Pombo leads hunt for cash

WASHINGTON — Republican candidates for the San Joaquin Valley's hotly contested 19th Congressional District seat have raised more than $1 million, newly filed reports show.

Former U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy and state Sen. Jeff Denham of Atwater lead the money chase, with Pombo raising nearly half a million dollars since Jan. 1. Denham has raised less from contributors — $341,000 — but has loaned his campaign an additional $150,000.

There is little time to rest, with less than two months remaining before the make-or-break June 8 primary.

"Raising money is a fact of political life, so Jeff will be very busy raising money and meeting as many voters as possible between now and June 8," Denham's campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said.

The Republican who has represented the district since 1995, Rep. George Radanovich of Mariposa, is retiring at the end of the year. Radanovich has endorsed Denham.

Rounded off, Pombo reported raising $463,000 and had $213,000 available as of March 31. Denham reported raising $341,000 and loaning his campaign $150,000. He had $307,000 available. Denham's campaign reported accumulating $127,000 in debts over the first three months of the year, which will cut into his flexibility.

Fresno City Councilman Larry Westerlund raised $95,000 and had $62,000 available.

"Because of the state of the economy, it's been more difficult raising money than we thought it would be, but we will have enough to run our campaign," Westerlund's campaign consultant Mark Scozarri said, adding that "We're raising all our money locally."

No 'power brokers' money

Former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson said he has raised about $85,000 and has about $72,000 available.

"I am running an efficient and effective campaign without having to sell myself to the power brokers," Patterson said Thursday.

The candidates aren't the only ones investing in a race that's gaining national attention and turning negative in a hurry.

The Defenders of Wildlife has paid for radio ads attacking Pombo, who often clashed with environmentalists during his prior tenure as chairman of what's now called the House Resources Committee.

More recently, a newly formed independent committee called Common Sense Information has been financing an ad running on Fresno-based KMJ radio attacking Denham and Radanovich.

Denham wants the ad pulled off the air.

"This ad can only be considered to be a personal attack advertisement upon Mr. Denham's character and integrity intended to mislead the audience and influence the election," said Paul Sullivan, a Washington D.C.-based attorney who specializes in federal election law

Another series of ads running on KMJ attacks environmental groups but does not endorse any of the 19th Congressional District candidates. The ad is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, who is backing Pombo in the primary. Nunes does not have an opponent in the June primary.

The GOP primary winner is all but certain to win the November general election, as Republican voters dominate the district that stretches from Modesto to Fresno via the Sierra Nevada.

In 2008, for instance, district voters favored Republican presidential candidate John McCain by a 52 percent to 46 percent margin over Democrat Barack Obama.

Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at or 202-383-0006.