On March 10 — which was just 10 short days ago — Hanford Republican Andy Vidak announced on his Facebook page that he would seek the 16th state Senate seat that came open when Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio abruptly resigned last month.
Since then, Vidak said, he’s been working the phones, seeking both support and cash.
He’s off to a good start, according to the Secretary of State’s Web site.
By March 13, records show, Vidak was already recording a string of donations.
The most recent filing was today. The total so far — close to $90,000.
To date, almost all of the cash is coming from agriculture, though Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare also chipped in $4,100 from her 2018 state Senate account.
Contributions also include $2,500 from Allbright Cotton of Fresno and $4,100 each from Madera farmer Chester Andrew and Cutler-based Golden Star Citrus.
As of this afternoon, the other candidates, including Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez and Shafter City Council Member Fran Florez — the two highest-profile Democrats — have yet record any donations, according to the Secretary of State’s Web site.
In the meantime, the list of people who have at least pulled campaign papers — the first step toward a run for the seat — has grown to seven.
Besides Florez, Perez and Vidak, other candidates who already had pulled papers included Fresno resident John Estrada and Francisco Ramirez Jr.
They are now joined by Jerry Armendariz and Arif Mohammad, who have unknown hometowns and list no ballot designation.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday appointed Manuel Nevarez to replace the departed Frank Bigelow on the Madera County Board of Supervisors.
Nevarez, a Madera resident, will face re-election in June 2014. That is when Bigelow’s current term expires.
Bigelow, of O’Neals, won a seat last November in the state Assembly.
Nevarez has been an account executive at PMAC Lending Services Inc. since 2010 and owner of ACN Inc. since 2008. He is registered as “no party preference,” which used to be known as “decline-to-state.”
But between 2007 and last September, he was registered as a Republican. Through the early part of last decade, he was registered as decline to state.
Bigelow is a Republican, and the district — which covers places such as Madera Ranchos and Yosemite Lakes Park — leans GOP.
In addition to his work in the financial sector, Nevarez is a member of the Madera Community Action Network and chairman of the Madera Unified School District Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.
The position, which does not require state Senate confirmation, pays $71,515 per year.
The innovative Sierra Foothill Conservancy has added another 280 acres to its growing swath of protected land — the old Tallman Ranch at the edge of Clovis where you’ll find deer, quail, ducks and the occasional wild hog.
The land is now called the Ted K. Martin Wildlife Preserve. Martin. 89, a lifelong resident of the Fresno-Clovis area, provided the $1.3 million to buy and maintain the property.
Earlier this year, Martin donated $2 million to the Fresno Regional Foundation to restore and preserve the San Joaquin River.
The new property becomes part of a 25,000-acre conservancy in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa counties. The organization is known for working with landowners to maintain natural foothill conditions.
Research has shown that grazing cattle help thin out the invasive grasses introduced by European settlers more than a century ago.
Well-managed grazing prevents sensitive vernal pools from being overrun by the invasive grasses. It has helped restore an elegant ecosystem on the distinctive flattop mountains in the foothills.
But this conservancy does much more than lease land for grazing. Two years ago, it launched its own beef herd called Sierra Lands Beef. A few hundred head help bring in more money for the conservancy.
The newest property in the conservancy was once a working cattle ranch with an interesting history, according to executive director Jeannette Tuitele-Lewis. She said the property, which is about 1,400 feet in elevation, was originally bought for $10 in the mid-1930s.
There are four ponds, fed from streams in the area, she said. There are two houses, one of which will be occupied by a caretaker.
“Access will be more restrictive than other parts of the conservancy,” she said. “This is an important wildlife area.”
The prospect of California’s high-speed train project, and construction that could start as soon as next summer in the central San Joaquin Valley, seems to shine like a light at the end of the tunnel for many unemployed workers.
Since Thursday, when the California High-Speed Rail Authority adopted a policy aimed at promoting the hiring of disadvantaged workers by contractors, my phone line and email have been lit up by wishful job-seekers wanting to know when, where and how they can apply for work on the massive infrastructure project.
I can hear the hope in their voices as they talk about seeing the story in the paper or on The Bee’s website, only to hear them go crestfallen when I have to tell them that no major hiring is likely to happen anytime soon.
What happened last week was a policy decision by the state rail authority, not a hiring decision by contractors. There are five teams of contractors who have until mid-January to submit their bids for the first stage of construction from Madera through Fresno. The policy lets those companies know what the state’s expectations are for hiring people from economically disadvantaged communities, or workers who themselves are disadvantaged by virtue of being in one of the following categories:
Single parent who has custody of a child
On public assistance
Lacking a high school diploma
Having a criminal record
Apprentice with fewer than 15% of the necessary hours to graduate from a trade program
It’s unlikely that any of the would-be contractors will be doing any hiring until they know they’ve got the job. And the rail authority does not expect to award the major contract until next summer.
That’s not much comfort to the guy who wrote that he recently lost his job, or to the fellow who told me on the phone that he’s been out of work since 2009.
Still to come: The rail authority and its would-be contractors will have to come to grips with agreements that the companies already have with labor unions to hire union workers for the project. It’s yet to be seen to what extent that could be a problem for non-union businesses hoping to land work as subcontractors on the rail line, or how much of a potential obstacle it may be for workers here in the Valley.
Of 500 debtors on the list released Friday, 14 are from Fresno, Madera, and Tulare counties. Their debts range from about $454,000 to more than $3.1 million, and the oldest dates back nearly 20 years.
To put additional bite into the list, state law requires the Board of Equalization to provide the Top 500 list to other state agencies. Taxpayers on the list can be subject to penalties that affect any state licenses they may have, including driver’s licenses, occupational or professional licenses, and they may be barred from entering into contracts with state agencies.
Here’s the list for the fourth quarter of 2012, along with the amounts owed and the first lien date reported by the state:
Central Valley Food Services Inc., dba Jack in the Box, Fresno — $3,110,382 (2008)
The Board of Equalization issues the Top 500 list every quarter. Businesses on the list are notified 30 days in advance, giving them a chance to settle their debt or set up an installment program. Amounts that are paid through installments, or are in the midst of bankruptcy, litigation or appeals, are not included on the list.
It’s seems there’s a lot of wealthy groups and individuals in California who really want Madera County Republican Frank Bigelow to win the 5th Assembly District seat. Or, just as likely, they want Calaveras County Republican Rico Oller to lose.
Leading up to the June primary, a group called the Mother Lode Taxpayers Association Political Action Committee For Bigelow Assembly 2012 was formed, and then raised $235,000 to support Bigelow and oppose Oller.
Almost all the cash came from the California Dental Association Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee and the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee.
The November general election has now brought an even bigger boost for Bigelow.
It is another independent expenditure, this time from the California Senior Advocates League. The group has raised more than $1.7 million this year, of which it appears more than $300,000 went to support Bigelow and, mostly, to oppose Oller.
The group has weighed in on several state Assembly and Senate races around the state in addition to Bigelow-Oller, as well as giving money to a few other organizations such as the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association.
As with the primary election Mother Lode IE, the California Dental Association is a huge contributor to the California Senior Advocates League, as is Republican Charles Munger Jr.
Munger has garnered a huge amount of publicity because he’s contributed millions to defeat Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, and to support Proposition 32, an initiative that would limit the political clout of unions in California.
A group called Reform California Now has also contributed close to $1 million to California Senior Advocates League.
Among the contributors to Reform California Now are the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee, California Farm Bureau, Chevron Corp. and Philip Morris USA.
It appears a good part of the cash in the Bigelow-Oller race is going toward radio advertisements, though mailers have also been purchased.
In city after city across the central San Joaquin Valley, President Barack Obama has attracted more donors for his reelection campaign than his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney.
But when it comes to the local cash haul, Romney rules.
Take Fresno, for instance. Obama had 2,214 donors with Fresno mailing addresses, while Romney had just 696. But those 696 donors gave Romney $438,050, while Obama’s more than 2,200 contributed $223,716.
The average per donor? It is $629.38 for Romney, and just $101 for Obama.
Across the region, it is similar story — Exeter, Visalia, Kingsburg, Hanford, Madera, Merced mailing addresses all show more Obama donors, but more total money for Romney.
It even holds true in a Republican stronghold like Clovis, where Obama had 455 donors to Romney’s 259, but Romney raised $135,107 to Obama’s $42,700.
Given Romney’s local high-dollar fundraisers, this is hardly surprising. The biggest of them all came in May, when Romney raked in more than $1 million at a fundraiser at the Sanger-area home of prominent west-side rancher John Harris and his wife, Carole.
Obama, by comparison, has never held a Valley fundraiser. All his campaign donations came from local people who took the initiative and sent in a check. The only exception would have been if a local wealthy Democrat attended one of Obama’s Los Angeles or Bay Area fundraisers.