Police and industry groups adding cash to races
By Joseph Geha
November 3, 2016 at 4:44 pm
FREMONT — In a city election that features two incumbents fighting for the mayor’s seat and seven people seeking two seats on the City Council, some candidates are raising large sums of money and drawing significant support from independent political organizations.
According to the latest campaign finance disclosure reports filed Oct. 27 for the period covering Sept. 25 to Oct. 22, two of the candidates — Mayor Bill Harrison and council hopeful Raj Salwan — have raised well over $100,000, although much of Salwan’s sum came in the form of a personal loan to his campaign.
Harrison has raised more than $128,000 in his bid to win a second term as the city’s mayor. He said he is hoping to raise a little more this week.
He also is supported by tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of campaign mailers and media from political organizations such as the Fremont Police Association and the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords’ interests in local races and in Sacramento.
The California Apartment Association’s political arm has spent $9,699 on mass mail supporting Harrison this year.
The Fremont Police Association has spent $26,959 to support Harrison through various media, including signs and mailers. The association also funneled $10,000 to the Ohlone Area United Democratic Campaign, which too is supporting Harrison for mayor.
The Ohlone Area organization also collected $25,000 from Ron Zeff, CEO of Carmel Properties, which has a proposal pending before the city council to build a 670-unit apartment complex a half-mile east of the Fremont BART station. The project was approved by the planning commission in September, and the council hearing was scheduled for Nov. 15, after the election.
The Ohlone Area organization also received $20,000 from Robson Homes, which currently has three high-end housing developments in various stages of completion in the Mission San Jose district; $10,000 from Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s reelection committee; $10,000 from Sanjeev Acharya, the CEO of SiliconSage Builders; and $5,000 from SummerHill Construction, which earlier this year had a housing development project approved by the planning commission in the Mission San Jose district. In just the last two weeks of October, the Ohlone Area organization spent more than $45,000 on mailers supporting Harrison.
Harrison said in an interview Tuesday he appreciates the efforts of the various organizations, including the Ohlone’s, even though he has no control over their actions. “They know that this is a challenging election season and they’re trying to make sure we get our message out there.”
When asked what potential influence large sums of developer money to support his campaign might have, Harrison said he has never made a decision based on contributions or personal biases.
“If a monetary donation is going to sway you on the way you vote, you don’t belong on the city council,” he said.
Planning Commissioner Raj Salwan has raised $149,000 in his run for the city council; of that amount, $95,000 was a personal loan he made to his own campaign committee this year. Salwan is also supported heavily by independent groups, as well as the police union and the California Association of Realtors.
The Fremont Police Association spent $9,948 to support Salwan with mailers, including some joint mailers where he is featured along with Harrison as the union’s preferred candidates.
The political arm of the California Association of Realtors, known as CREPAC, has spent $23,720 on mailers supporting Salwan this election cycle, while the My Vote Counts independent expenditure committee spent $4,689 for a pro-Salwan print advertisement.
Salwan said while he is generally opposed to political action committees spending in local elections, he feels the police union is backing him because he has taken a strong stance supporting public safety. He said he doesn’t specifically know why the Realtors group chose to support him, but thinks it may have to do with what he calls his reasonable and balanced approach to projects that came before the planning commission and the council when he was an appointed member.
Lily Mei, the city’s vice mayor who is seeking Harrison’s seat, has raised $69,607 so far. That includes about $10,000 from personal loans she made to her own campaign committee.
Based on a review of available campaign finance forms, it appears no independent political committee has spent more than $1,000 for mailers or other materials in support of Mei. Such committees are not required to report expenditures if they fall short of $1,000.
Councilman Vinnie Bacon has raised $47,126 in his re-election run to date, including a $24,915 personal loan he made to his campaign. Campaign reports show the police union spent about $730 on signs supporting him alone and more than $6,000 on signs supporting him as well as Salwan and Harrison.
Laurie Manuel, chairwoman of the city’s art review board and a former planning commissioner, raised $42,586 to date for her council run, including $23,600 in loans she made to her campaign.
Council candidate Kathy Kimberlin, the current president of the Centerville Business and Community Association and the Fremont Education Foundation, has raised a little more than $19,000 total, $15,000 in personal loans to her own campaign.
Rakesh Sharma, the current chairman of the Ohlone College Foundation and CEO of a nonprofit, has reported raising only $250 during the latest campaign filing period. Although he is personally funding most of his campaign, disclosure reports show he has entered the latest filing period with more than $19,000 from previous campaigns.
Cullen Tiernan, a former Marine running for council, has raised $9,669 to date, $1,400 of which are loans from various individuals.
Marty Froomin, a software developer and former IT administrator, has not filed financial forms with the city. He said at the beginning of the election season he will not be doing formal fundraising or putting out campaign signs.