Bob Smittcamp pens letter in support of daughter-in-law's DA bid

Posted on November 22, 2013 

Will having Bob Smittcamp as a father-in-law help Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp, who is trying to unseat incumbent Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan? Seems we might find out.

Smittcamp, an influential Fresno businessman, sent out a letter last week seeking both endorsements and monetary support for his daughter-in-law, calling her a “tough prosecutor who ... has compiled an impressive record of convicting violent criminals.”

Lisa Smittcamp, 44, has been a prosecutor for 16 years — the past dozen with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. She left in August because she’d decided to run against Egan, her boss.

Egan has been district attorney since 2002. She was unchallenged in the 2006 and 2010 elections.

Bob Smittcamp’s letter — written under the masthead of Lyons Magnus, the Fresno beverage and frozen- and canned-fruit company he owns — takes aim at Egan, both directly and indirectly, though never by name.

It says the larger Smittcamp family is “saddened and concerned by the violent crime affecting our neighborhoods and businesses.”

Then it notes Egan has been DA for more than a decade. “Under her tenure,” it says, “the office has undergone heavy turnover in its seasoned prosecutors, and news stories have chronicled the chaos and mismanagement.”

But mostly, it praises Lisa Smittcamp’s work as a prosecutor.

This clash could be titanic. Both women are Republicans who have strong, influential backers.

But Bob Smittcamp’s letter also brings up what could be Lisa Smittcamp’s ace-in-the-hole: There are four generations of Smittcamps living in Fresno County. Left unsaid: The name is a known local commodity. The family is both wealthy and influential.

-- John Ellis

None of Jim Costa's challengers are, so far, on national GOP radar

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday announced its first round of “On the Radar” candidates ahead of the 2014 elections.

None of the four Republicans who so far have signed on to try and knock Fresno Democrat Jim Costa out of Congress were among the 36 names.

Being classified as “On the Radar” means the NRCC thinks a certain Republican candidate has the “ability to meet crucial campaign benchmarks” that show he is viable.

In other words, they can raise money. (Or loan it to themselves.) Another helpful move is having a strong campaign organization.

It is part of the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program. The next step is “contender,” and then, for the lucky few, a “young gun.” That designation usually comes with NRCC money.

But so far — and it is still early — only Fresno County dairyman Johnny Tacherra has managed to reach four-figures in fundraising, according to reports that cover January through Sept. 30. His total: $3,600.

Next is Fresno resident Joanna Lynn Botelho at $700. Sanger’s Michael Wayne Goossen and Merced’s Melvin Levey have only filed campaign organization statements.

By comparison, three Republicans hoping to take out first-term Democrat Ami Bera in a congressional district that covers eastern Sacramento County all made “on the radar” status, though likely only one will eventually move on against Bera.

What do they have in common? A lot of early money in the bank.

Former Congressman Doug Ose raised almost $500,000 (half of that from his own “personal funds”), Elizabeth Emken more than $400,000 (including $285,000 in loans to herself) and Igor Birman $162,000.

-- John Ellis

Ag secretary Tom Vilsack appears at event for congressional hopeful Amanda Renteria

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in town this week, where he told a packed house at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union that a new Farm Bill needed to be passed by Congress.

But Vilsack’s visit wasn’t all policy.

He also headed down to Fowler where he mixed in some politics. He headlined an event for Amanda Renteria, the Woodlake native and current Sanger Democrat who running against incumbent Republican David Valadao in the 21st Congressional District.

By all accounts, the event — billed as a discussion about water, agriculture and jobs — was well attended.

Not surprisingly, it even caught the eye of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which fired off an email noting that Vilsack “has been a leading supporter of Cap and Trade,” a policy that limits the amount of carbon emitted by polluters and creates allowances that can be bought and sold on an open market.

The 21st District is considered to be a “swing” district that could go to either a Republican or a Democrat. Valadao, a Hanford dairy farmer in his first term, currently holds the seat, but the district is both majority Democrat and Hispanic.

National Democrats think Renteria — a Stanford and Harvard Business School graduate was the first Latina chief of staff to a U.S. senator — will be able to mount a credible challenge to Valadao.

She is one of 20 candidates named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Jump Start” program, which identifies party challengers who the DCCC thinks has a good chance to unseat incumbent Republicans.

Add Vilsack’s visit as another high-profile Democrat pushing Renteria.

But taking out Valadao won’t be easy. He’s already shown he can win in districts that are heavily Democrat and Hispanic. In 2010, it was a state Assembly run, and last year the congressional run.

Valadao has also signed on as a co-sponsor to a comprehensive immigration bill introduced by House Democrats.

In addition, Renteria will also have to get past fellow Democrat John Hernandez in the June primary, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, advance to the November general election.

Hernandez this week cast himself as the “local guy” in a letter seeking both money and volunteers.

History shows Hernandez can’t simply be dismissed.

Last year, Democrats go behind Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong in the 21st District race, but in the primary, Valadao and Hernandez finished one-two and moved on to the general election. Xiong was the odd man out.

-- John Ellis

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