By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Candidates vying to replace retiring Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown are off to a relatively slow start in the fundraising race.
Gina Cuclis topped the list of five candidates in the contest for the 1st District supervisorial seat, which takes in Sonoma Valley, the city of Sonoma and parts of eastern Santa Rosa.
The Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant took in $28,315 in the latest reporting period, from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, campaign finance reports show.
The donations included $8,027 in non-monetary contributions, including food, a hotel stay, campaign services and other gifts.
Cuclis led the next closest candidate, Sonoma Valley energy consultant Mark Bramfitt, by nearly $13,000.
Still, her total is quarter of what Mike McGuire collected in the last half of 2009 for his successful 2010 bid for the north county supervisor’s seat. It is a little less than half of what then-Petaluma Mayor Pam Torliatt reported in cash at this time two years ago for her race against fellow councilmember David Rabbitt, who prevailed in the south county supervisor’s race.
In the other two Board of Supervisors seats up for re-election, Efren Carrillo and Shirlee Zane remain unopposed so far.
Carrillo has built up a formidable war chest, with $104,797 raised in the last half of 2011 and $101,748 in the bank. “It allows me to focus on things I need to be focusing on,” Carrillo said, ticking off a list of county issues for the year.
Zane took in $16,804 for the period and ends with a cash balance of $49,767. She reported a personal loan of $33,091 to her last campaign that she said she plans to forgive.
In the 1st District, Cuclis, who serves on the county’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Advisory Board, said she was pleased with her campaign’s progress.
She announced her candidacy in June, before other challengers, and credited her success so far to courting small donors throughout her district.
She reported more than 90 donors giving $100 or less in the latest period.
“I’m proud of that,” she said.
Bramfitt’s tally for the latest period was $15,475.
Santa Rosa Councilwoman Susan Gorin reported a higher figure — $20,648 — but half of that is from a loan Gorin made to her campaign.
The three candidates all are close in the amounts reported for cash on hand, with $18,576 for Bramfitt, $17,490 for Gorin and $15,423 for Cuclis.
Santa Rosa Councilman John Sawyer, meanwhile, lagged far behind in fundraising last year, taking in just $1,050 and ending the period with $579 in the bank.
Sawyer’s campaign adviser Rob Muelrath said the councilman, who launched his run in
September and is expected to draw support from business, agriculture and real estate interests, just began his fundraising two weeks ago.
Donations have grown considerably since then, Muelrath said. He declined to provide an amount.
Sawyer and Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares are currently in Jeju City, South Korea on a goodwill trip.
Bramfitt and Gorin said the results were not a surprise. Both said they expected to ramp up fundraising efforts this month and next with an eye toward spending in April and May, before the June primary.
“We’re getting down to business,” Gorin said of her campaign, which is expected to draw support from organized labor and environmental groups.
Bramfitt, who serves on the board of the Valley of the Moon Water District, said the smaller fundraising figures were to be expected in an era of slimmer wallets.
“I would be surprised if you saw the same amounts being raised, for example, in the Petaluma race,” he said referring to the contest between Rabbitt and Torliatt.
That race set a county record with more than $706,000 in spending, including money spent by independent expenditure committees.
So far, no independent committees have filed in the 1st District race. The Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association has the lone political action committee registered in the contest. It reported no donations this period to any of the candidates.
The fifth entrant, Keith Rhinehart, a former United Parcel Service supervisor and substitute teacher, did not file a report for the latest period because his donations did not top $1,000. The Santa Rosa-area resident said he intends to begin soliciting campaign funds this month.
The first candidates’ forum in the race, a Feb. 15 noon to 2 p.m. event at the Sonoma County Central Library in Santa Rosa, will focus on issues pertaining to children and families, including health care and welfare. It is hosted by the Santa Rosa-based California Parenting Institute.
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.