An early jump and sustained ag-related donations are keeping Vito Chiesa on top in fund raising among Stanislaus County supervisor candidates, despite Les Weid- man's recent surge.
Chiesa, a former county farm bureau president from Hughson, has amassed nearly $190,000, including $104,162 in the latest two-month reporting period ending May 17 plus $6,500 since. His finance forms are thick with agribusiness contributions.
Weidman, a former county sheriff from Hickman, eclipsed Chiesa's take from mid-March through mid-May with nearly $120,000, for a campaign total of $146,000. He also leans on plenty of ranchers and growers, as well as public safety officers and political figures.
The two seek an open seat being vacated by Supervisor Tom Mayfield, who is not running after 15 years on the county board.
Together, Chiesa and Weidman have raised more than seven times the $47,145 combined total of District 5 candidates Jim DeMartini, the incumbent, and Newman Mayor John Fantazia.
Weidman, sheriff from 1990 to 2004, attracted $500 from Mayfield's wife, Anita, and $2,000 from Supervisor Jeff Grover's company, Solecon Industrial Contractors. Weidman also won financial support from former supervisors Ray Simon ($2,500), who retired two years ago, and from Paul Caruso ($500) and Pat Paul ($100), both beaten in the 2004 election.
Chiesa apparently won the confidence of former supervisor Nick Blom, whose wife donated $100.
Sheriff Adam Christiansen, elected two years ago after receiving $1,000 from Weidman and his endorsement, repaid the favor with an identical donation to Weidman's campaign from Christiansen's re-election committee.
Myron Larson, former assistant sheriff under Weidman, gave $100 to Chiesa.
Other political figures contributing to Weidman include:
Taxpayers for Dave Cogdill ($2,500); Hughson Mayor Ken Moore ($1,100); Superior Court Judge Donald Shaver ($100); Vera Girolami, wife of former Judge Al Girolami ($250); Martin Petersen, former county schools superintendent ($200); and Sandra Lucas, longtime Democratic Party activist ($500).
Chiesa snagged $50 from the Committee to Retain Deidre Kelsey, Merced County supervisor.
Weidman tapped old friends in public safety, receiving $1,000 from the Modesto Police Officers Association; $500 from Friends of Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles; $50 from retired Turlock police chief Lonald Lott; and at least 20 other donations from a variety of law enforcement and firefighting forces.
A union representing Stanislaus County Consolidated firefighters gave $1,000 to Chiesa.
The two District 2 candidates received in-kind contributions of "beverages for (fund-raising) events" from Modesto's E.&J. Gallo Winery, valued at $2,073 for Weidman and $489 for Chiesa. Weidman also listed $1,440 worth of beverages donated by Bronco Wine Co. of Ceres, and Chiesa claimed $202 from Mo- desto's Seven-Up Bottling Co.
And both received $2,000 from Turlock refuse executive Alan Marchant.
$4,500, Martella family members, Hughson; $4,100, Chiesa family members; $3,000, rancher and MTC Distributing owner Tom Eakin; $2,750, Traina Dried Fruit Inc., Patterson; $2,500, Frazier Nut Farms, Waterford; $2,400, North Paradise LLC, Modesto; $2,100, CalWater Drilling Co., Turlock; $1,450, Casazza Ranch, Hughson; $1,400, Alpine Pacific Nut Co., Hughson; and $1,100, Fred Claus, Hickman and Richard Clauss, Hilmar;
$1,000: Prospector LLC and Gary Linhares, Turlock; Ronald Alves and VA Rodden Inc., Oakdale; Farm Political Action Committee, Sacramento; John Ferrari, Ballico; Flow Transportation Services, Hughson; Vance Kennedy, MG Commodities, Janet Nicholson of Modesto; June Rogers and Demergasso Ranches Inc., Hughson; S&F Farms, Newman; Westridge Business Park, Patterson; Leland Livingston, San Jose and Galen Miyamoto, Winton.
$5,000, Frantz Wholesale Nursery; $3,125, Braden Farms, Hughson; and $2,580, Delta Brands, Modesto;
$2,500: American Chevrolet, Ralph Curtis, Don's Mobile Glass, Huff Construction Co., Matel Realtors, PMZ Inc. and Chris Ronson;
$2,000, Sharon Naraghi, Escalon; $1,800, Ed Gallagher, Ceres; $1,750, Robert Woolley, Hickman; $1,500, Brunker Ranches, Oakdale; and $1,400, Crowell Ranches;
$1,250: Britton Konynenburg Partners, DeHart Plumbing, Prime Shine Inc. and Sky Trek Aviation, Modesto; Sierra Pacific, Patterson; and $1,150, Lazar Piro, Turlock;
$1,000: Thomas Hallinan, C.W. Brower Inc., Amarjit Dhaliwal, Stephen Endsley and Gilton Resource Recovery Transfer Fa- cility, Modesto; Lance Reid, Hickman; Ray Souza, Turlock; and Superior Fruit Ranch Inc., Ceres.
Modesto civic matriarch Bette Belle Smith; Carolyn Bernal, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president; Sharon Silva, Turlock Chamber of Commerce president; and former Stanislaus Taxpayers Association president Dave Thomas.
Weidman reported paying Modesto entrepreneur Dan Costa $26,500 for various auction items and receiving $13,500 worth of similar in-kind contributions.
Fantazia received $2,000 from Allesandro Bonecchi of Modesto and $1,000 from Britton Konynenburg Partners.
Donations to DeMartini include $1,000 each from Island Dairy of Modesto and Cerutti Bros. of Newman.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.