Merced county sheriff candidate Soria’s campaign under investigation

Sheriff candidate Jim Soria said medical and staff problems led to the failure to meet the March 24 deadline.
Sheriff candidate Jim Soria said medical and staff problems led to the failure to meet the March 24 deadline. bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com

The California Fair Political Practices Commission on Monday said it has launched a formal investigation into a Merced County sheriff candidate’s failure to file financial disclosure documents on time.

Candidate Jim Soria’s campaign missed the March 24 disclosure deadline by more than month. Soria said he did not realize the paperwork had not been turned in until he was contacted by the Merced Sun-Star on April 24.

Soria said he raised and spent money on his campaign, despite not filing the records.

The Soria for Sheriff campaign submitted the legally required financial statements April 29, according to Merced County Elections Office records.

Spokesman Jay Wierenga on Monday confirmed the commission’s investigation into Soria’s campaign but did not comment on specifics.

Soria said he was preparing a formal response to the commission, explaining why he missed the deadline. “Right around the end of February, I had surgery,” Soria said. “It wasn’t a planned surgery, it was emergency surgery and it took three or four weeks to recover. I was in excruciating pain.”

Soria did not elaborate on the nature of the surgery, but said “everything is OK now” as far as his health is concerned. “My finance manager was out of town,” Soria added. “It was an oversight.”

Wierenga has said that, generally, campaigns that fail to file the paperwork potentially face a warning or fines, depending on the commission’s findings.

The records filed show Soria’s campaign raised $1,150 during the Jan. 10 to March 17 reporting period and spent $815.80.

As of two weeks ago, Soria said, he had raised “about $2,000” since declaring his candidacy in January.

During the first reporting period, records show candidate Pat Lunney raised the most cash, with $28,115 in contributions and spent $15,189.75.

Frank Swiggart raised the second highest total, $21,075 and spent $16,146.65, according to records.

Records show Vern Warnke raised $11,433 and spent $6,922.30.

The next financial disclosure deadline is May 22.