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Challengers Outraise Incumbents in Key Valley Races. Will It Matter at the Polls?

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Candidates for state and local office reported how much they raised for the November election.

Aside from state and national races, voters within the cities of Fresno and Clovis will decide several school board contests.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

Politics 101 reviewed the latest financial reporting data, covering the period through September 19. Incumbents don’t always have the advantage.


Also in Politics 101: 

  • Can fundraising overcome registration in South Valley assembly race?
  • Will new consultants help push through Clovis Unified bond?
  • Can Fresno Unified incumbent hold off socialist upstart?
  • Fundraising disparity in open Central Unified seat.
  • Political youngster getting help from his boss.
  • Two SCCCD incumbents report no fundraising.

State Assembly

Perhaps the most intriguing Assembly race is in the South Valley, where incumbent Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) has been outraised by his Democratic opponent, Drew Phelps.

Overall, Phelps raised $243,494 compared to Mathis’ $164,699. Phelps also touted “record-breaking” numbers for the quarter as well.

“I think what the historic nature of these fundraising numbers goes to show is just how deeply our message is resonating out there,” Phelps said in a news release.

Mathis downplayed the figures.

“With everything going on I’m not too concerned with fundraising. There are so many issues facing the families in our district,” Mathis said in an email to Politics 101. “There is more to being a representative than just campaigns. It’s the service to the people in District 26.” said Mathis.

While Phelps may have the fundraising advantage, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district by 6%.

(Phelps is a former GV Wire contributor, and works for Granville Homes. Darius Assemi, president of Granville Homes, publishes GV Wire.)

The two Assemblymen representing Fresno do not have much to worry about come November. Republican Jim Patterson is running unopposed, yet has still raised $148,950 this year and has plenty leftover in the bank.

Most of his expenses were for travel or reimbursements.

Democrat Joaquin Arambula also has a financial advantage over his opponent. According to the state campaign finance database, Republican Fernando Banuelos’ forms have not appeared. Banuelos said he filed the forms, but only raised a little more than $2,000.

Arambula raised $353,384 for the campaign.

Most of Arambula’s spending has been contributions to the Democratic Party.

Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) is also running unopposed and has amassed a nearly $1 million war chest.

Candidate Race Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Devon Mathis*(R) Assembly District 26 $164,699 $172,398 $99,834
Drew Phelps (D) Assembly District 26 $243,494 $151,922 $162,951
Jim Patterson* (R) Assembly District 23 $148,950 $224,259 $327,644
Joaquin Arambula* (D) Assembly District 31 $353,384 $627,060 $81,553
Fernando Banuelos (R) Assembly District 31 N/A N/A N/A
Frank Bigelow* (R) Assembly District 4 $274,107 $254,896 $944,240
Rudy Salas* (D) Assembly District 32 $469,443 $176,787 $785,141
Todd Cotta (R) Assembly District 32 $54,157 $35,590 $23,583
Adam Gray* (D) Assembly District 21 $293,620 $281,361 $541,632
Joel Gutierrez Campos (R) Assembly District 21 N/A N/A N/A

* incumbent

Clovis Unified

The closest race in terms of fundraising is for Area 4 — Hugh Awtrey is attempting to hold on to his seat against the challenge of Jonathan Holt. Both have raised nearly $20,000.

Awtrey is running in his first election after the board appointed him to the vacant seat last year.

Developers have given plenty to both men. Westech Systems contributed $10,000 to Awtrey. Wilson Homes gave $1,000 to Holt.

Noha Elbaz, also running the Area 4 race can’t claim construction money — she’s raised more than $5,000 overall — but she can brag about Fresno State women’s water polo coach Natalie Benson’s $250 contribution.

The Yes on A campaign, the $335 million school bond measure, raised most of its $285,000 from the construction industry. This is the second attempt to pass the bond this year.

In March, voters rejected Measure A, which drew only 49.57% support. It needed 55%. Measure A supporters raised $100,000 and spent more.

It also appears that supporters have changed consultants. The Yes on Measure A campaign paid more than $120,000 TBWBH, a firm that specializes in passing bond measures. That total reflected both consulting and campaign materials.

According to the latest Measure A filing, local campaign manager Mark Scozarri and local fundraising expert Terra Brusseau received $5,000 each. Park West Associates, Alex Tavlian’s consulting firm, received $2,500.

There is no formal opposition group.

Candidate Race Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Yes on Measure A (Clovis Unified) Measure A $258,505 $303,074 $168,853
David DeFrank Clovis Unified Area 2 $7,450 $1,696 $5,753
Jacob Trumble Clovis Unified Area 2 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Hugh Awtrey* Clovis Unified Area 4 $20,514 $13,970 $6,453
Jonathan Holt Clovis Unified Area 4 $19,810 $18,860 $4,125
Noha Elbaz Clovis Unified Area 4 $5,564 $2,237 $3,326
Steven Fogg* Clovis Unified Area 5 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Chris Casado* Clovis Unified Area 7 $16,049 $0 $20,957
Yolanda Moore Clovis Unified Area 7 $3,809 $2,429 $1,379

Fresno Unified

Carol Mills is the fundraising leader, reporting more than $43,000 for her Area 5 re-election campaign. The figure includes a $24,708 loan to herself and a $10,000 contribution from the Fresno Teachers Association political action committee.

Her top challenger, in terms of fundraising, is David Paredes — who has raised more than $7,000. The political newcomer and member of the Democratic Socialist of America, once interned for Fresno Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria.

There are familiar names in Paredes’ contributor list from Democratic Party circles. Former Assemblyman Juan Arambula and his wife Amy Arambula contributed $500 each; Fresno Councilman-elect Tyler Maxwell gave $200.

The FTA also contributed $10,000 to another incumbent, Claudia Cazares in her Area 6 race. Her two opponents in the race have not reported raising more than $2,000.

Candidate Race Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas* Fresno Unified Area 2 $2,635 $1,725 $5,394
Carol Mills* Fresno Unified Area 5 $43,285 $10,706 $14,539
David Paredes Fresno Unified Area 5 $7,136 $1,593 $5,722
Alex DeSiga Fresno Unified Area 5 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Sharon Clinton Fresno Unified Area 5 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Claudia Cazares* Fresno Unified Area 6 $16,388 $2,964 $14,686
Esteban Pacheco Fresno Unified Area 6 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Bill Gates Fresno Unified Area 6 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000

Central Unified

The race to watch is for the open Area 6 seat. Jeremy Mehling, a farmer, has the significant fundraising advantage over three others in the race.

Mehling reports raising more than $14,000. Stacy Williams, a social justice advocate, has pulled in slightly more than $2,000.

Terry Cox decided not to stand for reelection this year, creating the open seat.

Several candidates reported under $2,000.

Candidate Race Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Yes on Measure D (Central Unified) Measure D $29,250 $3,181 $26,068
Jeremy Mehling Central Unified Area 6 $14,510 $3,185 $11,324
Stacy Williams Central Unified Area 6 $2,384 $1,167 $1,446
Sandra Flores Central Unified Area 6 $1,075 $479 $1,020
Richard Martinez Central Unified Area 6 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Phillip Cervantes* Central Unified Area 3 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Corbin Gunstream Central Unified Area 3 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Shawn Brooks Central Unified Area 4 $0 $0 $0
Bret Rush Central Unified Area 4 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Richard Solis* Central Unified Area 5 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000

Fresno County Board of Education

Blake Zante has raised more than $13,000 for a school board race that doesn’t traditionally receive much attention.

The former Fresno State student body president and current staffer to state Senator Andreas Borgeas — who contributed $2,500 from his campaign account — has received contributions from other elected officials such as Fresno Councilman Garry Bredefeld ($200), former Fresno Unified trustee Brooke Ashjian ($500), and former Assemblyman Mike Villines ($500).

Zante is running in Area 2 against Bryan Burton, who reported raising $4,250.

In Area 3, incumbent Daren Miller reported $14,357. James Martinez raised $4,814.

One interesting contributor to Miller — $250 from Matt Rodgers, a Kingsburg farmer who used to work with Martinez as staffers in Sen. Kamala Harris’ Fresno office.

Candidate Race Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Blake Zante FCBOE Area 2 $13,446 $5,434 $8,011
Bryan Burton FCBOE Area 2 $4,250 $3,150 $4,200
Daren Miller* FCBOE Area 3 $14,357 $10,012 $4,344
James Martinez FCBOE Area 3 $4,814 $2,407 $2,407
Craig Seber FCBOE Area 3 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Arthur Servin FCBOE Area 3 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000
Allen Clyde FCBOE Area 5 N/A N/A N/A

State Center

Incumbents Eric Payne and John Leal have both reported no contributions nor spending for the year.

Payne’s opponents, Sevag Tateosian and Nasreen Johnson, have both raised more than $30,000.

Candidate Race Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Eric Payne* SCCCD Area 2 $0 $0 $0
Sevag Tateosian SCCCD Area 2 $30,447 $4,466 $25,980
Nasreen Johnson SCCCD Area 2 $32,849 $15,161 $17,826
John Leal* SCCCD Area 3 $0 $0 $0
Dary Rezvani SCCCD Area 3 $29,462 $5,195 $24,266
Danielle Parra SCCCD Area 3 $0 $0 $0
Deborah Ikeda* SCCCD Area 6 $2,525 $4,137 $1,872
Sally Fowler SCCCD Area 6 $28,500 $0 $28,500
Chris Milton SCCCD Area 6 $582 $891 $582
Richard Caglia* SCCCD Area 7 $12,950 $1,346 $15,423
Abena Cruise SCCCD Area 7 $3,075 $1,457 $3,027
Jon Bath SCCCD Area 7 >$2,000 >$2,000 >$2,000

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email