In the final campaign finance reports filed before the Nov. 8 election, Fresno mayor candidate Lee Brand is continuing a fundraising dominance over his opponent, Henry R. Perea, that has been a constant in the race from the start.
The latest reports cover Sept. 25 through Oct. 22, a period of 28 days. During that time, Brand, currently a Fresno City councilman, raised $149,259 to Perea’s $79,632 as the two sprint toward the campaign’s Tuesday finish.
“In the final run,” Brand said, “people are coming to me and saying we don’t want Henry Perea for mayor. What can we do to help?”
Perea, however, scoffed at the deficit, calling Brand’s haul over the past month “status-quo money. It’s from people who want to keep things just the way they are.”
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Assessing his funds, Perea said, “All I am concerned about is have I raised enough money to execute my plan, and I have.”
The fundraising by Brand and Perea, however, only tells half the story in the battle to replace termed-out Mayor Ashley Swearengin. The other half is the half dozen businesses or groups that have weighed in independently of either campaign. These groups have raised around $170,000, with around two-thirds of that total either supporting Brand or opposing Perea.
In the final run, people are coming to me and saying we don’t want Henry Perea for mayor.
Fresno mayor candidate Lee Brand
Among those doing independent campaigns are the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, which has sent out anti-Perea mailers that have largely been funded through a $25,000 contribution from developer Richard Spencer. One Putt Broadcasting, owned by John Ostlund, has run close to $32,000 in radio ads in support of Brand. On the other side, Fresno police and firefighters have two different groups that have supported Perea, including running TV commercials.
One of the main rules for independent groups is that they have no contact or coordination with Brand or Perea, who have been running their own campaigns.
In total, Brand has crossed the $900,000 fundraising mark combined for the June primary and November general elections, raising a total of $662,719, loaning his campaign the maximum $100,000 and transferring another $143,276 from his Fresno council account. The total: $905,995.
Brand has used his campaign wealth to mail multiple brochures, pay several people to walk voting precincts and pay for multiple radio and television ads. Brand has bought at least $80,000 in media, including a TV spot that ties Perea to the more than $500,000 cost to Fresno County taxpayers for a special Assembly election that became necessary after his son, Henry T. Perea, resigned office early to take a private sector job.
The ad didn’t sit well with Perea.
“Our campaigns had a gentleman’s agreement that we would not attack family,” Perea said. “I could have done the same thing to Lee. That’s another difference between us. I can keep my word.”
Perea, by comparison, has raised $620,502. That amount includes around $87,000 that Perea, currently a Fresno County supervisor, moved from his supervisor account, most of it raised last year.
All I am concerned about is have I raised enough money to execute my plan, and I have.
Fresno mayor candidate Henry R. Perea
That money has largely gone to campaign mailers and precinct walkers. Unlike Brand, Perea has limited his television ads to a single commercial running on Channel 30. It focuses on public safety.
“We’re finishing with a strong public safety message,” Perea said.
Fresno residents already have been voting for three weeks, so both candidates are spending down their accounts, but Brand still had $133,708 in his account as of Oct. 22, and Perea had $113,125, though he also has $36,368 in unpaid bills.
Both candidates also continue to raise money.
In the days since Oct. 22, Perea has received $4,200 from Natalie Kalpakoff at Mid-Valley Disposal, $2,000 from the Police Officer Research Association of California, also known as PORAC, and $1,000 from former Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes, among others.
Brand has a $10,000 contribution from the Tulare County Republican Central Committee and $12,000 in three different contributions from people or companies with ties to homebuilder Wathen-Castanos. Previously, Wathen-Castanos had only given to Perea.
“We have a much broader base of fundraising,” Brand said. “(Perea) has labor unions and developers. I’m getting lots of small contributions. I don’t even know these people, and they’re giving $25, $50. Really it’s an insurgent campaign that, at the grass-roots level, is attracting people north of Shaw, south of Shaw.”
Indeed, the front lines of the election battle could be the few miles to the north and south of Shaw Avenue, the mythical city dividing line made famous in former Mayor Alan Autry’s “tale of two cities.”
Brand is confident he can win support in the middle-class precincts between Shaw and Shields avenues, and Perea says there are votes to be won in the wealthier areas between Shaw and Herndon.
Perea is specifically targeting the area with a mailer saying that Brand voted to move a city “blight line all the way up to Herndon, surrendering your neighborhood. Your home in now in a neighborhood officially designated as ‘blight’ – hurting your home’s value.”
As Perea is unhappy with Brand’s commercial about the special election that came out of his son’s Assembly resignation, Brand is unhappy with Perea’s flier. He says it’s a lie.
Brand said he never voted on anything as a councilman with the word “blight line” in it. The updated 2035 General Plan that the council approved, Brand said, does not have the words in it.
“It’s a totally fictitious thing he put out,” Brand said. “It’s below the belt, gutter politics.”
Perea stands by it. He said he has been walking precincts between Herndon and Bullard and is hearing it from residents.
“People are not happy,” he said.
Fresno Mayor fundraising
Raised in latest period, Sept. 25-Oct. 22: $149,259
Raised total: $905,995
Cash on hand: $133,708
Unpaid bills: $663*
* Does not include $100,000 loan Brand made to his campaign
Henry R. Perea
Raised in latest period, Sept. 25-Oct. 22: $79,632
Raised total: $620,502
Cash on hand: $113,125
Unpaid bills: $36,368