Radanovich fundraising improves, but he still trails colleagues

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. George Radanovich of Mariposa has picked up his fundraising pace but still lags well behind his San Joaquin Valley colleagues in available money, new records show.

Radanovich now has $112,999 in his re-election treasury, less than half the amount accumulated by the region's other incumbents. Two of his GOP colleagues, by contrast, are approaching nearly $1 million in available campaign cash.

"We have been doing fundraising, but this just hasn't been a time when people have been giving," Radanovich said, citing the post-presidential election lag. "I think you'll see more in the next three months."

On Friday, for instance, Radanovich was to hold a fundraising event in Fresno. It was the third and largest fundraiser he has held during the past two weeks while Congress was in recess.

At the other end of the fundraising spectrum, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, already reports having $872,504 in his campaign treasury as of March 31. Democrats Dennis Cardoza of Merced and Jim Costa of Fresno have $263,998 and $316,379 available, respectively.

The Valley's chief stockpiler, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, reports having $916,638, while Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, reports having $309,923.

The early fundraising matters, even though the next House election is more than 19 months away. While loathed by some lawmakers and denounced by reformers, fundraising is also counted by political professionals as a proxy for campaign strength and commitment.

"Typically candidates raise money early in an election cycle to scare off potential challengers," noted Marc Sandalow, director of the University of California at Merced's D.C. program. "Some incumbents raise money they don't need so they can become power brokers by distributing it to other members."

All Valley incumbents represent districts safely drawn to their own party's specifications, with the exception of McNerney. His district covering parts of San Joaquin County now has a roughly equal number of Republican and Democratic registered voters, a significant improvement for Democrats over the past several years.

Of all the Valley lawmakers, McNerney's and Radanovch's fundraising may be getting the closest scrutiny.

By raising an eye-opening $274,000 since January, McNerney is showing his capacity to defend a seat he took away from Tracy Republican Richard Pombo in 2006. Still, Republicans covet this district, where each party claims 39 percent of registered voters.

Radanovich's potential threat, by contrast, may come from within. Fresno-area businessman Bob Smittcamp, a longtime Republican supporter, declared last month that he is actively "looking for somebody to run against" Radanovich. Republican activist Tal Cloud has been actively distributing anti-Radanovich messages, targeting in part Radanovich's support for a San Joaquin River restoration plan.

In Radanovich's camp, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Madera Irrigation District board member Carl Janzen and others have reiterated their ongoing support for the incumbent first elected in 1994.

"He does a good job of representing the district, he is thoughtful and deliberative when I inquire as to matters and he and his staff do a good job of attending to his constituents," Fresno attorney Riley Walter said via e-mail Thursday.

Walter contributed $1,000 to Radanovich this year, part of the $62,210 the congressman raised during the first three months of the year. About 40 percent of the total comes from political action committees, representing groups such as Sun-Maid Growers.

The remainder comes from individuals, like a $2,300 contribution from Fresno-based businessman Richard Spencer and $1,000 each from Mike and Joyce Logsdon, owners of the Turlock-based Valley Wood Preserving.

"He always raises enough to meet his needs," Radanovich spokesman Spencer Pederson said, "and he's never been concerned about having a lot of money in the bank."