Cash pours in for Modesto mayoral, council races

District 1 candidate John Gunderson speaks during a forum for Modesto’s mayoral and council candidates at Graceada Park in Modesto on Friday, Sept. 26, 2015.
District 1 candidate John Gunderson speaks during a forum for Modesto’s mayoral and council candidates at Graceada Park in Modesto on Friday, Sept. 26, 2015.

The 13 candidates for Modesto mayor and three City Council seats have raised nearly $318,000 in campaign contributions for the Nov. 3 election, with Mayor Garrad Marsh leading the way with more than $115,000 collected.

The contributions have come from business owners, developers, attorneys, civic leaders, unions, and current and former elected officials. Some of the candidates have raised impressive sums, including District 1 council candidate Mani Grewal, who has raised more than $67,000 for a council seat that drew just 3,188 votes in the November 2011 election.

Grewal is a Sikh and his forms detail thousands and thousands of dollars in contributions from fellow Sikhs. Grewal said he was grateful for their support but added his support is broad-based.

For instance, Grewal – a property owner and almond rancher who serves on the city’s Planning Commission – reported receiving $100 from former Mayor Carol Whiteside, $500 each from the Modesto City Firefighters Association and PMZ Real Estate President Mike Zagaris, and $1,000 each from Craig Lewis with the Berkshire Hathaway real estate firm, the American Pet Hospital and fellow Planning Commissioner Chris Tyler.

But several candidates have raised very little, including District 1 Councilman John Gunderson, who reported raising $672 in his bid for a second term representing northwest Modesto. “Money isn’t everything,” he said. “I’m not the kind of person who asks people for money. I’ve always stood on my own two feet. And I’m focused on just doing my job.”

P. Wexford’s Pub operations manager Ron Hurst – who is the third candidate in the District 1 race – reported raising $10,213, including $300 from his employer.

The contributions and how they have spent them are detailed in the candidates’ campaign finance forms. The most recent forms cover July 1 to Sept. 19. Other forms cover Jan. 1 to June 30 or even into 2014 for a couple of candidates who started raising money then. The forms list the names of every donor who gave at least $100 and detail how much cash and noncash the candidates have raised. The $1,500 in food Uno Chicago Grill donated to Marsh for a fundraiser is an example of a noncash donation.

Because this column cannot provide information on all of the donors, voters may want to look at the campaign finance forms for themselves. The forms are available at

Marsh has raised $100,095 in money and $15,662 in nonmonetary contributions. He started raising money in October 2014. Some of his contributions include $450 from Modesto entrepreneur Dan Costa, $350 from Whiteside, $2,500 from developer Redev Inc., $1,000 from Stanislaus Foods and $1,100 from attorney Charles Brunn.

Marsh is being challenged by Armando Arreola, who states on a candidate questionnaire that he is unemployed and who received nearly 4.5 percent of the vote when he ran for mayor in 2011; architect and former Planning Commissioner Ted Brandvold; District 3 Councilman Dave Lopez; and former Mayor Carmen Sabatino.

Arreola reported that he has not raised any money. Brandvold – who entered the race on the last day in which a candidate could qualify for the ballot – reported loaning his campaign $500, but said last week that his fundraising is picking up. Lopez raised $12,542, while Sabatino reported getting $600 in contributions.

Lopez’s contributions include $2,000 from Bertolotti Disposal, one of the city’s garbage haulers; $500 from the Bogan Law Firm; $2,200 from Direct Flooring & Home; $2,000 from Tom VanderVeen with Dellabarca Design & Build; and $250 from Duke Leffler with PMZ Commercial Real Estate.

Kristi Ah You, Patricia Gillum and Joe Williams are running for the District 3 council seat. Ah You, managing partner at Franklin & Downs Funeral Home, raised $13,512. Gillum, a certified public accountant and former planning commissioner, raised $11,272. Williams said he plans to raise and spend less than $1,000.

Ah You’s contributors include $1,500 from Denise Costa of Noble Outfitters, $500 each from county Supervisor Jim DeMartini, Boyett Petroleum CEO Carl Boyett, the Modesto City Firefighters Association and Mary Lyons of Mapes Ranch, and $100 each from Mayor Marsh, Chris Ricci Presents Inc. and attorney Dave Gianelli. Gillum’s contributions include $1,000 from developer Redev Inc., $500 each from PMZ Real Estate President Mike Zagaris, Planning Commissioner Chris Tyler and American Chevrolet, and $250 from DeMartini.

Doug Ridenour and Dave Wright are competing for the District 6 council seat. Councilman Dave Cogdill Jr. is not running for re-election. Ridenour – a retired police sergeant and brother of former Mayor Jim Ridenour – has raised $44,861. Wright, owner-broker of the Wright Insurance Agency/Farmers Insurance, has raised $41,207.

Ridenour’s contributions include $600 from Dan Costa, $500 each from Zagaris, the Modesto City Firefighters Association, Lewis with Berkshire Hathaway, American Chevrolet and Mary Lyons of Mapes Ranch, and $250 from Chris Ricci Presents Inc. and DeMartini. He also received $200 each from former City Manager Jack Christ and Crescent Work & Outdoor, a downtown business that sells uniforms, work clothes, camping gear and similar items. The Modesto Police Officers Association’s political action committee provided Ridenour’s campaign with $1,064 worth of food and beverages for a fundraiser.

Wright’s contributions include $5,000 from Alldrin Almond Orchards owner Merle Alldrin, $2,000 from the Farmers Employees and Agents political action committee and $1,000 from the Personal Insurance Federation of California. He also received $500 each from DeMartini and attorney Mike Gianelli and $2,000 from Row Properties Inc.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316