single cent in the last period, Slatic also finds himself behind former Fresno Unified official Kurt Madden by a significant amount.

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.