Most San Benito campaign cash goes to incumbents and ballot measures

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The hotly contested races—and the incumbents—attracted the most contributions in San Benito County’s primary election campaigns, according to the latest reports filed with the Elections Office.

Nearly $90,000 had been raised through Feb. 15 in the campaigns surrounding Measure K, a referendum on the commercial rezoning around four Highway 101 interchanges—more than $4 per likely voter in the Tuesday, March 3 primary. Proponents of the zoning were outspending opponents by more than three to one.

There are approximately 33,000 registered voters in the county, and the turnout is expected to be around 20,000 when polls close.

Candidates for the three contested county supervisor races collected and spent nearly $150,000, according to the latest documents, with incumbents Mark Medina ($49,415, District 1) and Jaime De la Cruz ($25,625, District 5) accounting for nearly half that total. 

Reports filed with the Elections Office in Hollister cover contributions and spending through Feb. 15, as required by state elections law. Financial information for local elections in the last two weeks of the primary campaign will be reported after the election. Any cash contributions of $100 or greater must be included in the reports.

Labor unions, vendors and developers were the big contributors to the incumbents, with most challengers running largely self-funded campaigns.

The biggest contributors to the Yes on Measure K campaign were owners or representatives of property that could potentially benefit from the rezoning.

The 2004 Bingaman Irrevocable Trust, owner of the Rocks Ranch property along Highway 101, contributed $22,000 to the Yes on Measure K campaign committee. An entity called Livestock 101 contributed $15,000 and two lawyers, Gregory Weiler and Mark Johnson, each contributed $11,000 to the campaign to approve the creation of commercial “nodes” around four interchanges west of Hollister.

Richland Developers also contributed $2,500 and the Anthony Botelho Ranch — Botelho is the District 2 supervisor who is not seeking re-election — contributed $1,000. The proponents raised $68,426, according to election documents.

The opponents of the rezoning raised $20,232 through Feb. 15, and the biggest contributors to the Preserve Our Rural Communities committee were individuals: Ruth Snow, $2,000; Thomas Karis, $1,610; Christopher Wilmers, $1,000; Josh Jensen, $1,000; and Sara Steiner, $750.

District 1 Supervisor Mark Medina collected and spent more than 10 times that of his challenger, Betsy Dirks. The top contributors to Medina, seeking election to a second term, were: developer John Wynn, $2,500; Transparent Silicon Valley, $2,000; SEIU Local 521, $2,000; Sabor Farms, $1,000; E & H Third Family, $1,000; DJM Investments, $1,000; Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 393, $1,000. Casa de Fruta, Christopher Ranch and West Gateway each contributed $500.

Dirks collected a total of $3,933, with B & T Farms the sole $1,000 contributor.

District 5 Supervisor Jaime De la Cruz collected and spent $16,000 more than his opponent, Bea Gonzales. The top contributors to De la Cruz were: SEIU, $2,000; Operating Engineers union, $1,000; Pacific Land Entitlements, $1,000; A.J. Barragan Inc.; landfill operator Waste Connections, $1,000, and West Gateway, Bhandal Bros. and RJR Recycling, $500 each.

Gonzales loaned her campaign $1,400 and her biggest contributor was current District 2 Supervisor Anthony Botelho, who gave $250. She collected $9,387.

In the District 2 race, where five candidates are seeking the seat to be left vacant by Botelho, four labor unions were the biggest contributors to Democratic party activist Wayne Norton, who reported $29,827 in contributions: SEIU, $5,000; Plumbers and Steamfitters, $2,500; Sheet Metal Workers, $2,000; and IBEW electricians’ union, $1,000. He also received $500 each from Richland Real Estate and Casa de Fruta. Norton hired Bruce Van Allen, a well-known progressive in Santa Cruz, as a consultant.

Another District 2 candidate, Planning Commission Chair Valerie Egland, loaned her campaign $29,623 of the $31,592 collected, and hired Andrew Russo, a prominent Republican political consultant.

District 2 candidate Kollin Kosmicki used his own money, in loans and donations, for more than a third of the $8,961 in reported contributions. He reported no gifts greater than $250, with donors at that level including Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, West Gateway, West Coast Rubber Recycling and Independent Recycling.

Two other District 2 candidates, John Freeman and Frank Barragan, also self-funded their campaigns. Freeman provided $5,900 of his $9,414 in total contributions, with $1,000 contributed by the Operating Engineers union, Local #3. Barragan loaned his campaign $6,514, of his $10,430 total, with Richland Developers of Irvine the largest contributor, at $500.