During their tenures as Fresno County supervisors, both Phil Larson and Judy Case McNairy have been reliable votes for agriculture. Now that both are stepping down from the board, it looks like the central San Joaquin Valley’s farmers and ranchers want to make sure that trend continues.
The campaign finance reports of Brian Pacheco, who is seeking Larson’s District 1 seat, and Ernest “Buddy” Mendes, who is running for Case McNairy’s District 4 seat, read like a who’s who of Valley agriculture.
It has also propelled both men to huge fundraising advantages over their rivals for the seats. Through the end of last year, Pacheco raised more than $265,000 and had more than $220,000 in his campaign account. Mendes raised more than $117,000 and has almost $111,000 in the bank.
“They know the industry; they know agriculture,” said Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League, which has contributed to both men.
But Cunha said the broad agriculture support is about more than just the duo’s support for the industry. Both also know how to run a business and understand the challenges facing Fresno County’s rural communities, he said.
Besides Pacheco, a Kerman dairyman, others running in the District 1 seat are Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong and Kerman Mayor Gary Yep. Xiong raised almost $52,000, had $26,121 in the bank and $6,893 in unpaid bills as of Dec. 31, 2013. Yep, who entered the race late, had only a $2,000 loan to himself, $1,873 in the bank and more than $2,000 in unpaid bills.
San Joaquin Mayor Amarpreet “Ruby” Dhaliwal had also taken out papers for a possible District 1 run, but said Thursday that he will not seek the seat.
“I’ve got my hands full with what I’m doing right now,” said Dhaliwal, citing his work as mayor and on the Fresno Council of Governments, as well as his family and a business opportunity.
In District 4, other candidates besides Mendes are Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Parra and former Reedley City Council Member Steve Rapada. Parra raised $5,500 and had $2,675 in the bank at the end of last year, and Rapada had more than $11,000 in contributions and a little less than $5,000 in the bank.
The campaign status of Caruthers businessman and well-known Sikh community leader Harry Gill — who pulled papers to seek the seat — is unknown after a recent illness.