Donors are coughing up for three open Modesto Irrigation District races

09/30/2013 7:25 PM

10/01/2013 10:15 PM

Sharp differences in political fundraising are emerging among eight candidates in three Modesto Irrigation District races.

The three contests – all for open seats with no incumbent – feature at least one candidate with a significant financial advantage over an opponent.

Jake Wenger and Jim Mortensen have amassed the most this year in Division 4, with $12,674 and $16,190, respectively, while Paul Campbell has pulled in $15,523 for his Division 3 race.

Facing Wenger and Mortensen are Brad Johnson, who intends to raise and spend less than $1,000, and Ted Donham, who gave his campaign $791 and received a $666 gift for an early campaign mailer. They hope to represent northwest Modesto and Salida.

Campbell’s opponent to represent northeast Modesto and Riverbank is Les Johnson, who intends to raise and spend less than $1,000. A third candidate, Matt Innes, dropped out last week.

By Sept. 21, the end of the latest reporting period, John Mensinger had received $5,729 – a modest amount next to the top three fundraisers, but more than twice that of Carmen Sabatino, who took in $2,404. They are vying to represent central Modesto in the Division 2 race.

The majority of Sabatino’s account – $2,000 – came from Duarte Nursery in Hughson. Sabatino was mayor of Modesto from 1999 to 2003.

Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh gave $100 to Mensinger, who received no more than $250 from any of 16 donors. Other donors include former Modesto councilwoman Janine McClanahan and retired judge John Griffin Jr.

Campbell loaned his campaign $5,000 in July.

None of the rest of his 38 reportable donations exceeded $500. Donors included MID board member Tom Van Groningen and former board member Jeff Cowan; former Modesto councilwomen McClanahan and Kenni Friedman; Modesto City Schools candidate Brett McBay; and Jack Mobley, who lost a state Assembly race last year to Adam Gray.

Mortensen, the top fundraiser so far, loaned his campaign $866. The retired Del Monte Foods executive received $1,000 each from Modesto’s Mercer Foods and Stanislaus Food Products.

Wenger received a total of $2,000 from family members. His other donors include Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini.

Campbell had spent far more – $20,000 – than the other candidates as of Sept. 21; Mortensen was next highest, at $11,678, while Sabatino had spent none of his campaign money.

Wenger, Mortensen, Donham and Brad Johnson hope to succeed Paul Warda. Van Groningen is leaving the seat sought by Campbell and Les Johnson, while Sabatino and Mensinger are running for Glen Wild’s seat.

The three races have received unprecedented attention because of fractious issues facing the utility, which provides irrigation to 3,100 farmers and drinking water to Modesto customers as well as power to 113,000 electricity customers.

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