It looks almost certain that Lee Brand will be atop the fundraising heap in the Fresno mayoral race when the first campaign finance reports come out.
Saturday is the final fundraising day before the candidates have to give their first public progress report on their campaign finances. The reports, due to the Fresno City Clerk’s office by Thursday, will indicate who is in the best financial shape to get their message to the voters leading up to the June 7 primary election. The top two finishers will advance to the November election, unless one of the five can win more than 50 percent of the vote, which will make them the immediate winner and mayor-elect to replace the termed-out Ashley Swearengin.
Showing a healthy bank account now is important because it costs money to run a campaign, from printing campaign literature to much costlier items like producing television commercials and buying the air time to broadcast them.
Brand looks to be leading the five-man race both in total amount raised and the all-important cash currently in the bank account.
“I think as of today we’re going to be $180,000 or $190,000 total raised since Feb. 15,” Brand says. “The most important thing is we should have roughly $300,000 plus in the checking account.”
Brand, a Fresno City councilman, and Henry R. Perea, a Fresno County supervisor, started out with a huge fundraising advantage in the race because, as current elected officials, they were able to jumpstart their campaigns by transferring money they raised in their current posts.
Candidates H. Spees and Doug Vagim lag behind the fundraising frontrunners. Richard Renteria is the fifth candidate.
In addition, Brand loaned his campaign $100,000. That loan, combined with the cash Brand moved over from his Fresno City Council account, gave him more than $240,000 cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
Perea picking up cash
Perea had $87,000 in his supervisor campaign coffers as of Dec. 31.
While Brand transferred money from his city council account and Perea from his supervisor account, both have shown a continued ability to raise funds. Contributions in excess of $1,000 now must be reported to the Fresno City Clerk’s office, and both Brand and Perea have lots.
As late as Friday afternoon, Perea was reporting a slew of last-minute contributions in excess of $1,000.
“Between money that we have raised and commitments that we are collecting today and next week, we will be in a position to fully fund our money and precinct-operation program,” Perea says.
Which leaves Spees, a pastor and community leader, and Vagim, a former Fresno County supervisor.
As of late Friday, Vagim had yet to report any significant contributions, which leaves him in a tough situation as he tries to get his campaign message to the public.
Vagim and Spees are at a decided disadvantage to Brand and Perea because they aren’t currently in elected office and had to start from zero on fundraising – on Feb. 15. Under Fresno city campaign rules, that was the first day candidates could raise money for their campaigns.
Spees last year had loaned his campaign money, but he blew through that. He since has loaned the campaign more, and is now at around $40,000 in loans. In $1,000-plus contributions, he is above $30,000.
Whatever the total, Spees will badly trail Brand and Perea – and he knows it.
“I think it will still show me as the underdog,” Spees says of the coming financial reports. “We have some strategies to maximize our resources. This is a grassroots campaign that is taking place. It is very exciting, but it is David and Goliath. If people are going to vote based on the amount of money I have raised, I will not win.”