Squid Speaks

Paint by Numbers…Squid has spent an unfortunate amount of time lately reading some depressing statistics: This past weekend alone, at least 31 people were killed in mass shootings. Last weekend, three people, including two children, were shot dead in Squid’s own backyard at the beloved Gilroy Garlic Festival. It leaves Squid feeling weary, engraged, disheartened, frustrated—a mix of lots of feelings, all of them negative. 

Squid thought it might help to take a break from reading the news Monday morning, and Squid turned to something that might actually make sense: perusing the latest campaign finance reports filed by the folks running to be Monterey County supervisors in 2020.

But just when Squid was looking for logic, Squid didn’t find much. Squid found some shockingly high fundraising numbers for this early in the season (the primary is March 3). In District 1, which more or less comprises urban Salinas, County Supervisor Luis Alejo has a formidable $201,682.93 in the bank, compared to rival Fernando Armenta—yes, the former four-term county supervisor who lost to Alejo in 2016—who’s now got $1,724.77, from himself and his wife, Noemi Armenta. For years, Armenta appeared to be untouchable partly because he kept a balance in the tens of thousands of dollars; he spent it fighting to keep his seat the last go-round. 

 

Alejo started with about $47K in the bank, and has pulled in some big gifts year to date—including gifts from non-local PACs that make Squid think he’s still got his eyes on a statewide run. (He’s a former member of the Assembly, and former candidate for State Senate.)

For example, there’s $1,000 each from the AT&T California Employee PAC, the California Independent Petroleum Association PAC, Illinois-based Kraft Foods, the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians Tribal Government Operations and National Union of Healthcare Workers. There’s also a show of support from a range of power brokers, with cash from fellow-supervisor Chris Lopez ($500), Ag Commissioner Henry Gonzales ($100), Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter ($100) and James Hlavacek, the chief of medical staff at the county hospital, Natividad ($250).  

Squid oozed over to the fundraising totals in the race for District 4, currently occupied by Jane Parker, who is retiring from the district that includes Seaside, Marina, a swath of Fort Ord and part of South Salinas. 

It’s now shaping up to be a four-way race, with two tiers of fundraising: There’s Wini Chambliss, retired clerk to the board of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and former member of the board of Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (from 1991-01), who is just getting into the race and strategizing her ground game (and reports zero fundraising to date); Alex Miller, an athletics ref and member of Seaside’s Neighborhood Improvement Commission, who’s raised $150 in cash.

Then there’s the six-figure tier, where Wendy Root Askew, Parker’s aide and a board member of MPUSD, and Salinas City Councilmember Steve McShane are raking in the cash. 

Askew has raised $99,831.59, with the single biggest gift of $10,000 from Brigitte Wasserman in Carmel (yes, that’s District 5, not 4), followed by $7,500 from Konny Murray of Carmel Valley (yes, that’s District 5, not 4) and a former president of the Democratic Women of Monterey County. Askew’s boss, Jane Parker, gave $5,000 and the list of $1,000 donors includes former sheriff Scott Miller, and Nader Agha’s Moss Landing Commercial Park, LLC.

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Donors also include electeds Seaside Mayor Ian Obglesby ($125), Del Rey Oaks Mayor Alison Kerr ($266) and Monterey Peninsula College trustee Yuri Anderson (with $110, plus another $1,250 from Anderson’s leftover 2018 campaign fund). 

Askew’s fundraising figure puts her neck and neck with McShane, who reports raising $99,165 year-to-date. His biggest single gift is $10,000 from the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter PAC based in Livermore, followed by a good showing from Big Ag, with about $5,000 each from three South County ag players (yes, that’s District 3, not 4): Fresh Foods, Inc.; David Gill of Rio Farms; and Jerry Rava of Rava Ranches, in addition to Salinas-based D’Arrigo Bros.

There was a creepy line item of $250 from John Fickas Relations, the firm of John Fickas, a Salinas coach who is now facing felony charges of rape and sodomy—plus questioning about political cash from the FBI. McShane tells Squid’s colleague that money was returned as soon as the news about Fickas broke, which will be reflected on the next campaign statement. 

Back to Squid’s original goal, trying to make sense of things in a nonsensical moment: What’s with all the big PAC money? McShane is a proud new member of the Democratic Party, and Alejo an avowed progressive. It sure does add up, but not in the way Squid was hoping. 

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