Roger Bonakdar is the top campaign fundraiser among Fresno City Council candidates seeking office in 2024.
The Fresno attorney is one of four candidates who filed to replace Garry Bredefeld in District 6. Bredefeld is termed out, and running for Fresno County Supervisor.
“I’m thankful for the support, and I will work hard to win broad support and this election in March,” Bonakdar said.
If Bonakdar (or any candidate) wins a majority on March 5, 2024, the election is over. If not, the top-two candidates continue to the November general election.
Bonakdar raised $220,392 for the first six months of 2023. That is 23 times more than the second biggest fundraiser for the district, businessman Nickolas Richardson ($9,577). Justin St. George raised $7,320.
Among Bonakdar’s supporters are the political action committee for the police union ($9,700), developer Richard Spencer and his sons (a total of $10,500) and Granville Homes ($5,500). Darius Assemi, publisher of GV Wire, is the president/CEO of Granville.
Spencer is known for his support of Measure E, which could be back on the ballot in 2024. It would raise the Fresno County sales tax, with the money to be spent by Fresno State. A 2022 version failed at the ballot box.
Bonakdar says he is “learning more about it,” without providing an answer as to whether or not he supports the measure.
Danny Kim, a Fresno police sergeant, filed to run but did not post any financial data. He tells GV Wire he may drop out of the race because of “unexpected family obligations.”
District 6 — covering northeast Fresno — has drawn the most candidates of the three council districts up for election in 2024. Mike Karbassi raised $6,650 in his District 2 (northwest Fresno) race; Tyler Maxwell raised $34,400 in District 4 (east-central Fresno).
Last year, both Karbassi and Maxwell voted to increase the salary of councilmembers, with the idea it would draw more candidates. Maxwell has yet to draw an opponent. Matthew Gillian pulled papers to run against Karbassi. The deadline to run is Dec. 8.
Mayor Jerry Dyer, running for a second term without an active opponent, raised $292,812.
Bredefeld Leads Supervisor Fundraising
The hustle of Bredefeld has paid off. He reports raising $530,457 for the first six months of 2023.
Although that includes $220,000 transferred from his city council account and a $100,000 loan made to himself, it is still more than incumbent Steve Brandau.
Brandau raised $54,376. Several contributors gave to both men.
Fresno County Assessor Paul Dictos is also in the District 2 race — covering north Fresno and parts of Clovis. His only reported fundraising is a $20,000 loan to himself.
In District 3 (mostly south Fresno and surrounding communities), incumbent Sal Quintero leads with $57,474 raised. Two Fresno City Councilmen are challenging Quintero — Miguel Arias with $35,819; and Luis Chavez with $35,155.
Arias’s total includes $20,793 transferred from his city council account; Chavez transferred $30,000.
Nathan Magsig, running in District 5 — most of Clovis, east Fresno, and the mountain communities — raised $3,250. He has not drawn an opponent.
Bredefeld Defies County’s Limit, Chavez Cautious
Both Bredefeld and Chavez are engaged in a lawsuit with Fresno County challenging how much money can be transferred. The county capped the amount at $30,000; Bredefeld and Chavez disagree, but only Bredefeld openly defied the law. Chavez still has $72,189 in his city council account.
Chavez says he held back because he is waiting for the court case to resolve.
“I did not want to be guilty of a misdemeanor and have the county attempt to prosecute me under this illegal law, since they chose to sue me without me actually breaking the law. I expect the judge to rule in this soon and subsequently transfer all my resources, putting me ahead of the fundraising effort from all candidates, even the incumbent,” Chavez said.
That case goes to trial on Sept. 29.
What About SB 1439?
This is the first year that a new campaign finance law is in effect — SB 1439. It limits votes on “license, permit, and entitlement for use” if the subject of the vote contributed more than $250.
Generally, it means most pieces of business in front of the council, excluding competitive bids, labor, or personal employment contracts.
Enforcement is still up in the air. In the past, the Fresno City Attorney’s office and Fresno County District Attorney’s office said they would only react to complaints, not do the research themselves.
GV Wire continues to research if any violations were made, but there does not appear to be any upon initial examination.
Other Campaign Tidbits
Reading the campaign finance reforms, it is interesting to see not only from whom candidates collected their contributions, but where they spent it as well.
Maxwell apparently took a trip to Riverside, spending $270 at a hotel, and $388 for a “campaign meeting” at The Salted Pig gastropub. A known vegetarian, the restaurant does offer mac and cheese.
Karbassi spent $4,760 on legal services, with Whelan Law Group. Last year when he ran for Assembly, Karbassi sued fellow councilmember — and eventual winner — Esmeralda Soria over a campaign mailer. Karbassi lost the lawsuit.