The stakes must be high Late infusion of campaign cash propels two key Monterey County races


With election day on Tuesday, money continues to get shoved at candidates in two significant Monterey County campaigns.The last of the full campaign disclosure statements before the election were filed last week in the county sheriff’s race and in the crowded campaign for the North Monterey County supervisor’s position. Tuesday is a primary election, which means the top two vote-getters in both races will square off in November if none of the candidates muster a majority of votes.

Both races are important. The future of policy decisions for the county will likely be determined by how this Board of Supervisors election eventually plays out. And the winner of the sheriff’s race will replace Sheriff Steve Bernal, who is retiring after two troubled terms.

Between April 24 and May 21, the latest campaign filing period, the four candidates for county sheriff raised about $146,000, increasing the total to about $625,000. During the same three-week period, candidates in the 2nd District Supervisor’s race amassed an extra $86,000 in contributions or loans. That’s in addition to the approximately $650,000 the candidates raised before April 24. 


The leading candidate cash magnet in the Board of Supervisors race is Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig. She has amassed about $260,000 during her campaign, including about $28,000 in the past month. Her most generous donors recently include the Association of Builders and Contractors of Northern California and the Monterey Bay Action Committee, both of which sent $4,900 to her war chest. The California Real Estate PAC gave $4,500 while Scudder Roofing pitched in another $2,500, lifting its overall giving to Kimbley to $4,837.

Candidate Regina Gage, a nonprofit executive who is running her second supervisorial campaign this year, saw her total contributions increase to about $181,000 with another $9,609 during the past several weeks. Much of her more ardent financial supporters are various labor unions, and she received another $4,000 from unions recently. She also received $3,000 from the Democratic Women of Monterey County.

She wasn’t the only one. The Democratic Women of Monterey County were generous to four of the six candidates in the nonpartisan race. Only Craig and candidate Steven Snodgrass were snubbed by the group. 

Snodgrass received an additional $6,000 during the last reporting period, virtually all of them in contributions of under $1,000. His total is now about $143,000. Snodgrass is a retired chief financial officer at Graniterock.

Candidate Glenn Church, a Christmas tree farmer, received about $18,000 during the latest period, and loaned another $20,000 to his campaign. During the last several weeks, he received $4,000 from the Democratic Women’s group, and $2,000 each from Sam Farr, the former Congressman from Carmel, Pat Grant and Peter Neumeier. Overall, Church has amassed a campaign war chest of about $160,000 in contributions and loans.

Between the two of them, candidates Grant Leonard and Adriana Melgoza have raised a total of about $12,000. Melgoza got $2,000 from the Democratic Women of Monterey County, while Leonard received $1,000 from the group.

The six candidates are hoping to replace John Phillips on the Board of Supervisors. The winner will certainly be a swing vote on the Board of Supervisors in the coming years. The makeup of the board currently includes two supervisors representing the Monterey Peninsula and three representing the Salinas Valley’s interests, with Phillips being mostly a reliable pro-growth, pro-business vote. Craig is endorsed by and receives much of her support from many of the same donors and endorsers who supported Phillips over the years.

— Joe Livernois


In the money portion of the campaign to replace Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal, sheriff’s Capt. Joe Moses continues to roll over his three opponents. Through last week he had raised $308,000 while Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto had raised $115,000, Del Rey Oaks Police Chief Jeff Hoyne had raised $64,000 and sheriff’s deputy Justin Patterson $55,000. The totals do not include loans candidates have made to their campaigns.

Reporters and opposing campaigns routinely scour the latest election finance reports filed with the county Elections Office. They’re looking for amounts, errors or omissions, indications of where each candidate is receiving support and, of course, potential conflicts of interest. And, sometimes, indications of the candidates’ style.

For instance, NIeto’s campaign offered detailed descriptions of most donors, their business or place of employment. For example, “Jillian Allen, executive director of Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra, dba Dorothy’s Kitchen.”

Moses took the opposite approach, identifying many of his donors only by name, location and the words “executive officer” and “self employed.” No indication of name or type of business, things that might explain why said executive officer was making a contribution.

The Moses camp, for example, identifies longtime Republican stalwart and rabble-rouser Paul Bruno only as a self-employed executive officer rather than owner of Monterey Peninsula Engineering. The company is big in pipelines of all sorts. Sheriff’s races are almost as much about politics and government projects as they are about law enforcement, which would explain why his company would give Moses $5,000.

In one interesting entry, Moses reports another significant donor as “Drew Massa,” and identifies him only as a self-employed chief executive. Actually Drew-Massa is a trucking company operated by occasionally controversial David Drew and partner Bill Massa. 

Drew went to prison decades ago for dope smuggling but was later pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown. He is a regular contributor to law-enforcement campaigns nonetheless, some of which have returned checks in the past to avoid publicity.

J.J. Hill, owner of the sprawling El Sur Ranch in Big Sur, isn’t listed like that. He’s merely JJ Hill, self-employed chief executive.

Another entry on Moses’ latest form says something called OA Manager of Rio Road, Monterey, contributed $500. 

Jose Mendoza, a former sheriff’s commander who considered entering the race, contributed $250 to Nieto.

Moses’ financial reporting functions are being handled by the same bookkeepers who oversaw Bernal’s campaign filings for the past eight years. Bernal has endorsed Moses but hasn’t been able to swing him much of the South County oil, ag and family money that fueled the sheriff’s two winning campaigns.

While the position is supposed to be bipartisan, Moses is running as a Democrat while receiving strong support from the Peninsula’s GOP adherents, the hospitality industry and the ag world. According to other candidates and their supporters, Moses collected significantly from gun owners because his supporters spread word that Nieto, possibly Moses’ strongest rival, would cut the number of concealed weapons permits issued by the Sheriff’s Office. Nieto responded that she is comfortable with the system implemented by Moses’ boss, Bernal, and sees no reason to change it. 

Unlike the last couple of sheriff’s races here, there was little input from legal cannabis operations. In the early days of their ventures, cannabis growers and marketers contributed generously to sheriff and Board of Supervisor campaigns while regulations for legal cannabis business were being drafted. Since then they have managed to get the county to reduce the cannabis tax and relax some of the regulations attached to the industry, which appears to be struggling with a glut of product. Moses and Nieto each received small contributions from people involved in cannabis.

Moses also got $1,000 from David ArmanasCo, who is Sheriff’s Bernal’s unpaid public relations adviser; another $1,000 from retired Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, and $2,500 from executive officer Chrystal Star, company unknown.

In the early days of the campaign, Moses was receiving support from mental health and social services practitioners by promising to greatly improve mental health services in the jail, which he supervises, and elsewhere. That never translated to significant financial support for Moses, however.

In the campaign’s closing weeks, Nieto seems to have gathered increasing support from the progressive wing of county politics. She reported the maximum contribution of $4,900 from the Democratic Women’s Club and smaller contributions from local luminaries of the left Beverly Bean, Janet Brennan, George Riley, Kate Daniels, Amy Anderson, Constance Murray, Board of Supervisors candidate Regina Gage, former supervisors Jane Parker and Karin Strasser Kauffman, retired sex crimes prosecutor Ann Hill, and Mike and Carol Dawson. She received $2,500 from Marcia Parsons, retired chief probation officer for the county.

Nieto received more union money than the other candidates, including $4,900 from the Deputy Sheriffs Association. She also won the endorsement of Marina City Council member Kathy Biala.

In an interesting twist, she received $500 from a former colleague in the Los Angeles Police Department, Roger Guzman. After working for Nieto as a homicide investigator there, he worked briefly as an officer-involved-shooting investigator for the progressive San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, an assignment that ended in conflict. Now he’s a sergeant in the Del Rey Oaks department headed by candidate Jeff Hoyne, one of Nieto’s opponents.

“I love Jeff Hoyne,” Guzman said. “He’s a star. He’s the future of law enforcement. But when you count experience, command experience (and) the ability to deal with complex personnel issues, critical events such as officer-involved shootings, the nod goes to Chief Nieto. I’ve seen her in action at all levels.”

Nieto also received support from King City Police Chief Keith Boyd, Greenfield police Capt. Guillermo Mixer and, like each of the other candidates, a smattering of small donations from local sheriff’s office and police department employees.

Significant recent contributions to Hoyne include $1,000 from Monterey City Council member and former cop Ed Smith and $1,299 from Del Rey Oaks council member Dennis Allion. Hoyne also lent his campaign $14,000.

Hoyne was a longtime Seattle-area transportation cop before moving to Monterey County. He heads the Monterey Peninsula Airport’s police operation as well as Del Rey Oaks’. 

Also contributing to his own campaign was Patterson, who lent himself $29,000.

Like Bernal before his election eight years ago, Patterson holds one of the department’s lowest ranks but he has aimed his campaign upward at Moses, one of the department’s highest-ranking figures. He has sharply criticized Moses for running as a Democrat and using a campaign management firm that specializes in representing progressives and their causes, including Black Lives Matter and defund-the-police groups.

Patterson seems to have made inroads into the right side of Monterey County politics. He received $5,000 from Panziera Brothers Vineyard in Soledad, $4,300 from former sheriff’s candidate Fred Garcia and $2,000 from prosecutor Richard Storms Jr., who was briefly a candidate for district attorney.

Sheriff’s deputy Michael Davis of Hollister and Sgt. Nicole Davis each gave Patterson $1,250. Retired deputy Joe Martinez put in $2,000 worth of work for the Patterson campaign and former Lt. Matt Luther  added $292 of in-kind labor.

An interesting figure in local law enforcement politics supporting Patterson to the tune of $100 is Mike Richards, who has been part of several past sheriff’s administrations while maintaining close ties to Drew, the trucking company and restaurant operator with the expunged record.

— Royal Calkins

| Photo illustration by JL

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