WASHINGTON — An organization now headed by former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry has pumped $3,000 into a long-shot campaign to defeat his fellow Republican, Rep. George Radanovich of Mariposa.
Autry himself, though, supports Radanovich's re-election bid.
The June 3 contribution to Radanovich's opponent came before Autry joined the group, called Families Protecting the Valley.
The seemingly mixed signal reflects some turbulence in San Joaquin Valley politics. Organizations are changing, challengers are arising and candidates are adapting to new circumstances.
"There's a lot of frustration about water in the valley, and people are expressing that in various ways," Radanovich said Monday.
With more than a year to go before the 2010 election, Radanovich appears comfortably situated to retain the job he's held since 1995. Republicans enjoy a 44 percent to 37 percent voter registration advantage in the 19th Congressional District, which stretches from Modesto to Fresno via the Sierra Nevada.
Radanovich reports having $124,752 in available campaign cash, less than his valley colleagues. It is considerably more, though, than his sole declared Democratic challenger, musician and Mariposa County Planning Commissioner Les Marsden.
Late last week, Marsden reported having $11,083 in available campaign cash.
Though it's still early in the campaign cycle, Marsden's fund raising hasn't been enough to attract national Democratic attention.
"I've promised to spend no more money than our campaign raises," Marsden said Monday, adding that "the goal is $1.6 million — or more, as needed."
The largest single contribution to Marsden's campaign came when Madera-based Families Protecting the Valley gave a $3,000 check.
Madera County farmers founded the organization years ago to fight an underground water bank proposed by the energy company Enron, which went backrupt in 2001.
Families Protecting the Valley has since shifted focus to encompass opposition to a San Joaquin River restoration plan supported by Radanovich.
"It's an educational deal, and we're going to create pressure on the politicians to do the right thing," almond farmer and Families Protecting the Valley board member Denis Prosperi said Monday.
Prosperi is a Republican, as are other board members, including Autry. Many were vocal critics of the San Joaquin River restoration legislation, which passed Congress.
Prosperi, though he is not supporting Radanovich personally, stressed Monday that the $3,000 contribution was a decision made by a "previous board of directors" and not by Autry or the current leadership.
Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-383-0006.