Spending on Modesto Irrigation District elections has varying results for board candidates

02/02/2014 5:25 PM

02/02/2014 5:26 PM

Money isn’t everything, in political campaigns.

Jim Mortensen spent more than $33 per vote in his bid for a Modesto Irrigation District seat in the fall. But he lost to Jake Wenger, who spent less than one-third that amount per vote, according to finance forms released Friday.

Campaigns for three open seats prompted unprecedented attention – and campaign contributions. Wenger received $30,126 to Mortensen’s $35,547, but Wenger captured 2,765 votes, while 1,051 people voted for Mortensen.

That works out to Mortensen spending $33.82 for each vote, while Wenger spent $10.90.

Wenger’s ratio was close to that of Paul Campbell, whose $36,568 war chest was largest among eight candidates for the three seats. His money-per-vote ratio came to $11.70, and he easily outdistanced opponent Les Johnson, who did not collect donations.

Thriftiest among the winners was John Mensinger, who needed $2.29 per vote to overpower Carmen Sabatino, a former Modesto mayor. A death in Sabatino’s support camp prevented him from submitting finance information for 2014 by Friday’s deadline, said the Stanislaus County clerk-recorder’s office.

Drama over MID’s water and power issues produced intrigue in the races, heightened by former board members Paul Warda, Glen Wild and Tom Van Groningen walking away from their seats. They were succeeded, respectively, by Wenger, Mensinger and Campbell.

Brad Johnson and Ted Donham also contended for the seat won by Wenger.

Some candidates loaned themselves significant amounts of money. For example, Campbell gave $5,000 to his campaign; he had $2,528 in leftover cash as of Dec. 31, but owed himself and others a combined $8,556. Mensinger self-loaned $3,000. Mortensen received enough donations to repay the $866 he had loaned to his campaign in May and June.

Just before the Nov. 5 election, Wenger got $3,000 from his father, Paul, who earlier had given his son $1,000. Paul Wenger is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Jake Wenger also received $1,000 on Oct. 21 from Duarte Nursery, which had contributed $1,000 earlier.

Even closer to the election, people connected to the Lyons family’s Mape’s Ranch gave Mortensen 13 contributions worth a combined $5,000. Mortensen also collected $1,000 from John Van Duyn of Ripon in the latest reporting period, from Oct. 20 through the year’s end.

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