Despite his late entry in a rematch for the House seat he once held, David Valadao (R-Hanford) outraised incumbent TJ Cox (D-Fresno) in the third quarter. However, the Cox campaign still has more cash on hand.
The contribution list for the two men running for congress in California’s District 21 shows the ag industry giving to both. But, Cox also has a list of Hollywood celebrities backing him.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Valadao — who announced in late August his intention to run again in the district he represented from 2013-2019 — raised $533,455. That is virtually identical to his year-to-date total.
Cox — who defeated Valadao in the district encompassing Kings County and parts of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties by 862 votes — raised $346,324 for the quarter, and $1.1 million in 2019. His cash-on-hand edge is $645,651 to $539,559.
Valadao Says Donations Are Mostly From District
Valadao’s campaign points out that 59% of his contributions come from supporters in the district.
“I am thankful to have such strong support from so many of my Central Valley neighbors,” Valadao said. “Our team is overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support show in the first month of our campaign. Voters are excited and eager to have a strong voice they can trust representing them in Congress again.”
Approximately 80% of Valadao’s contributors came from individuals, including seven who already gave the maximum ($2,800 for both the primary and general election equaling $5,600 total).
Notables include Valley Children’s Healthcare CEO Todd Suntrapak (who is listed as contributing $5,800 total, which means it is either an error in the paperwork or a refund would be required); Fresno businessman Farid Assemi and his wife and businesswoman Cheryl Assemi; and Joseph Lane with The Garlic Company.
However, other Assemi family members donated to Cox: GV Wire publisher Darius Assemi ($2,500) and Kevin Assemi ($1,500)
Valadao’s farming contributors included Mark Borba ($5,000) Charanjit Batth ($2,500), and Westlands Water District General Manager Thomas Birmingham ($1,000).
Other notables include Fresno beverage distributor Edward Donaghy ($5,000), John Kalpakoff of Mid Valley Disposal ($5,000), and Fresno radio station owner John Ostlund ($2,500).
Valadao is supported by many political action committees. Various committees gave Valadao more than $100,000 in the last quarter, or about 20% of his total. The groups include those advocating to elect Republicans to Congress, and many from the ag industry.
PACs contributing $10,000 — maxing out with $5,000 for both the primary and general election — include the Eureka PAC, Eye of the Tiger PAC, and Majority Committee PAC. According to OpenSecrets.com, they are all affiliated with fellow House members: Ken Calvert (R-California), Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), respectively.
OpenSecrets also lists the donors to those PACs as some of the most recognizable names in American business and industry.
Cox Says He Has Grassroot Support
In a statement, Cox’s campaign touted where his support is coming from.
“TJ’s campaign has just had its best quarter of the year thanks to strong grassroots support. His fight for the Central Valley has made him a target for Washington special interests who’d rather have a rubber stamp for Donald Trump in Congress, but TJ’s already delivering for the Central Valley on issues like providing relief to family farms, and communities from Firebaugh to Arvin are taking notice,” a campaign spokesman said.
For the quarter, Cox received 75% of his contributions from individual donors. For the year, that figure is 64%.
Of those who maxed out in the July-September time frame, only 1 of the 13 who gave $5,600 are from counties in the district: former Kern County political figure Gene Tackett. Many of the others are from the Bay Area or Los Angeles, including James Brooks — famed producer of “The Simpsons.”
Brooks isn’t Cox’s only Hollywood connection in the third quarter. Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel gave $1,250; Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame gave $1,250, and actress Patricia Arquette gave $250. Earlier this year, producer/actor Seth MacFarlane gave the $5,600 maximum.
Cox does have support from within the Fresno area. These contributors include Pleasant Valley Pistachio farmer Brad Gleason ($2,8000); attorney Warren Paboojian ($1,000); Gazebo Gardens owner Scott Miller ($1,000); Val-Print owner Jack Emerian ($500), and Fresno consultant Bryn Forhan ($500).
Other farmers giving to Cox: Jeanne McCormack ($5,600), Paul McCloskey ($1,850), and Craig McNamara ($1,000).
Many PACs or committees with ties to the Democratic Party gave to Cox, including the DCCC ($5,800), DNC PAC ($3,500), House Majority PAC ($2,500), and Schiff Hold the House 2020 ($28,781) among others.
Similar to donors to the Republican PACs, many of the contributors to Democratic PACs are a who’s who of corporate America.
What the Analysts Say About the Race
National House watchers label this a competitive race but say Cox has the early edge.
A recent Politico story said that while Democrats showed a fundraising edge through the third quarter, Valadao’s numbers meant “Republican prospects now look brighter.”
By the Numbers
|Debt||Cash on Hand|
|*TJ Cox (D)||$346,324||$1,111,099||$765,582||$70,550||$645,651|
|David Valadao (R)||$533,455||$530,762||$139,778||$0||$539,559|
Source: FEC records
Note: The year-total raised for Valadao is lower than the quarter raised because he had to return funds dating to 2018 that couldn’t be carried over to 2019 based on donors exceeding the maximum.