Long before votes are cast in the 2024 elections, the plot heated up Tuesday in two high-profile races involving seats on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
The board voted 3-0, with supervisors Steve Brandau and Sal Quintero recusing themselves from the vote and the discussion, to take legal action against two Fresno city councilmembers challenging board incumbents.
The dispute involves the $30,000 campaign contribution limit set by the supervisors in 2020.
Both councilmember Garry Bredefeld, who is challenging Brandau for the District 2 seat, and councilmember Luis Chavez, who is challenging Quintero in District 3, have said they intend to use all of the contributions from their council campaign accounts in the supervisorial races.
Bredefeld reports having $223,000 in his campaign account and Chavez has $110,000. Brandau reported $173,619 cash on hand, and Quintero had $75,000 through the end of 2022.
‘Unconstitutional Ordinance’ Say Bredefeld, Chavez
“I’m not surprised that the Board of Supervisors are wasting taxpayer money to defend their unconstitutional ordinance which is nothing more than an Incumbent Protection Scheme,” Bredefeld said in a statement to GV Wire. “We are witnessing politicians, for the very first time, weaponizing county attorneys paid for by taxpayers to stop challengers from legally transferring individual contributions to another committee, which is done all the time and follows state law.
“This is a despicable, callous effort to protect Steve Brandau but it won’t work. Brandau should spend his own money suing rather than using taxpayer money for this political scheme.”
Chavez struck a similar theme in his comments to GV Wire.
“The county chose to use taxpayer dollars and weaponize the county’s legal and public relations departments to come after those threatening the status quo,” Chavez said. “This goes against the public’s constitutional right to free speech. It won’t work.
“The action deliberately and purposely interjects taxpayer dollars (staff time and letterheads and resources) into a political race, attempting to protect incumbents and subvert the democratic process. The vote was unconstitutional and borderline illegal and amounts to a public gift of funds by expending tax dollars to help an incumbent during a political campaign.”
County Has Right to Set Contribution Limits: Nerland
In a news release, Fresno County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland said that the county has the right under California law to set and enforce its own campaign finance rules.
“The county is confident that the outcome of this proceeding will confirm its position,” Nerland said of Tuesday’s vote to seek court affirmation of the county’s $30,000 limit in the early stages of the 2024 elections.
Said Quintero: “I recused myself from the vote, and now I look forward to seeing what the court decides.”
Brandau couldn’t be reached for comment before the publication of this story.
The Quintero-Chavez Race
Quintero, 75, was first elected in 2016 and ran unopposed for re-election in 2020. Before, he served two stints on the Fresno City Council, 1995-2003 and 2011-2016. During Quintero’s last stint on the council, Chavez, 43, served as his chief of staff. Both candidates are Democrats.
Supervisorial District 3 covers central and southeast Fresno and the unincorporated community of Calwa. Chavez represents the city’s District 5, which encompasses a large part of southeast Fresno, including Sunnyside.
Chavez won a special election for city council (to succeed Quintero) in 2016, and won re-election in 2018 and 2022. He also served on the Fresno Unified school board from 2012-2016.
The Brandau-Bredefeld Race
Brandau and Bredefeld, both of whom are Republicans, once served together on the city council representing north-side neighborhoods.
Bredefeld, 63, returned to the city council in 2017 and was re-elected in 2022 after previously serving as the District 6 representative from 1997 through 2001.
Brandau, 59, was elected as District 2 supervisor following a special election to fill a vacancy in April 2019 and re-elected to a full term in 2020. He burst on the political scene in 2012 by winning the first of two terms on the city council.