Political Notebook

Arambula raises – and spends – lots of cash in Assembly bid

Joaquin Arambula, left, a Kingsburg Democrat, and Clint Olivier, a Fresno Republican, are vying for the 31st Assembly District seat that was vacated Dec. 31 by Henry T. Perea.
Joaquin Arambula, left, a Kingsburg Democrat, and Clint Olivier, a Fresno Republican, are vying for the 31st Assembly District seat that was vacated Dec. 31 by Henry T. Perea.

How large is the disparity in the 31st Assembly District battle between Democrat Joaquin Arambula and Republican Clint Olivier?

How about this factoid: Arambula burned through more cash in the last six months of 2015 than Olivier raised in total for all of last year. Yes, Olivier raised $129,010 in 2015, and Arambula spent $132,000 between July 1 and Dec. 31, according to newly released campaign finance reports.

Add that to the 20-percentage point Democratic Party voter registration advantage, and it shows the uphill battle for any Republican in the 31st District, which has been reliably Democratic for 40 years.

On paper, this should be another Democratic Party cakewalk.

In reality, Republicans may have their best chance ever at stealing the seat away from Democrats. The reason is the district’s most recent Democratic Party representative, Fresno’s Henry T. Perea, resigned a year before reaching his term limit to take a private sector job. That forced an April 5 special election, and Republicans usually perform well in special elections because their voters are more dedicated. There are two other potential candidates in the race: Caruthers Democrat Ted Miller, and Daniel Tekunoff, who has no party preference. There are no campaign finance reports as of now for either one.

If Olivier, a current Fresno City Council Member, can win the seat in April, he’s only guaranteed to hold it until December. He would have to beat Arambula again in the regular election, which would culminate in a likely November showdown between the two. Olivier is hoping the “incumbent” tag would help him with both voters and campaign donors.

Still, there’s that pesky fundraising gap.

If Arambula continues to raise that kind of money, it seems he’d be able to blanket the airwaves with television and radio commercials, and bombard voter mailboxes with campaign literature.

Then again, it is stunning that Arambula, while raising more than $300,000 last year, spent more than half of it before the election has even kicked into high gear.

On what?

Well, it’s good to be a campaign consultant. They were paid close to $50,000. Among them was Luis Chavez, Fresno City Council Member Sal Quintero’s council aide.

Arambula also spent $15,000 on polling. (Half of that bill remains unpaid.)

And, of course, $36,000 in fundraising fees and costs. Yes, it takes money to raise money.

Arambula still has around $160,000 cash on hand when his campaign debt is included in the equation, but Olivier was seemingly much more frugal, only spending $10,465 last year, and has around $119,000 in his campaign account. Olivier so far has paid no money to his consultant, and only around $330 in “campaign paraphernalia,” which apparently was enough to buy a sign in northeast Fresno, which isn’t even in the district. It is in Jim Patterson’s neighboring 23rd Assembly District.

If Arambula wants to keep the consultants on the payroll and do more polling, plus add in mailers and television and radio commercials, he’s going to have to keep up his frenzied fundraising pace.

It is helpful that Arambula’s potential donor pool is so much larger than Olivier’s, which is most likely a recognition of the seat’s strong Democratic Party roots. Arambula was able to tap political action committee and corporate money, as well as the medical community.

Most of Olivier’s contributions, by comparison, came from Fresno and the central San Joaquin Valley.

31st Assembly District Fundraising

Joaquin Arambula, D-Kingsburg

Money raised 2015: $304,587

Money spent 2015: $144,029

Cash on hand as of Dec. 31: $173,862

Campaign debt: $13,300

Clint Olivier, R-Fresno

Money raised 2015: $129,010

Money spent 2015: $10,465

Cash on hand as of Dec. 31: $119,311

Campaign debt: $766

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