Checks from ag-related businesses gave farmer Vito Chiesa an early fund-raising edge in his race against former Sheriff Les Weidman for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.
Chiesa pulled in $57,426 in contributions through March 17, fund-raising reports show. He also took out a $20,750 loan for his June 3 contest with Weid- man.
Weidman raised $6,450 and has borrowed $20,000 this year.
They're running for a seat being vacated by Supervisor Tom Mayfield, who is not seeking re-election.
Supervisor Jim DeMartini loaned himself $55,000 to defend his seat against Newman Mayor John Fantazia. Fantazia collected $6,524 for the race.
Chiesa's largest donors include companies tied to the Assali family in Hughson, Stanislaus Foods executive Tom Cortopassi, Cunningham Ranch, Anita Duarte from Duarte Nursery, Hilmar Poultry Ranch, owners of Ronald Martella Farms and landowner Isaac Villareal. He primarily has spent his money on campaign signs and political consulting.
West Coast Grape Farms, a company tied to winemaker Fred Franzia, contributed $3,000 to Weidman's campaign. He also received contributions from Hughson Mayor Ken Moore. Weidman's expenses show spending on campaign signs, letters and consulting.
Weidman treasurer Brad Bates said the former sheriff has a fund-raiser scheduled for today, as well as several more this month. He's planning on running a campaign that would cost a little more than $100,000.
"We're on target," said Bates, a former Turlock mayor.
Chiesa campaign consultant Carl Fogliani said the fund-raising reports showed Chiesa's momentum in the district, which includes Hughson and Turlock.
"That's a very good indicator of which campaign is surging and which one is falling," he said. "It's very much a race of the future against the past, and Vito Chiesa has the resources to make that case."
Supervisor Bill O'Brien is up for re-election in an uncontested race. He did not report raising money for this campaign this year.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.