Evidence of Modesto Irrigation District politics reaching fever pitch can be found in candidates’ finances.
It may amount to circumstantial evidence, but two MID office seekers had raked in more money by the latest disclosure deadline than this year’s top-raising Modesto City Council candidates. A third gunning for the MID board – hardly a bastion for the flashy, in years past – is awfully close, too.
Paul Campbell and Jim Mortensen, vying for different MID seats, respectively pulled in $31,169 and $25,133, compared with $24,997 and $24,319 for council hopefuls Tony Madrigal and Bill Zoslocki. Jake Wenger, one of Mortensen’s three opponents, took in $24,299 as of Oct. 19, the end of the latest reporting period.
The six MID candidates engaging in fundraising – two others are not – have received an average of $16,105, compared with the average take of $12,646 for eight council candidates seeking three seats.
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Council campaigns routinely raised far more before district elections were implemented a few years ago, when candidates had to court voters throughout the entire city. Appealing to a smaller crowd, requiring less money, was one byproduct of the switch that was meant more to boost minority candidates.
But MID board members have represented geographic districts for decades. Their races this year have heightened interest because of high-profile water and electricity issues, perceived board dysfunction and the turnover that will happen when three new members join the board after the Nov. 5 election.
Wenger and Mortensen hope to succeed Paul Warda to represent northwest Modesto and Salida. Also seeking that Division 4 seat are Ted Donham, who reported raising $1,606, and Brad Johnson, who isn’t collecting money.
Neither is Les Johnson, Campbell’s Division 3 opponent. They want to succeed Tom Van Groningen to represent northeast Modesto and part of Riverbank.
With Glen Wild leaving his central Modesto seat, former mayor Carmen Sabatino had raised $3,504 to John Mensinger’s $10,918.
The six MID candidates have amassed a combined $96,629 compared with $101,167 for eight council hopefuls.
Down the road, Turlock Irrigation District incumbent Joe Alamo gathered $28,323 to lead four candidates for two seats. His Division 3 opponent, Daniel Agundez, received $12,850.
In TID’s Division 5 race, board member Ron Macedo pulled in $8,572 and Darrel Monroe isn’t fundraising.
• Wenger received $1,000 each from Joe Ruddy Corp., Ruddy & Assoc. and TRS Enterprises. Smaller donors include Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow, who gave $150.
• Mensinger received $100 each from Supervisor Dick Monteith and former supervisor Ray Simon.
• The Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee gave $2,000 each to Campbell, Mortensen and Mensinger.
• Van Groningen contributed three times to Campbell’s campaign for a total of $450.
• Campbell received $1,000 each from land-use attorney George Petrulakis, accountant Scott Kerr, Valley Wealth partner Jason Gordo and Stanislaus Food Products. Former MID board member Jeff Cowan gave him $350.
• A union representing many MID workers gave Mortensen $750. He also received $2,000 from Stanislaus Food Products and $1,000 from computer consultant Ty McCartney.
• People connected to the Lyons family’s Mapes Ranch gave $1,000 to Alamo and $1,500 to Macedo.
• Macedo received $1,000 from attorney Bradley Post.
• Agundez, a former Pacific Gas & Electric Co. supervisor, got $6,500 from a union representing many district workers.