Election Connection

UNINSPIRING CHOICES? Modesto's Chamber of Commerce isn't backing anyone in the City Council race this fall -- except the guy who doesn't need an endorsement boost from the town's business lobby.

Unchallenged Mayor Jim Ridenour will get support from the chamber in his re-election bid, but the candidates running for contested council Chairs 1 and 6 won't receive an endorsement from the group.

Chamber President Joy Madison said the organization likes what it sees in Ridenour, a retired ambulance company executive.

"He's very well-received at the statehouse. He's very well-received in Washington, D.C.," she said. "He has a lot of good leadership qualities about him."

The chamber's endorsements went out this week in its Progress magazine.

Madison said the chamber interviewed the candidates running for the council seats but chose to stay out of the race after hearing their answers to a slate of questions.

"We got back a pretty mixed bag of answers, so we felt, as a chamber of commerce, we weren't doing enough to communicate our pro-business message," Madison said.

She wouldn't say whether any one issue became a deal breaker for the endorsements, though she has sparred with the council recently over rent control in mobile home parks and the first draft of a Police Department pitch to craft a new downtown safety plan.

CANDIDATE FORUM: The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a candidate forum Monday featuring candidates for the Modesto City Council, Chairs 1 and 6. It will be in the council chamber at 1010 10th St. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Comcast Cable Channels 7 and 8 and Charter Cable Channel 19. Questions are encouraged. Viewers may call in questions to 342-6290 and 342-6278. For more information, call 524-1698.

COUNCILMEN HOLD FUND-RAISER: Ceres City Council incumbents Rob Phipps and Guillermo Ochoa are holding a fund-raiser today at River Oaks Golf Course. People can donate to their campaigns and find out more about the candidates. They are two of the four people seeking election to two seats on the council in November. The golf course is at 3441 Golf Links Road in Ceres.

DEMOCRATIC CLUB EVENT: Steve Westly, former California state controller and candidate for governor, will be the featured speaker Oct. 17 at a Democratic fund-raising event put on by the West Side Committee of the Central Valley Democratic Club. The West Side Committee, headquartered in Patterson, represents the county's Democrats west of the San Joaquin River. The event will be at the Diablo Grande Winery and Resort clubhouse. It will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a no-host bar and hors d'oeuvres. The dinner and program begin at 6:30 p.m. Dinner is $85 per person, $150 per couple or $600 for a table of eight. Some student scholarships are available. The event also will feature a silent auction of donated items. To R.S.V.P., call Dennis McCord at 892-6996 or chairperson Kris Santos at 894-3033. Or go to the group's Web site at www.cvdemocrats.org and fill out an R.S.V.P. request.

RECEPTION FOR BILL LEONARD: The Republican Party of Stanislaus County will hold a reception for Bill Leonard, a member of the state Board of Equalization. The event, at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 18, will be at the home of Dr. Lars and Sabrina Enevoldsen, 125 Griswold Ave., Modesto. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served. The cost is $50 per person or $600 for sponsors (includes 10 tickets). Make checks payable to RPSC and send to P.O. Box 941, Modesto 95353, or by credit card at www.stanislausgop.org. Click on "RPSC Reception With BOE Member Bill Leonard."

GETTING AN EARLY START: Newman Mayor John Fantazia announced Wednesday that he will challenge Jim DeMartini for the

District 5 seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in next year's election. District 5 takes in the West Side, Ceres and south Modesto. Fantazia, 48, is a longtime farmer and native of Newman. He was first elected to the Newman City Council in 2000 and became mayor two years later. "We are sometimes forgotten on the West Side, and I want to make sure everything is done properly," Fantazia said. He said fire coverage and the proposed industrial park at the former Crows Landing Air Facility are among his top concerns. DeMartini was elected to the seat in 2004; he is planning to run for re-election.

Do you have comments about or contributions for Election Connection? Send them to Election Connection, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352; or e-mail bclark@modbee.com. It appears weekly on Thursdays. Deadline for publication is 6 p.m. Tuesday. Endorsements, yard signs and precinct walk announcements will not be published.