Various candidates in the county’s supervisor elections have shown an early influx of campaign financing from a bloc of development-related funders.
In the Second District, Southern Humboldt resident Estelle Fennell is the only announced challenger to incumbent Supervisor Clif Clendenen, whose campaign finance statement for the second half of 2011 amounts to about $6,000, mostly from small-scale donors.
Fennell’s campaign funding is extremely robust for an early phase of an election — she raised about $31,000. About half of it is comprised of multiple $1,000 donations from members of a business group that has set the pace for fundraising in recent elections.
Out-of-district businesses like Eureka Readymix, Kramer Investment Corporation, Hooven & Company, Hilfiker Pipe Company, O&M Industries and ReProp Financial are among those that have collectively boosted Fennell’s fundraising — as they have for other (and often successful) candidates in recent county elections.
Fennell is a former news director for KMUD community radio and is now well-known for supporting expansion of rural homeownership. She recently resigned as the executive director of the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights and the group’s founder, Lee Ulansey, is among those who each donated $1,000 to her campaign.
Asked about the larger-scale contributors, Fennell said they’ve noted her involvement in the county’s General Plan Update hearings. “I know I’m receiving support from them because they’ve seen that I have an understanding of many of the issues related to land ownership, resource management and business development,” she continued.
Fennell added that she wants to promote “a more business-friendly county structure that will incentivize a diversified, sustainable economy and dynamic change.”
The same funding bloc has given a similar out-of-the-gate campaign finance lead to Karen Brooks, a former state assembly candidate and a Tea Party Republican, who is challenging incumbent Supervisor Mark Lovelace in the Third District.
Lovelace’s campaign finance statement for the second half of 2011 amounts to $625, $500 of it from himself.
Brooks is a long shot candidate in a district that heavily favors liberal candidates. But her campaign funding for the period is robust, totaling about $20,000. Much of it is comprised of $1,000 donations from the same bloc of businesses that donated to Fennell’s campaign.
Brooks did not return calls for comment. Lovelace noted that the recent filings cover the second half of a non-election year. “I’d been hoping to wait until we’re actually in an election year before starting to fundraise and campaign,” he said.
Lovelace estimates that at this point, he’s raised $4,000, as money’s come in since the start of the year. He said that when he won the June 2008 primary election, he’d raised $50,000 and has noticed “an escalation of cost” in recent elections.
“It should be worrisome to folks,” he added.
In the First District election, Rex Bohn has seen contributions from similar sources and his campaign raised an astounding $93,000 in the last six months of 2011.