Donor Review for Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors

Frank Damrell with county employees Christina Kenney and Jeanette Fabela

When Dick Monteith announced his retirement from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, both Democrat Frank Damrell and Republican Tom Berryhill announced they would run for the vacant seat in Stanislaus County’s District Four. Former Modesto City Councilmember Janice Keating jumped into the race much later. Read more from Steve Ringhoff at Modestoexplained.

Frank Damrell III had the most donors through April 21. Tom Berryhill got the most money during that same time frame, thanks to some deep pocketed people, PACs and corporations. Janice Keating, a late entry, trailed in both categories.

First, the candidates, in brief:

Berryhill is from a well known political family and served in the state assembly from 2006-2010, when he was then elected to the state senate. He’s running for supervisor after being termed out of his senate position.

This is Damrell’s first campaign for office of any kind. He currently works for the state senate identifying issues of bipartisan concern to the senators. His family has a long history in law; his grandfather was a superior court judge here and his father a federal court judge in Sacramento.

Keating served on the Modesto City Council, some of the time as vice-mayor. She has tried for this seat before, as well as for state assembly, each time with no success.

Before we discuss finances, we probably should deal with the “fairy tale” that the board of supervisors is a non-partisan position. Although Stanislaus County is split about 50/50 between those registered as belonging to one of the two major parties, Republicans have dominated the board, with some past boards—as is the current board— composed of five out of five Republicans.

The partisan nature of the board is reflected in who supports whom, as we will detail later.

Don’t think it makes no difference. More so today than in the past, Republican and Democratic views on welfare, immigration and how to deal with homelessness differ greatly. All these issues, and more, are dealt with either directly or indirectly by budget control.

For example, the militarization of law enforcement is an issue which the board will deal with by its budgetary control of the next sheriff. The current sheriff, for example, has not been denied much. He has two airplanes, two helicopters (one needing about $1m in repairs) and 10 drones (one costing $9k) in his arsenal.

Berryhill and Keating are Republicans. Damrell is a Democrat.

Berryhill: As of April 21, Tom Berryhill had raised a total of $78,497 including $5,000 he brought over to this campaign from what he had received when he was planning a run for the Board of Equalization. His donors number about 150 but there are duplications among them, so the real number is slightly lower. (The same is true for Damrell)

What is telling is who the donors are. The biggest single donor I could find in a non-scientific scanning of the filings was the California Professional Firefighters PAC which put up an aggregate contribution of $8,500. Two Indian tribes put up more than $7,000.

The biggest individual contributions seem to come from Attorney J. Wilmar Jensen and Jim DeMartini, a current member of the board and a Republican stalwart.

Damrell: He has raised about $61,500 according to two filings he has made, one for the year ending 12-31-17 and one from 1-1 to 4-21-18.

His count of about 180 donors is clearly an overcount because of multiple smaller donations. Many of his donations come from his immediate family and his extended family which includes a bunch of people named Gallo. There do not appear to be any big corporate or PAC donations.  The names of his contributors skew sharply to those who usually contribute to Democratic candidates.

Keating: Because of her late entry, and because she will be competing with Berryhill for GOP money, it comes as no surprise that she has only banked $3,950, which includes a loan of $500 she made to her campaign as executive director of the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee.  She only has about a dozen contributors so far—her list is so short there doesn’t appear to be any duplication.

Takeaways:  Berryhill and Keating may split the Republican vote in the primary, with Damrell in first or second place, but unlikely to get 50 plus percent of the vote.

Berryhill is more of an old school Republican than Keating, which may differentiate them among Republican votes. Keating was criticized by some Republicans for bringing Ann Coulter to town for a speech for which Ms. Coulter received $25,000.

Keating’s compliance with reporting requirements will be closely watched as she was fined $4,001 for failing to file required reports when she ran for the state assembly in 2010.

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