Bob Whalen in Assembly District 23 and Frank Bigelow in Assembly District 5 have won the money war against their respective opponents. The question is: Can the two men use their cash advantages to overcome second place finishes in the June primary election?
In the 23rd District — which covers eastern Fresno County and sparsely populated chunk of mountainous Tulare County — Whalen, a Clovis Council member, is taking on former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson.
Back in June, Patterson won 39% of the vote in a five-person primary. Whalen finished a distant second with 25.5%. Under the state’s new primary system, the two advanced to a November general election showdown, even though they are both Republicans.
In the most recent campaign finance reports — the final full reports before Tuesday’s election — Whalen had raised almost $366,000 this year, while Patterson was well behind at $201,588.
Whalen even ruled the latest reporting period, which covers the first three weeks of October, raising $47,151 to Patterson’s $19,175.
Still, by virtue of his primary election finish, Patterson is king of the hill and Whalen must knock him off. Most political observers still consider Patterson the front runner, based on his two terms leading Fresno — even if that was more than a decade ago.
It’s a similar battle in the 5th District — which runs from Madera County north through the foothills and High Sierra to Placer County — where Bigelow is challenging Calaveras County businessman Rico Oller. Both are Republicans, and Oller finished first in June with 34% of the vote to Bigelow’s 29%.
But Bigelow has raised a huge amount of cash — almost $640,000 this year. Oller, in the meantime, has raised around $345,000, but $100,000 of that is a loan to himself.
Bigelow finished it off with a surge in the first three weeks of October, raising close to $90,000 to Oller’s $30,546.
As with Patterson, Oller started out the race with an name-identification advantage. He’s not only served in both the state Senate and Assembly, but he’s almost made two unsuccessful congressional runs. And he did it all as a very outspoken conservative.
Come Tuesday, the question will be answered: Can a fundraising advantage overcome a name-identification advantage?