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June 1, 2023

Fundraising heats up in county races

Supervisor candidates report contributions, expenditures

Campaign fundraising by local candidates is down to the final stretch as the Nov. 3 election for two San Benito County Supervisors’ seats, two Hollister City Council seats, the mayor’s office and other local races quickly approaches.

In the Board of Supervisors District 2 election, candidates Kollin Kosmicki and Wayne Norton have taken vastly different strategies in their fundraising efforts. Kosmicki said he has made it a practice since the beginning of the campaign to accept only small donations. Norton, who leads the pack among all county and city candidates in election campaign fundraising, said he has actively sought the financial support of labor unions, which he thinks are essential to the economic stimulus that San Benito County needs.

The latest deadline for candidates to file their campaign financial disclosure forms—known as Form 460—was Sept. 24. From now until the Nov. 3 election, candidates are also required to submit supplemental reports for larger contributions they receive after Sept. 24.

The filings—which are required by the California Fair Political Practices Commission—list individual contributions and expenses of $100 or more. Several of the San Benito County and City of Hollister candidates have largely self-funded their campaigns so far, in some cases loaning their own campaigns thousands of dollars.

Kosmicki’s 460 forms show that his campaign has raised just over $13,400 so far leading up to the election. That includes $6,700 that Kosmicki loaned to his campaign—a sum he called “a real investment in myself and my county’s future.”

His forms list a total of 20 individual contributions of $250 or less.

“From the beginning of the campaign I made a point to commit to staying away from large donations—specifically staying away from donations from any kind of special interest, unions or developers,” said Kosmicki, who is running for the first time for elected office. “For me one of the biggest problems in politics, particularly in San Benito County, is you have a lot of influential people with money and interests in mind that are contributing to a lot of campaigns over the years. They are always looking for something in return.”

Norton so far has raised about $60,000 since he started his campaign for District 2—about $47,626 so far this year and about $12,334 in 2019—according to his disclosure forms. Labor unions are strongly represented in his listed contributions, which include $500 from Teamsters # 890, $5,000 from Sheet Metal Workers International Association (which has contributed a total of $7,000 to Norton’s campaign since it began) and $1,762 worth of lawn signs provided by Plumbers, Steamfitters Local 393.

Norton’s latest filings also show a $300 contribution from the Anzar Hills Democratic Club. A supplemental report shows he collected $1,000 from We Grow Farms LLC on Oct. 7.

Norton explained that many of these unions have an established political process—which is often competitive—that encourages candidates to apply for their endorsements.

“I have always been sympathetic to organized labor and working families,” Norton said.

He added that shortly after he heard that former District 2 Supervisor Anthony Botelho announced his retirement—leaving the seat vacant halfway through his term—Norton decided to run so he could “build up San Benito County’s economy.” He thinks the best way to do that is to attract more businesses and industries—many of which employ union members—that will provide local jobs for people who live in San Benito County.

“I come from a rural middle class background myself, so it was always a struggle with work for my family,” Norton said. “It seemed like unions were a natural. I started from the beginning to get endorsements from unions and have that (as) the bedrock of my campaign.”

Kosmicki said he hopes that by declining high-dollar contributions, the voters will see that he won’t be influenced by money or the “good old boy network.”

“In general, the amount of money that’s being spent on county campaigns is staggering,” Kosmicki said. “It does definitely affect decisions down the road, and we have to limit influence from groups from outside.”

Kosmicki added that if elected, he will push for a local campaign finance reform effort for San Benito County.

District 4 fundraising

In the five-candidate race for San Benito County District 4 Supervisor, three competitors have raised more than $15,000 for their respective election campaigns.

Dan Valcazar leads the field in District 4 campaign fundraising with nearly $30,000 collected so far. He listed a $9,000 loan from himself to his campaign on Oct. 8. Earlier FPPC filings show his campaign received loans of $5,000 each from Art Chatoff, Fernando Jimenez, Glenn Gilliam and Yazdani Design & Photography.

Supervisor District 4 candidate Bob Tiffany’s campaign has so far collected more than $17,000 this year. Recent contributions to Tiffany’s campaign include $5,000 from Ted Davis; $1,000 from Emergency Vehicle Specialists; $2,000 from R.A. Pelland; $1,000 from Christian Pillsbury; and $400 from the Anzar Hills Democratic Club.

Tiffany told the Free Lance that his contributors include family members, friends and associates he has known over the years through his involvement in the community as a business owner.

Mike Mansmith has so far collected about $15,700 for his campaign for Supervisor District 4, according to the FPPC filings. Recent contributions include $1,500 from John Liab, and $1,000 from the Lincoln Club of Northern California. Mansmith has loaned $10,000 to his campaign.

Supervisor District 4 candidate Robert Gibson has collected just over $10,000 for his campaign so far this year. His FPPC filings show his brother, Jeffrey Gibson, has contributed $3,000 to the campaign. The campaign also received a contribution of $1,000 from Ewe Trax LLC.

Robert Gibson has added $2,450 cash to his District 4 campaign, plus about $1,800 worth of promotional signs, according to the FPPC forms.

Supervisor District 4 candidate Keith Snow does not have any financial activity reports for his campaign posted on the San Benito County Registrar’s website.

Current District 4 Supervisor Jim Gillio announced his resignation earlier this year. The winning candidate in the Nov. 3 election will complete the remaining two years of Gillio’s four-year term.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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