Nine of the 22 candidates running for the yet-to-be-formed Menifee City Council reported receiving $1,000 or more in campaign contributions.
The top fundraiser has been Darcy Kuenzi who gathered $35,582 in campaign contributions as of May 22, according to records from the Riverside County registrar of voters.
Kuenzi’s biggest donation came from Wintec Energy, a wind turbine company in Palm Springs, which gave $2,800.
Kuenzi, who works as a legislative assistant for Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, said some people have criticized her because she has received several $1,000 donations from developers.
“People give money to people who demonstrate leadership. It’s because of the reputation and relationships I have built through my community service and work ethic,” she said Thursday by telephone.
Thursday marked the deadline for candidates to postmark their disclosures of campaign contributions to the county elections office.
Kuenzi, who formerly worked as the executive director of Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, said she has a history of successful fundraising for other causes including the bond measure campaign that built Romoland’s new Heritage High School, the Menifee Valley Community Cupboard and the Menifee Valley Incorporation Committee, which amassed $78,800 to pay for the various financial and environmental studies submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission to apply for cityhood.
She said if elected to a council seat, she would not be influenced by the handful of developers that contributed money to her campaign.
However, Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said whoever donates to a candidate’s campaign gives voters some insight as to where that candidates stands on certain issues.
Donating With Purpose?
“If labor unions are donating, they probably are pro-union. If developers are supporting them, they are probably pro-development,” Stern said. “Nobody spends money for nothing. Corporations are not allowed to waste money. They want the person to listen to them, and the expectation is that they will agree with them on the issues.”
Jerry Stamper, who owns Rancho Plaza Realty Inc., a residential property management company, reported taking a $6,476 loan and getting $7,250 in contributions.
Stamper’s largest donation was $5,190 from Avalon Management, a property management company that works closely with Menifee Lakes, a residential community of 1,850 homes. Stamper serves as the president of the board of directors overseeing Menifee Lakes.
John Denver, a Realtor, reported taking out a $2,000 loan and receiving $4,453 in donations. Denver’s largest contributor was $1,000 from a Santa Ana developer.
Darci Castillejos, who owns and operates the French Valley Café, reported raising $3,144. She also took out an $850 loan.
Wallace Edgerton, the only candidate to have previously served on a City Council – Long Beach in his case – said he did not feel the pressure to raise campaign dollars like he did when running for council in the much bigger city of Long Beach. Edgerton borrowed $3,600 for his current Menifee campaign.
“To the degree that you don’t have to raise any money because it’s a smaller city is a blessing. There certainly isn’t anything inappropriate about raising money,” said Edgerton, who teaches political science at Mt. San Jacinto College. “But you don’t have to deal with the pressure you’re going to get. I can answer to the voter and not have to answer to anybody who might have a vested interest who has contributed to my campaign.”
He said the Menifee council race has drawn a range of candidates with more experience in urban planning, finance and government combined than he saw in any Long Beach council race. Overall he said he’s been impressed at the lack of negativity or mudslinging among candidates.
A check of criminal backgrounds with the Riverside County and San Bernardino County Superior Courts showed one candidate with a conviction of driving under the influence in 2001.
Jason Reeves, who owns an Anaheim production business that works with nonprofit organizations and who also teaches Sunday school, said the incident marked a turning point that led him to his Christian faith.
“It happened before I lived in this community, before I was a Christian, before I was married and became a father,” said Reeves, 32. “I know all things happen for a reason, and God used that as a wake-up call that I needed to give my life over to him.”
By JULISSA McKINNON
23 May 2008
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