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Candidates calculate the aftermath of 2006 election

Several candidates in Stanislaus County's 2006 major races set aside enough cash to repay their personal bank accounts for the money they loaned their campaigns.

Others continue approaching donors with hat in hand — a job made easier for those who won.

And some are resigned to eating a loss.

"We thought we had more commitments coming in," said Gary Lopez, who risked $54,000 of his own money in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Supervisor Jeff Grover. Lopez hasn't repaid himself a dime.

Nor has Tom Changnon, who loaned his campaign $20,000. But Changnon won the open race for county superintendent of schools and intends to hold fund-raisers to try to pay himself back, his campaign treasurer said Friday.

District Attorney Birgit Fladager repaid herself $2,000 of the $13,500 she loaned her winning campaign over former Judge Mike Cummins. She said she has focused on her new duties instead of asking donors for more money.

"The advice I got from other DAs," Fladager said, "is it's important to try to raise money to pay yourself back and to develop a war chest in case somebody wants to run against me later. But four years seems like a long time away."

Sheriff Adam Christianson isn't procrastinating.

He has raised more than $37,000 since beating former Assistant Sheriff Mark Puthuff in June. That helped Christianson repay himself the entire amount of a $5,000 loan.

Puthuff repaid himself all but $1,000 of a $5,350 loan. He became chief of police in Fort Bragg in October.

Grover spun the wheel with $90,000 of his own money, won and took back $80,000. "My supporters don't think I should be able to pay it all myself," he said.

Cummins poured $170,635 of his own money into his unsuccessful campaign and repaid only $382.

Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who was not up for re-election last year, still owes himself $35,000 in self-loans from 2004. He loves political parties but hates fund raising for himself and doesn't expect to see that money again.

"It's zero interest and there is no due date," DeMartini said. "There is no point forgiving it until you're out of office, so you just carry it on your books."

Still others rolled the dice while playing with other people's money.

Janice Keating, who lost an ultraclose open race to Supervisor Dick Monteith, still owes various vendors more than $10,000.

Monteith, meanwhile, has continued asking for contributions and still owes other people more than $16,000, not counting the $2,000 he hasn't repaid himself. He'll likely find those debts easier to pay off because he won and should be able to attract donors to "retire-the-debt" fund-raisers.

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill held such an event Wednesday — attended by Monteith and DeMartini, by the way — and charged $250 a plate.

Money didn't change everything

Facts gleaned from candidates' latest disclosure forms for the period ending Dec. 31:

Together, the 10 candidates featured in this report loaned their campaigns $360,485 and repaid themselves $91,732.

Cummins and Keating lost despite amassing far more money than their rivals.

Aided by his gargantuan self-loan, Cummins ultimately raised more than $426,000. No other local candidate could muster even $300,000. Fladager, helped by national exposure in Scott Peterson's double-murder trial, spent $203,000 and won.

Keating spent far more than twice that of Monteith, who relied on his history as a former state senator.

Gerry Hughes, whose Salida business parks are patrolled by Christianson's deputies, gave the sheriff $20,000 three months after the campaign.

Christianson received $2,000 from businessman Herbert Watkins, $1,250 from the Deputy Sheriff's Association of Stanislaus County and $1,000 each from E.&J. Gallo Winery and real estate lender Nirvail Singh.

Gallo gave $3,000 to Fladager. She also received $2,500 from the Modesto Police Officers Association. Both came in after her June election.

Fladager paid Linda Weidman, wife of former Sheriff Les Weidman, $400 for used campaign sign stakes.

Since Monteith's November victory, he has accepted $1,000 each from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Huff Construction and attorney J. Wilmar Jensen.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

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