By BRETT WILKISON, MARTIN ESPINOZA & KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo has raised far more money than his two challengers and all other candidates vying for local elected office, newly disclosed campaign finance records show.
Facing the surprise challenge of a former supervisor, Carrillo, 31 and nearing his first full term in office, gunned his campaign into action, raising in just two months $92,322 and spending $95,406. He still has $73,566 in the bank, records covering March 18 through May 19 show.
The activity dwarfs that of his that two opponents, former 5th District Supervisor Ernie Carpenter and former Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi.
Across the county, political fundraising and spending is in the final stretch before the June 5 primary, with candidates aiming their energy at undecided voters and those who have yet to turn in their vote-by-mail ballots.
With a single candidate needing at least 50 percent of the primary vote to avoid a Nov. 4 runoff, the six-way race for retiring Supervisor Valerie Brown’s seat is the most likely to go to a fall runoff.
Santa Rosa City Council members John Sawyer and Susan Gorin maintained their fundraising edge in the latest period over the three main Sonoma Valley-based candidates. Sawyer took in $45,041 since mid-March, topping the field. His year-to-date figure is $107,278.
Gorin pulled closer to Sawyer’s latest tally, raising $40,499 for the period. Her year-to-date figure is $89,610, including a $10,000 loan.
Of the Sonoma Valley trio, communications consultant Gina Cuclis raised the most, reporting $19,337 in contributions. Her year-to-date total is $50,628, including a $9,000 loan.
Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders came next, taking in $18,967 for the latest period. Her year-to-date total is $63,572, including a $40,000 loan.
Energy consultant Mark Bramfitt raised $11,949 in the latest period and loaned himself $26,000, ending with more in available funds — $41,624 — than any others in the race to succeed Brown. His year-to-date fundraising total, including the loan, is $63,437.
Michael McClure, a Sonoma Valley teacher has run virtually no campaign and did not file contribution records with the county elections office.
Spending in the race for the latest period was led by Sawyer, at $66,765, followed by Gorin, at $53,507, Bramfitt at $31,563, Cuclis at $19,371 and Sanders at $11,010.
Competition among Sawyer and Gorin sharpened recently with the entrance of outside money into the race.
A union-backed independent expenditure committee, the Coalition for a Better Sonoma County, has poured $31,645 into advertising opposing Sawyer.
Records show the activity is financed by $30,000 from Local 1021 of the Service Employees International Union, the county’s largest labor group. The union, along with several other employee groups, the union is supporting Gorin.
The committee’s latest mailer portrayed Sawyer as a Pinocchio-like figure, alleging his public statements on economic issues did not match his votes.
Sawyer, who has drawn support from labor groups representing public safety workers, called it a hit piece and said his campaign would be responding.
“It was a weak attempt to discredit my campaign,” Sawyer said.
Gorin, who donated to the coalition, distanced herself from the mailer and downplayed its impact.
“Independent expenditures don’t tend to persuade the voting public one way or another, unless it’s really startling information,” she said.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane collected more campaign cash and out-spent her opponent by wide margins.
Zane raised more than $32,000 to Tim Smith’s $4,900 in the latest period. This year she has raised $57,915 to his $8,366.
The large financial advantage the Santa Rosa incumbent continues to enjoy comes as little surprise given her endorsement by a broad swath of business, labor and environmental groups and Smith’s low-key campaign.
Labor groups accounted for nearly a quarter of the contributions Zane received between March 18 and May 19, with $7,275 coming from groups like the North Bay Labor Council and SEIU Local 1021.
Political action committees of business groups such as the North Bay Leadership Council, the North Coast Builders Exchange and the Sonoma County Alliance also kicked in another 25 percent, with $7,250 in donations.
Other major contributors included Jim and Deana Ratto, owners of garbage hauler NorthBay Corp., $1,250 each; Barbara Banke, CEO of Kendall-Jackson, $2,000; Dona Frank, manager of medicinal marijuana dispensary OrganiCann, $1,000; and Bill and Susan Friedman, owners of Friedman’s Home Improvement, who chipped in $500 each.
The Rattos, however, had already given $2,500 each to Zane last year, and therefore both exceeded the $2,625 per election campaign funding limits.
“It should have been caught because we know what the limits are,” said Eric Oser, Zane’s bookkeeper and assistant treasurer of her campaign. “I think it was an oversight.”
The campaign will have to refund the Rattos $1,125 each to resolve the issue, Oser said.
Zane’s major expense was nearly $26,000 to San Francisco-based Storefront Political Media.
“I think any time you have an opponent, you run a serious campaign,” Zane said.
At the end of the period, her campaign had a cash balance of $42,489, with a $17,000 loan to herself outstanding.
Most of the contributions to Smith, a former Rohnert Park city councilman, came from individual donors, many of whom are retired. Prominent names include former Petaluma City Councilwoman Pam Torliatt and her parents, who contributed $100 each, and Petaluma Mayor David Glass, who also gave $100. Curtis Michelini, owner of Santa Rosa recycling firm Global Materials Recovery Services, gave $500.
Smith reported a total of $4,156 in cash at the end of the period, with a $3,000 loan to himself outstanding. He said he didn’t seek support from “big monied interests.”
The former Rohnert Park city councilman, who has made pension overhaul and a transparent bidding process the foundations of his campaign, noted that he’ll end his second run for the seat in the black.
“I’m much better funded than Sonoma County’s pension plan,” Smith said.
Carpenter, the former supervisor, and Jacobi, the former Santa Rosa councilwoman, have largely failed to make a dent in Carrillo’s fundraising machine.
Carpenter raised a total of $11,725 since mid-March and spent $17,726, including cash on hand from earlier in the year. Jacobi raised a total of $16,675 and spent $1,846.
Carrillo’s campaign contributions come from a wide spectrum of donors, including numerous individuals, small and big businesses, local attorneys, county employees, physicians, labor groups and business groups.
Missing from Carrillo’s list of contributors are key environmental groups, a constituency “he’ll never be able to please,” said Dave McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist. Carrillo will never be “green enough” for them, he said.
The key question in the district, McCuan said, is whether Carrillo’s support is strong enough to avoid a runoff. Carpenter does not have to raise a lot of money if his sole intention is make it to a face-off in November, McCuan said.
In that case, “his name recognition and familiarity with the issues does help him,” McCuan said. He called Jacobi’s bid a longshot.
Of Carrillo’s 200 campaign donors during the most recent filing period, 158 donations came from individuals. These ranged from a $100 contribution from Bodega Bay interior designer to $2,500 from Jennifer Lynn Bice, owner of Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery.
Dutton Ranch Corp gave Carrillo $1,900 during the filing period, bringing Dutton’s total contribution to Carrillo for the election to $2,620. William Tamayo of La Tortilla Factory gave him $331 this period for an election total of $1,281.
The Sonoma County Alliance political action committee gave Carrillo $1,625 this period for an election total of $2,625. And Carrillo also received significant contributions from labor groups, including $500 from SEIU Local 1021’s PAC; $1,000 from Operating Engineers Local No. 3; and $2,500 from the Northern California District Council of Laborer’s PAC.
Veronica Jacobi, whose loan to herself of $15,000 makes up the bulk of the $16,675 she raised during the latest reporting period, acknowledged her slim chances in the race.