They might be late, but candidates for the Nov. 2 Hollister City Council District 3 election have submitted their campaign financial disclosure forms to the city clerk’s office.
Only one of the five candidates—Dolores Morales—has been actively fundraising, according to filings which are required by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. As of Oct. 5, Morales has raised about $9,800 from more than 40 individual contributors listed on her forms.
Candidates Lauretta Avina, Matthew Rojas, Silas Quintero and Scott McPhail have not officially reported any campaign finance activity, according to their most recent forms. Candidates are not required to report if they are not planning to collect or spend more than $2,000 for their campaigns.
All the FPPC forms are posted on the Hollister City Clerk’s website.
The Nov. 2 election will determine who will replace former Councilmember Honor Spencer, who resigned from the council in April.
Much of Morales’ financial support is from representatives of organized labor, including contributions from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW Education, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union and others.
She has also gained a pricey campaign push from the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO’s political action committee, known as “Million More Voters.” The PAC filed an FPPC “Independent Expenditure Report” on Morales’ behalf, reporting on Oct. 6 it has spent more than $1,500 for campaign mailers supporting Morales’ candidacy. The committee also filed a report showing a contribution of $5,000 to Million More Voters from the Operating Engineers Local Union 3 Statewide PAC.
Morales said she did not know about the PAC’s contribution on her behalf or their local FPPC filing before she was contacted by this newspaper.
Steve Smith, Communications Director for the California Labor Federation, said the PAC intentionally kept Morales uninformed about the expenditure. He explained it is a violation of state election laws for a third-party organization like a PAC to communicate directly with a candidate regarding campaign finances.
“We can’t coordinate independent expenditures with the candidate, legally,” Smith said.
Morales has worked for Santa Clara County for 26 years, and is currently a program manager for the juvenile probation department.
Her many years of union membership led the Labor Federation to spend money on her campaign, Smith said.
“She is very active on union issues and workers issues,” Smith said. “My understanding is she has been a real champion on issues like living wage and worker health and safety.”
Candidates for the District 3 council seat come from a variety of professional backgrounds.
Avina works at San Benito High School as a guidance tech. McPhail is the owner and CEO of a hemp retail business. Quintero is the owner of the local iRepair 831 mobile phone repair store. Rojas works for Amazon Web Services.
Avina said she has held one fundraiser at a local business for her campaign, and has raised less than $1,000 total. She has self-funded a portion of her campaign expenses.
“Politics and money make a capricious, unethical and problematic relationship and I firmly believe that it can also greatly influence the candidate on how they will vote if they are elected,” Avina said in an email. “It is for this very fact that I have not and will not solicit any ‘big corporate or big business’ money, nor have I taken any contributions from individuals that are connected to big corporations or any developer here in Hollister.”
McPhail said he is not planning to spend any of his or anyone else’s money on his campaign for the District 3 seat.
“I refuse to raise any campaign money through fundraising because I will not be any special interest group’s little BITCH or owe anybody a favor when it comes to my political career! I can’t be bought!” McPhail wrote in an email requesting comment.
Quintero said he is self-funding his campaign, but he established a committee just in case he wanted to change his mind and seek contributions from his supporters. So far, he estimated he has spent about $500 on his District 3 campaign.
At the Oct. 4 city council meeting, City Clerk Christine Black told the council that all five candidates had missed the Sept. 23 deadline for FPPC disclosure filings. “That’s never happened before, and I don’t understand why,” Black said.
She added that after sending email reminders, three of the five candidates filed their forms.
In the vague, unscheduled council discussion, Black also said “one of the candidates” is not following the city’s campaign reform ordinance that limits individual contributions to $250. Black did not name Morales or any other candidate, but suggested the council members pull up the forms on the city clerk’s website.
The city’s campaign finance reform resolution, approved unanimously by the council in June, partly states, “No individual or entity…or any other organization or group of persons acting in concert, shall contribute to any candidate for the office of city council member, or to the controlled committee of such a candidate, and no such candidate or the candidate’s controlled committee shall accept, a contribution or cumulative contributions totaling more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) for each election in which the candidate is on the ballot or is a write-in candidate.”
There is no enforcement mechanism in the city’s ordinance, leaving council members baffled about how to hold candidates or contributors accountable.
“If we’re offended they’re not following the rules, what are you going to do?” Councilmember Rick Perez, who contributed $150 to Morales’ campaign, said at the Oct. 4 meeting. “Where (are) the teeth in this? How are we going to punish them?”
City Attorney Jason Epperson cautioned the council not to discuss the matter in depth because it was not on the agenda. Council members said they wanted to talk about it more at a future meeting.
Morales pointed out that none of the contributions that she reported on her disclosures exceed $250, and those are the only contributions she was aware of. She said it is unfair for her or any other candidate to be held responsible for every third party’s show of support or opposition.
She added that the council’s campaign finance resolution may be another example of a “bad policy”—like the City Hall flag policy—that councilmembers realize after the fact was poorly implemented.
“One of the reasons I’m running is the city tends to deny, redirect or ignore things they’re responsible for, and then try to control something even more,” Morales said.
She said nobody from the city informed her about any potential violations on her campaign’s FPPC filings, or those filed on her behalf. Regarding her support from organized labor, Morales said she welcomes it.
“I’m very proud they endorsed me, just like I’m proud of all my endorsements,” she said.