Candidates Kristin Olsen and Janice Keating emerged as fund-raising heavy hitters in the six-way race for the 25th Assembly seat Tuesday, reporting that they've each raised about $70,000.
Collecting cash is an important sign of momentum for the race, which got off to a late start in December after Assemblyman Tom Berryhill announced that he would not seek re- election. Berryhill is campaigning for Dave Cogdill's state Senate seat.
Since then, former Modesto City Councilwoman Keating raised $71,969, and incumbent Modesto Councilwoman Olsen gathered $70,340.
Next on the list is former Turlock City Councilman Kurt Vander Weide, who's collected $51,375.
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Candidates Bill Conrad, Teri Murrison and Jesse James White haven't raised enough to require financial statements.
All are competing in the June 8 Republican primary to succeed Berryhill in a district that runs from Modesto to Madera through four foothill counties.
'It's anybody's race'
Carl Fogliani, a political consultant who often manages San Joaquin Valley campaigns, said the totals show that no one has emerged as a clear front-runner.
"Yes, it's a big field, but it's also a sign that it's a crapshoot," Fogliani said. "No one's taken control. It's anybody's race."
Three candidates are women, three serve or have served on the Modesto City Council, and all share conservative values with records in elected office. Their campaign donors reflect their similarities.
"You've got so many people co-opting each other's bases," Fogliani said. "Nobody can play to their strengths. It's a mishmash and a roll of the dice."
Keating has strong backing from real estate and development. Her donors include PMZ Real Estate President Mike Zagaris ($2,900), land use attorney George Petrulakis ($2,400), the Golden Gate Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors ($1,900), as well as smaller amounts from other members of the Zagaris family and other builders.
Keating won support from several large agricultural and industry donors, such as Ken Alldrin of Montpelier Nut ($3,900), Foster Farms Poultry ($1,900) and Foster Farms Manager Ron Foster ($500), and E&J Gallo executive Joseph Gallo ($150).
She has big checks from Mayor Jim Ridenour ($3,000), Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien ($7,800) and Modesto City Councilman Dave Geer ($3,900). Keating also has a few thousand dollars from Indian tribes.
Olsen has more in the way of smaller donations from the city's business establishment, such as the Boyett family of Boyett Petroleum, 5.11 Tactical Chief Executive Officer Dan Costa, former heart surgeon and real estate developer Stephen Endsley, and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.
A number of political figures from both sides of the aisle sent Olsen checks, such as Modesto City Schools Trustee Ruben Villalobos (D), Councilman Brad Hawn (R), former Mayor Carol Whiteside (R) and former Modesto Councilwoman Kenni Friedman (D).
Her larger donations came from the California Restaurant Association ($3,900), Delta Sierra Beverage ($2,000) and the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association ($3,900).
A few businesses hedged their bets between Keating and Olsen. They are Stanislaus Foods, Central Valley Automotive, Huff Construction and Prime Shine Car Wash.
Vander Weide went outside Modesto for much of his fund raising. His contributions reflect heavy campaigning in the foothills and among farming and mining interests.
He picked up checks from Golden Olive Ranch of Hughson ($3,900), Pauli Ranch of Potter Valley ($2,000), Sonora insurance firm owner Pete Kleinert ($2,000), Landtec of Sonora ($1,900), Bapu Farming of Madera ($1,001), California Winelands of Hughson ($1,000), California Gold Development Corporation of Sonora ($1,000) and Blue Mountain Minerals of Columbia ($1,000), among others.
Berryhill raised $182,150 in his bid for Cogdill's seat. One of his two opponents in the Republican primary, Bret de St. Jeor, loaned himself $1,000 and spent $20,282 of his money to get started. The other, Heidi Fuller, did not file a campaign finance statement.