TS - Supervisors races attracting big money -- already

Supervisors races attracting big money -- already

While we may be some four months away from a primary to determine who will next occupy the 4th and 5th District seats on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, donors have begun shoveling money into those and other races as if the general election is right around the corner.

Three candidates are vying for the 4th District seat, long held by incumbent Supervisor Bonnie Neely, who will be seeking her seventh term. Last time around, the two main candidates vying for the job -- Neely and former Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming -- spent more than $250,000 in that race, and it came down to a smattering of votes.

With the 4th District to a large degree consisting of Eureka and its suburbs, it's perhaps no surprise that two denizens of City Hall are trying to make the leap from city to county government.

Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass is one, and she's outdistanced all her competitors in funds raised so far, according to financial disclosures filed this week with the Humboldt County Elections Office. And judging by the numbers, it appears that this year's 4th District race is off on a trajectory similar to the race of 2006.

Bass in 2009 raised a total of $53,174. Her list of donors is long, and includes a number of people and businesses from Humboldt County's building and development communities, among others.

They include David Schneider of Pacific Affiliates, who gave $1,000; Fred Sundquist, who gave $1,500; Glenn Goldan, $1,000; Michael Dominick, $1,500; Truman Renner, $1,500; ReProp Investments, $500; TJS Leasing and Holding Co., $1,500; Loretta Nickolaus, retired county administrative officer, $200; Pierson Co., $1,500; Hilfiker Pipe Co. $1,500; Kramer Investments Corp. $1,500; Russ Cattle Co., $3,000; Hooven and Co. of McKinleyville, $1,500; A.N. Hunts and Sons, $1,500; Eureka Oxygen Co., $1,500; Bettendorf Enterprises, $1,500; Barnum Timber Co., $1,000; Eureka Ready Mix/Sand and Gravel Co., $1,500; Gary Philp, $500; Jim Furtado of McKinleyville, $1,500; Kim Slack of Eureka, $1,500; and Robert McBeth of O&M Industries, $1,500, among others.

Neely is no stranger to serious challenges for the 4th District seat, having barely defeated Flemming for the job last time around. And she's no slouch as a fundraiser, as proven by her 2009 disclosures.

Neely raised $27,334 in 2009, from a relatively short list of donors who gave, on average, much larger amounts.

Sedgefield Properties, owned by longtime Neely ally and sponsor Bill Pierson of Eureka, donated $10,000; Kurt Kovacks of Portland, Ore., gave $2,000; Thomas Hofweber, a county planner, gave $3,000; MPDSE, Inc., a building firm from Dana Point, CA, also known as Master Plan Developments, gave $10,000; Recology of San Francisco, formerly known as City Garbage Co., gave $500; and CA Dewitt of Fairhaven gave $200.

MPDSE is a development company which in 2004 had a project to develop a portion of Orange County's last untouched stretch of beach front property. The project was approved against staff recommendations.

But when that project was approved by the commission, Neely had yet to be named as a member. Former 3rd District Supervisor John Woolley was the commission representative at the time. Neely has voted on minor issues surrounding that development since taking her seat on the commission, but has voted both for and against the developer.

Also in the 4th District race, Eureka City Councilman Jeff Leonard has some catching up to do in the money race. For 2009, he raised a total of $7,902 -- $5,342 in cash, $2,300 in a loan, and $260 in non-monetary contributions.

Donors include Eureka attorney Ken Bareilles and his wife Rene, at $100; Teresa Sims, loan officer with Redwood Capital Bank, with $500; Hank Pierson, owner of L&H Properties, at $1,000; and Pierson Co. of Eureka at $1,500.

Farther north, in the county's 5th District, one candidate -- Ryan Sundberg -- has so far run the tables during this fundraising cycle, and did so with many of the same donors who gave to Bass' campaign.

Donors include Glenn Goldan at $500; City Ambulance at $1,500; Dale Wermuth at $1,500; Maxine Maples at $1,500; Michael Dominick at $1,500; Hilfiker Pipe Co. at $1,500; ReProp Investments at $500; Barnum Timber Co. at $1,000; TJS Leasing and Holding Co. at $1,500; Eureka Oxygen Co. at $1,500; Kramer Investment Corp. at $1,500; Eureka Ready Mix at $1,500; Bettendorf Enterprises at $1,500; A.N. Hunt and Sons at $1,500; Russ Cattle Co. at $1,000; Hooven and Co. at $1,500; Pierson Co. at $1,500; Marilyn Renner at $1,500; Becky Pritchard at $1,500; and JL Furtado Construction at $1,500, among others.
The other filing received so far for the 5th District -- from McKinleyville resident Jeffrey Lytle, who first ran four years ago -- had scant information to report. There was no money raised for 2009, and a total of 10 cents spent, copying a form from the Elections Office.

The Elections Office has yet to receive 2009 disclosures from Lost Coast Communications President Patrick Cleary and 5th Division Harbor District Commissioner Patrick Higgins, both of whom have declared for the 5th District race. The disclosures had to be postmarked by Monday, and could arrive as late as today.

In other Humboldt County races, only two candidate disclosures were received as of Wednesday afternoon.

In the race for Humboldt County sheriff, Undersheriff Mike Downey raised $1,905 in 2009. Donors include Sheriff's Lt. Steve Knight, $100; Sgt. Wayne Hanson, $100; The Liquor Still, $100; outgoing Sheriff Gary Philp, $1,000; Melinda Ciarabellini, $100; and Lt. Michael Thomas, $500.

A disclosure from Mike Hislop, also running for sheriff, has not yet been received.

And in the race for county assessor, Johanna Rodoni -- former 2nd District supervisor and wife of the late Supervisor Roger Rodoni -- filed a disclosure under the name Johanna Rodoni for Assessor 2010, but no money was raised in 2009.

As the supervisorial races are making abundantly clear, Humboldt State University political science professor emeritus JeDon Emenhiser said, even local campaigns have steadily become more expensive. He noted that Humboldt County seems to be finally catching up with the rest of the state as far as campaign war chests are concerned.

This flow of campaign money into politics is worrisome, he said.

”(Politicians) spend a lot more time raising money than they do governing,” Emenhiser said. “Once in office, instead of studying the issues, they have to spend a lot of time making speeches, hosting breakfasts and calling donors, all looking toward their next election.”

Emenhiser said the first campaign finance reports are often seen by candidates as an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.
”They're saying, we have this war chest here, and you shouldn't even try us,” Emenhiser said. “Sometimes, they refer to it as the funding primary.”

Even on a local government level, Emenhiser said, political bodies make decisions that have major implications for people -- hence the spending.

”It's land use and planning -- there's a lot of money to be made and a lot of interests to be represented,” he said.

Emenhiser said the only way to truly reduce the influence of campaign money in politics is to switch to a system of publicly funded campaigns, where voters decide how much money to allocate to campaigns, and candidates are forced to live within those bounds. That might mean a very short campaign season, Emenhiser said, but it would also mean a more level playing field.

But, Emenhiser said, the idea hasn't gained much traction.

”Nobody is willing to take that seriously,” he said.

Staff writer Thadeus Greenson contributed to this report.
James Faulk can be reached at 441-0507 or jfaulk@times-standard.com.

James Faulk/The Times-Standard
Posted: 02/04/2010 01:24:18 AM PST

Yesterday was the last day to file semi-annual campaign disclosure statements for all candidates and slate mailer organizations for the period ending December 31, 2009.- Gov’t §§84200, 84218

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