UPDATE, Monday, 10:45 a.m.: We’ve updated this post with information from incumbent Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone’s Form 460. See below.
It’s election season once again, and campaign donations have been rolling in.
The first pre-election batch of Form 460s — the campaign disclosure statements required of all candidates who spend at least $1,000 — were due yesterday, and while not all of them have been uploaded to the county election office’s online document center, most of ‘em have!
What do they show? Well, broadly speaking, the challengers — especially the conservative ones — have dramatically out-fundraised their counterparts, be they incumbents or more lefty challengers.
California’s June 7 primary is now just around the corner. In fact, ballots will start hitting mailboxes in just over a week. (The Humboldt County Elections Office plans to mail them out on May 9.)
The best-funded candidates don’t always win — especially at the local level — but the 460s can still give us a sense of the enthusiasm behind each candidate as well as some insights into the nature and interests of their supporters.
Okay! Let’s dive into the data.
With incumbent Fourth District Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass not running for re-election, this is an exciting three-way race. Local political observers have been eyeballing yard signs and keeping a mental tally in hopes of identifying a frontrunner.
In the money race, however, this thing is a bit of a runaway. Mike Newman, a former Eureka city councilmember and Bass’s appointee to the Humboldt County Planning Commission, raised a whopping $57,200 since the beginning of the year. That figure handily outpaced his fellow challengers, both of whom currently serve on the Eureka City Council. Furthermore, his campaign has only spent $17,333 to date, meaning he’s got almost $40,000 left in his war chest.
Natalie Arroyo, meanwhile, brought in $18,921 this period. Combine that with the $13,510 she raised last year and her campaign has raised $32,431. According to her campaign forms, she has spent most of that amount, leaving just over $1,700 in reserves.
Kim Bergel trails the money race, here, with her campaign having raised $7,348 thus far, about $3,000 of which has yet to be spent.
While county supervisor races are nominally nonpartisan, in practice the Humboldt County electorate typically divides fairly neatly and predictably along ideological lines, with conservatives coalescing behind their chosen candidate while lefties fall in line behind their own.
With this being a three-way race, the dynamic is perhaps a bit more fluid — on the left, anyway. The county’s local conservative establishment has assembled, wallets outstretched, into Newman’s camp.
annual election cycle per-donor limit in county races is $1,500, and Newman’s campaign has collected more than a dozen max donations, plus another dozen-plus contributions at or near the $1,000 mark. That includes checks from long-established conservative donors such as O&M Industries President Rob McBeth (along with three of his relatives), the Humboldt Builders Exchange Political Action Committee (PAC), Russ Cattle Company (and individual members of the Russ family), Greg Pierson’s Pierson Company and former county planning commissioner Robert Morris.
Newman also landed a $1,500 donation from his employer (local insurance firm George Peterson and Associates) and a $250 check from First District Supervisor Rex Bohn.
As for Arroyo, she has union support in the form of max donations from the Building and Construction Trades Council for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, the Central Labor Council of Humboldt Del Norte Counties and Operating Engineers Union Local No. 3 District 40 PAC. She also brought in
more than $2,000 (between this and last year) from former county supervisor Bonnie Neely [CORRECTION: The total from Neely was $1,315], plus a $500 donation from U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman’s campaign coffers and a $100 donation from Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson.
Bergel’s list of donors is relatively short, which means that many of the contributions to her campaign were under $100 and thus not subject to disclosure. She did land a $1,500 contribution from Sacramento-based National Union of of Healthcare Workers Candidate Committee for Quality Patient Care and Union Democracy, plus $1,000 from retired Carlotta resident Donald Erikson.
Up in the Fifth District, which encompasses the county’s northern region, from McKinleyville to Orick to Orleans, Weitchpec and Willow Creek, the money race remains a bit unclear. That’s because, as of 4:30 p.m. Friday, incumbent Supervisor Steve Madrone’s Form 460 had not yet been posted to the Humboldt County Elections Office website.
Madrone and the Elections Office both confirmed to the Outpost that the paperwork was submitted on time, but the process of redacting and uploading it wasn’t quite finished as of this writing. We’ll update the post once that information comes in. [See below.]
While Madrone’s numbers remain a mystery for now, it will come as a big surprise if his campaign manages to out-raise that of realtor and recent Orick transplant Larry Doss, whose campaign posted receipts totaling a whopping $90,882. Add that to the $8,000 he hauled in last year and the campaign’s within spitting distance of six figures, with more than half of that still in the bank.
Nearly three dozen donors ponied up the max amount, including Newman supporters such as Morris, the McBeth family, the Russ family and Eureka’s Wahlund Construction.
Greg Pierson’s construction firm Pierson Company (or Pico) also chipped in $1,500, and it’s worth noting that his family owns most of the land on which the McKinleyville Town Center is slated to be built.
Doss’s campaign collected big-dollar checks from Miller Farms Nursery, Elk River Timber, the Humboldt County Sheriff Organization PAC, Cher-Ae Heights Casino, GR Sundberg, Inc., the Humboldt Builders Exchange PAC, the CalFire Local 2881 Small Contributor PAC, Barnum Timber Company, Four Star Realty and Humboldt County Planning Commission Chair Alan Bongio.
Madrone’s Form 460 has been posted. It shows that he brought in $36,808 this reporting period, a respectable haul but less than half of his competitor’s total.
The incumbent landed union support, garnering $1,500 donations from the Central Labor Council, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 PAC, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties PAC and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 551 PAC.
He also got max donations from environmental activist Dr. Ken Miller, Pierson Building Center owner William Pierson, Suzanne Cook, Scott Sway, Diane and Kevin Jenkins (owner of McKinleyville Ace Hardware) and Greg Blomstrom.
State Senator Mike McGuire, who has endorsed Madrone, chipped in $500.
District Attorney: Here’s another race in which the incumbent — Maggie Fleming, in this case — is not running, leaving three candidates to vie for her position.
Assistant District Attorney Stacey Eads, whose campaign is endorsed by her boss, raised $42,050 this period, though nearly 10 percent of that — $4,200 — was her own money, according to her Form 460. (As the candidate, she can contribute more than the $1,500 individual donation limit.)
Fleming’s obsolete re-election coffers provided Eads’s campaign with $1,500, as did attorney Jason Eads, along with Bret Harvey, Raser Properties, LLC, Johnson Properties and the campaign of former San Luis Obispo County DA Dan Dow.
Former deputy DA and current Deputy Public Defender Adrian Kamada has lined up many progressive and union endorsements, but for now his campaign fundraising activity remains a mystery. [Not anymore! See below.] As of late Friday afternoon, the Elections Office had not received his Form 460. That doesn’t mean it’s late, necessarily. Staff explained that as long as it’s postmarked by Thursday’s date, the form won’t be considered delinquent. We’ll update this post when the info comes in.
UPDATE, Monday, 1:58 p.m.: Kamada’s Form 460 shows that he raised $39,214 in this reporting window and has spent all but $616 of that. He donated $3,574 to himself and received max donations of $1,500 from Robin and Cherie Arkley, the George Peterson Insurance Agency, Howard Hunt, Nick Abrahamsen, Tyler Kearns, Jessica Kearns, Allison Holland, Etta Bergstresser, Richard Bergstresser, Brian Whited, Garden Depot in McKinleyville and the Central Labor Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties AFL-CIO.
Eureka attorney Michael Acosta, whose trial for felony charges for allegedly selling drugs and maintaining a drug house remains ongoing, has opted out of campaign fundraising altogether. He told the Outpost in an email last month that he finds campaign yard signs “aesthetically unpleasant,” saying they turn “neighborhoods into commercial corridors with miniature billboards selling politicians, and then becoming lawn litter after the election.”
As for raising money for a political campaign, Acosta observed, “The traditional campaign strategy of amassing a war chest of campaign contributions, impressing name recognition into the voters minds through advertising and avoiding the actual issues for as long as possible doesn’t appeal to me. I am running for District Attorney to raise awareness about the government corruption that has led to public frustration with our system of justice, and knowing that I have very little chance of success in the actual election, but every chance of success in my political activism about these issues that may someday lead to real positive changes.”
Incumbent Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez didn’t decide whether she was even going to run for re-election until shortly before the candidate filing deadline, and challenger Cheryl Dillingham cut it even closer.
For a position that has historically been pretty much a snooze in the eyes of the voting public, the A-C race this time around has provided arguably the most dramatic storyline of this election season thanks to the unholy clusterfuck of the county’s books (delinquent fiscal reports date back years) and the very public arguments over who’s to blame.
(A third candidate, Mychal Evenson, will appear on ballots, but he has dropped out of the race and is supporting Dillingham’s bid.)
Dillingham has out-fundraised Paz Dominguez more than three-to-one, with her campaign bringing in $32,022 to the incumbent’s $8,953.
[CLARIFICATION: Dillingham loaned her own campaign $12,000, so the fundraising total from donations alone is $20,022.]
Paz Dominguez’s campaign funds have come mostly from small donations. Her Form 460 lists just eight donors who chipped in $100 or more. The top donor, Patterson-Conners Insurance
owner agent Carol Conners, donated $258.
Dillingham’s campaign, meanwhile, got a $1,350 donation from Evenson’s abandoned campaign. She also donated $1,000 of her own money. Conservatives including the Russ family, Debra McBeth and Rex Bohn (whose campaign fund donated $500) made contributions, though so did former county supervisors Bonnie Neely, Mark Lovelace and Clif Clendenen.
Another incumbent retiring — Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders — and another three-way contest! All three of these candidates already work in the office, either on the Clerk-Recorder side or in the Elections Office.
Tiffany Hunt Nielsen brought in $26,408 to her campaign this filing period, including a $1,500 donation from civil engineering firm Omsberg & Preston and donations of $1,000 (give or take a few bucks) from the California Land Surveyors Association, Pierson Company, Humboldt West, LLC, and L&H Properties, LLC.
Juan Pablo Cervantes’s campaign raised $13,998, including a $1,500 donation from himself, and max donations from William Pierson (
brother uncle of Greg, patron of progressives and owner of Pierson Building Center), Aisha Cissna and the Central Labor Council of Humboldt-Del Norte Counties AFL-CIO.
As of this writing, Ben Hershberger’s campaign did not have a Form 460 uploaded to the county website, which could mean it simply hadn’t been put up yet or that his campaign hadn’t raised or spent enough to require one.
Running unopposed this season we two have incumbents — Humboldt County Sheriff William “Billy” Honsal and Superintendent of Schools Michael Davies Hughes — as well as two hand-picked successors — Howard LaHaie, who will succeed Mari Wilson as Assessor, and Amy Christensen, who has already assumed the role of Treasurer-Tax Collector following the retirement of John Bartholomew.
In a fantastic development for campaign finance transparency, the Humboldt County Office of Elections is posting candidates’ campaign finance documents online for the first time this election season, which means you can take an even closer look at these documents from the comfort of your own couch, office chair, beanbag, whatever. Here’s the link you’ll need.
And if you care more about what the candidates believe — of course you do! — head on over to LoCO Elections, where they’re answering questions posed by readers and constituents. And don’t forget to vote on (or before) June 7.