It's a banner season for Democratic Party fund raising in California, but not in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Democratic presidential candidates collected $1.85 for each dollar their Republican counterparts raised in the Golden State through the end of September.
All together, that's a $15.3 million advantage for the Democrats.
But the state money trend flips in Modesto and its surrounding region.
The GOP's would-be commanders in chief brought in $3.88 for each dollar Democrats picked up from Tracy south to Merced and east to the foothills of Mariposa and Tuolumne counties.
That's $127,466 for the Republicans and $32,890 for the Democrats, according to the Federal Election Commission.
"The Central Valley is its own entity," said Merced County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, who gave $100 to Arizona Republican John McCain's campaign. "The Central Valley really is not like the rest of California."
Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama lead the pack in California fund raising, but Republicans Rudy Giuliani and McCain collected the most cash around Modesto.
Former New York Mayor Giuliani and Sen. McCain were the only candidates to stop and shake hands in the valley. They each visited Stanislaus County in June.
Rod Olsen of Modesto, a former legislative aide to Republican state Sen. Pete Knight, said valley voters tend to fall on the conservative side of social issues, such as abortion and same sex marriage.
"This is why Stanislaus County has typically raised more money for Republican candidates over the years -- it's all about the social issues," said Ol-sen, who backs former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
San Joaquin Valley donors who made contributions in 2007 chose their candidates early. The California primary won't happen until Feb. 5.
Jim Duarte of Hughson, who held a Giuliani fund-raising event, said he wants to see the New Yorker rebound from his poor showings in the early primaries.
"Still the field's wide open, and I think he's a good leader," said Duarte, 72. Duarte and five relatives each gave Giuliani $2,300, the most an individual can contribute to a campaign.
Iva Jewell Briggs of Modesto wants to see Clinton take the White House in November. She gave $700 to her campaign.
"I've read all of her books," Briggs, 80, said. "I think she is the best candidate because she has the most experience and she can work with people in the foreign countries."
Janet Luna of Delhi favored Democratic candidates John Edwards and Mike Gravel. She contributed $250 to each of them.
"I would like the two top runners to pay attention to the bottom ones who are more likely to be less corporately involved and more principled," she said.
Northern San Joaquin Valley contributions to Democratic presidential candidates look meager compared with Republicans, but they surpass what John Kerry raised from the area four years ago in his bid to unseat President Bush.
Kerry raised $31,158 between Manteca and Merced; Bush brought in $178,154, according to records kept by the Center for Responsive Politics.
"It's just a more conservative area" of California, said Andy Johnson, a former fund-raiser for Merced Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza. "Candidates have to be more to the center if they want to win."
Northern San Joaquin Valley cash flows to Republican presidential candidates disproportionately to the area's voter rolls. In Stanislaus County, 41 percent of voters are Republicans and 40 percent registered as Democrats.
The county's biggest Demo-cratic donors are not reflected in the presidential reports. Executives at Modesto's E&J Gallo Winery and their relatives contributed $189,000 to congres- sional races and committees last year, most of which went to Democrats.
Reports detailing the final quarter of political fund-raising from 2007 are expected to be released Jan. 31.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.