It was billed as a bipartisan news conference where Republicans and Democrats alike would talk about "leadership issues within the Fresno Teachers Association and how they are adversely affecting the students."
In reality, it was a campaign event, mostly in support of Carol Mills, who is seeking re-election to the Fresno Unified school board, but also for fellow incumbent Janet Ryan, who also is on the ballot.
Standing outside the FTA's northeast Fresno office Friday, Republican activist Michael Der Manouel Jr. looked at Democrat and former Shafter Mayor Fran Florez (mother of longtime state Sen. Dean Florez), Democratic Party activist Matt Rogers, as well as his fellow Republican activist Tal Cloud, and observed: "It's a rare occurrence to see us on the same side of an issue."
Der Manouel, Cloud and Rogers then proceeded to bash Andrew Doris, Mills' FTA-endorsed opponent in the Nov. 6 election. They produced research into the background of both Doris and one of Ryan's opponents, George Whitman.
In Whitman's case, it was a 1998 bankruptcy. For Doris, it was a spotty voting record.
They also once again brought up Doris' arrest for methamphetamine possession, which has been widely reported in the media. Doris -- who didn't return a phone call seeking comment Friday -- had earlier said bringing up the 1996 event was "an attempt by Ms. Mills to get attention away from her record as a school board trustee."
How could the FTA endorse such candidates without doing more research into their background, the group asked.
"That's not the kind of leadership that's going to move the district forward," Cloud said.
Whitman confirmed the bankruptcy.
"Stuff happens," he said. "It is true. I was involved in (a) deal that didn't work out, and it cost me a ton of money. You know what's so sad? Ryan is so afraid of losing that she has to do a last ditch effort like this to keep from losing office."
A statement issued by FTA President Eva Ruiz called the event "a desperate act by the Mills and Ryan Campaign to thwart the will of the teachers in our district. To think that somehow their political operatives think they know more about education than the teachers in the classroom is an insult to all the voters of Fresno Unified."
She said the teachers' union "supports those individuals deemed most likely to act in support of students, teachers and the community."
Although Ryan and her opponent, Whitman, were mentioned, it was clear that Mills was the tie that bound the group.
Der Manouel, a stalwart Republican and chief cheerleader for Superintendent Michael Hanson, has become Mills' main public supporter because of her support for Hanson and his policies.
The district under Hanson and an "improved stock of trustees" has seen significant financial improvement, Der Manouel said.
Rogers, Florez and Democratic activist Billie MacDougall came because of their friendship with Mills.
Mills, Florez said, "has worked hard and gotten results. No amount of money spent on distorting the facts will change that."
One thing seems certain to come out of Friday's event: Bitterness among some Democrats.
As word spread after the event that Florez, Rogers and others stood with Democratic Party haters Cloud and Der Manouel, there were vows that it wouldn't be forgotten.
At one point during the news conference, Democratic Party activist Gail Gaston walked toward the FTA's entrance. "Shame on you, Matt," she said to Rogers.
Later, Gaston said the admonishment was "for standing with Republicans when you're a Democrat."
-- By John Ellis
Whelan loans $200k to his 16th CD race
More than one-third of 16th Congressional District Republican candidate Brian Whelan's campaign has been bankrolled by loans to himself -- including $200,000 he gave his campaign on Sept. 23.
Despite that, Whelan still is far behind the person he is challenging, incumbent Fresno Democrat Jim Costa. The newly drawn 16th District covers half the city of Fresno, parts of Fresno and Madera counties and all of Merced County.
Whelan had raised $654,456 as of Sept. 30, according to recently released finance reports posted on the Federal Election Commission's website. Costa is at $1,331,682.
And while Whelan has chipped in a considerable amount to himself, Costa has benefitted from political action committee cash. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance, 48% of Costa's donations have come from PACs.
Among Costa's donations are $2,500 from Fresno businessman Bob Smittcamp. Just two years ago, Smittcamp -- who had been a Costa supporter in the past -- jumped ship to Hanford Republican Andy Vidak. Now, it appears, Smittcamp is back in the fold.
-- By John Ellis
Dairy farmers rally on state Capitol steps
For the second time in two months, California dairy farmers converged on Sacramento in their fight for higher milk prices.
They rallied Thursday on the Capitol steps with Hanford farmer Joaquin Contente, a member of the California Dairy Campaign, among the leaders.
Dairy farmers say they are trying to persuade regulators to change California's milk-pricing formula, allowing the dairy industry to stay ahead of record high feed costs.
"Dairies in my area and throughout the state are going out of business in record numbers," Contente said. "The fact that our California dairy producer prices are so far below prices paid in surrounding states amounts to a $1 million per day loss in revenue to California dairy producers."
The dairymen held a rally Sept. 13 on the steps of the Capitol and more than 400 people attended.
They met earlier this month at Lucio Hay Co. outside Tulare to make plans for a repeat and said they had similar numbers at this week's rally.
-- Bee staff