Brian Whelan, a candidate for District 7 on the Fresno City Council, has raised nearly three times the money of any other candidate running for election, according to campaign finance records released last week.
Whelan, a local attorney, received a total of $192,626 in contributions by April 21, the end of the first fundraising period, campaign disclosures show. He has more than $155,000 cash on hand, and he has spent about $35,000 and owes $16,835 in outstanding debts. Whelan personally contributed nearly $17,000 to his campaign in loans.
The first pre-election campaign finance disclosures for local office became available April 27, one day after the Fair Political Practices Commission deadline for candidates to file Forms 460 and 470 for fundraising between Jan. 1 and April 21.
There are four Fresno City Council seats up for election in the June 5 primary: District 1 in west-central Fresno and the Tower District, District 3 in southwest, District 5 in southeast, and District 7 in east-central. District 1 Councilmember Esmeralda Soria is not facing a challenger. District 3 Councilman Oliver Baines is termed out, and seven candidates are vying for his seat. District 5 Councilman Luis Chavez is facing three candidates for his seat. District 7 Councilman Clint Olivier is termed out, and three candidates are running to replace him.
Whelan's contributors include many big names in Fresno, such as Mayor Lee Brand; Bonadelle Homes; Robert Smittcamp, former CEO of Lyons Magnus Inc., a food processing company; Richard Caglia, the owner of Electric Motor Shop; Farid Assemi of the Assemi Group; Michael Der Manouel Jr., a local businessman and conservative political activist; the Fresno Police Officers Association PAC; the Fresno Firefighter Legislation Action Committee; and Assemblyman Jim Patterson's campaign.
Whelan has used campaign funding to pay for literature from the Los Angeles Feel the Bern Progressive Slate, Families First Education Voter Guide, and the Latino Family Voter Guide in Los Angeles. He also paid $9,000 to Moore Information Inc. based in Portland, Oregon for polling and survey research.
Whelan is competing against Veva Islas, program director for Cultiva La Salud, a local health advocacy organization, and Nelson Esparza, a Fresno County Board of Education trustee.
Islas has received a total of $53,347 and has $11,419 in cash on hand. She's spent $41,281 and owes $5,078. Islas contributed $5,000 to her campaign in the form of a loan.
Many of Islas' contributions came from health-oriented donors and organizations in the Bay Area and Sacramento, including a number of people connected to the Public Health Institute. Most of her donations are under $1,000. Some local contributors include former Assemblyman Juan Arambula; Miguel Arias, a candidate in District 3; and Andy Levine with Faith in the Valley. (Levine donated as an individual, not on behalf of Faith in the Valley.) Arambula and Arias each donated $1,000. Levine donated $1,750.
Esparza has received a total of $33,760 and has $6,522 in cash. He's spent $30,753 and owes $11,357. His notable donors include Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, the campaign of Andrew Janz, who is challenging Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, and the Central Valley Residents for Responsible Government group, run by Henry R. Perea, former city councilman and county supervisor.
Esparza was accused of improperly transferring money from a school board campaign committee to a Fresno City Council campaign committee last year. He had to pay a $500 penalty to the city, and his campaign disclosures show he repaid the questionable transfer.
His campaign also accrued an outstanding expense of $1,000 to the Law Offices of Kevin Little for legal expenses.
Chavez leads his race considerably in campaign fundraising. Chavez has received a total of $66,799 since Jan. 1 and has $68,362 cash on hand. He's spent $30,046 and owes $1,372. He received no loans.
Chavez's campaign contributors include Pardini's Catering, Councilmember Garry Bredefeld, Granville Homes, Bonadelle Homes, Fresno Police Officers Association PAC, the Fresno City Firefighters union, and the Fresno County Deputy Sheriff's Association PAC. His campaign has supported Kevin De Leon's bid for California senator, and his wife Elizabeth Jonasson's treasury for her Fresno Unified school board seat.
Chavez, who was elected in a special election In November 2016, is challenged by Jose Barraza, a community advocate and former Fresno County economic development director; Paul "Paully" Condon, a small business owner; and Paula Yang, a Hmong community activist and anchor for a Hmong television channel.
Yang and Barraza are closely competing for total contributions, but Yang has spent more and has more debt.
Yang has received $17,761 in contributions but spent more than $26,000. She owes $17,000. She received a $4,000 loan from Juan Carmona Jr., the manager of a Sprint store.
Barraza has received $15,000 and has $2,000 cash on hand. He's spent $13,000 and owes $2,000.
Condon did not file any financial reports.
Miguel Arias, a trustee for State Center Community College District and Fresno Unified spokesman, leads the crowded District 3 race in fundraising. He's received $26,381 and has $10,003 in cash on hand. He's spent $16,418 and has $10,000 in outstanding debt. Arias personally loaned his campaign $10,000.
Arias' major contributors include Juan Arambula and TJ Cox, a Democrat who is running against Rep. David Valadao in Tulare County. Other contributors include people from the education community, including former Fresno Unified trustee Janet Ryan, current Fresno Unified Trustee Christopher De La Cerda and Fresno Unified Assistant Superintendent Maria Maldonado.
Candidates Tate Hill and Darren Miller are neck-in-neck for contributions received. Hill received $15,875 and has nearly $10,000 in cash. He has spent $5,893 and owes about $10,000. Miller has received $15,985 and has has $1,351 in cash. He's spent $14,502 and owes $8,900.
Craig Scharton, the former CEO of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, has received a handful of small donations from downtown businesses and venders. He's received $11,620 and has $5,295 in cash. He's spent $6,325 and owes $300.
Kimberly Tapscott-Munson, a retired school librarian, raised about $6,300 and has spent about that amount. She owes $5,540. Most of the money her campaign raised came from small contributions.
Sean Sanchez received $1,281 and has $1,000 in cash, but he owes more than $2,000.
Larry Burrus did not file.
Although Esmeralda Soria remains unchallenged for her District 1 seat, she has received a total of $116,629 in contributions and has $108,258 in cash. She has spent $9,846 and owes $676 in debts.