While a judge may ultimately decide on how much Fresno County Supervisor candidates can pad their coffers, GOP political contributors and the party itself are deciding who to support.
City councilman Garry Bredefeld is challenging incumbent Supervisor Steve Brandau for the seat covering north Fresno and parts of Clovis. Both are conservative Republicans and, at times, friends and allies.
The party itself may have trouble wrestling with the fact that two well-known conservative Republicans are running for the same seat.
“Ideally, we wouldn’t like to see two strong conservatives running against each other. No, we want to see one strong Republican run for every single race in the Valley,” said Lisa Moreno, a former party regional vice-chair.
Says current Central Valley regional vice-chair Corrin Rankin: “It’s up to voters to decide.”
The primary is less than a year away on March 5, 2024.
Disclosure: Brandau is a co-host on “Unfiltered,” a live-streaming news affairs show hosted on Tuesday nights by GV Wire publisher Darius Assemi. Bredefeld has appeared as a guest on the show.
Where the Donors Stand
“Donors, from what I’ve heard, are lining up behind Steve,” says Tim Orman, a longtime manager of Republican campaigns. “I don’t think they’re thrilled about having to donate to two Republicans or two Republicans fighting for the same seat.”
Orman is not involved in the Brandau vs. Bredefeld race.
Land developers, a constant source of campaign cash, may also be out. A new law, SB 1439, places a $250 limit for those with certain contracts in front of government bodies. However, the law doesn’t apply to unions. Unsurprisingly, the law is being challenged in court.
“I think it is going to play a factor maybe more for Garry than Steve, just because more development tends to come through the city of Fresno, than the county of Fresno,” Orman said.
The union representing Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies — a frequent contributor to supervisor races — says it has not weighed in on who it will support.
As of Dec. 31, Brandau had $173,619 cash on hand in his 2024 supervisor campaign account; Bredefeld reported $228,338 in his city council account.
Bredefeld released a new campaign video on his social media this past weekend. Updated campaign disclosure documents are due by July 31.
Another Clash of Brandau-Bredefeld Words
The battle Bredefeld-Brandau battle accelerated over the weekend. Brandau appeared on KSEE-24’s “Sunday Morning Matters,” saying the race strained his relationship with Bredefeld, now calling him a former friend.
Asked by host Alexan Balekian if they are still friends, Brandau said “No, I think that’s kind of over with. Yeah, I’ve tried being friends with that little feller for a long time. We played a lot of golf. We went out to eat, we did stuff together … and he’s decided to stick me in the back. I’m big enough. I can get over it. We’re going to move forward,” Brandau said.
Asked for a response, Bredefeld texted this to GV Wire: “I find most of his comments to be whiny, weak, and ineffective just as his silence was during COVID when he did absolutely nothing to help his constituents. Change and accountability are coming to District 2.”
Brandau also criticized Bredefeld for talking about PG&E being slow to electrify new developments, but not doing anything about it.
In a response on Facebook, Bredefeld said the interview was “disgraceful but revealing.”
“As is typical with phony politicians, despite his criticizing me, he and nearly every other Board of Supervisor stood with me at my press conference at City Hall. Now the City is moving forward in looking at all possible solutions to provide more efficient and reasonable rates to our citizens,” Bredefeld wrote.
County Asks Judge to Rule on Fundraising Issue
Another tension point in the election battle includes Fresno County ruling that a 2020 resolution limits how much money a candidate can raise from an individual contributor. The county says the $30,000 limit applies to transferring entire campaign accounts as well.
Bredefeld and Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez — who is also challenging an incumbent supervisor, Sal Quintero in District 3 — criticized the move, calling it the “Incumbent Protection Scheme.”
Last week, the Board of Supervisors voted to ask a judge to clear up the issue, filing a declaratory relief motion with the court on Friday. The move would allow a judge to interpret the law before any other action is taken. No hearing date has been set.
Chavez — also a guest on “Sunday Morning Matters” — referenced an opinion from Fresno City Attorney Andrew Janz, interpreting that a city council campaign account can be transferred to a county account.
“It is the opinion of the City Attorney that funds may be transferred from a City campaign account to a Fresno County campaign account that belong to the same candidate in a ‘first in, first out’ method of accounting,” Janz wrote in an FAQ on election issues updated Feb. 9.
Quintero reported $74,498 cash on hand; Chavez has $110,018 in his city account.
The penalty for knowingly violating the campaign raising limits, set forth in the 2020 county law, is a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.