Big money continues to pour into race for Capps’ congressional seat

The nine candidates for the 24th District congressional seat Katcho Achadjian, left, Salud Carbajal, Justin Fareed, Steve Isakson, Matt Kokkonen, Benjamin Lucas, William Ostrander, Helene Schneider, and John Uebersax during a debate at Cuesta College in April.
The nine candidates for the 24th District congressional seat Katcho Achadjian, left, Salud Carbajal, Justin Fareed, Steve Isakson, Matt Kokkonen, Benjamin Lucas, William Ostrander, Helene Schneider, and John Uebersax during a debate at Cuesta College in April. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Money continues to flow into the hotly contested race for the 24th District congressional district seat, with Democrat Salud Carbajal topping $1.7 million and Republican Justin Fareed garnering more than $1 million in an election that has attracted nine candidates scrambling to succeed retiring nine-term Rep. Lois Capps, a Democrat.

The latest campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission show each candidate’s finances from Jan. 1 to March 31. As it has stood since January 2015, Carbajal, a Santa Barbara County supervisor, has continued to lead in fundraising efforts, with substantial support from Democratic party leaders, Hollywood figures and political action committees.

He’s followed by Fareed, a Santa Barbara businessman and rancher who has never held political office, Republican California State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, and Democratic Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.

Three candidates have been largely or wholly self-funded: San Luis Obispo rancher and Democratic candidate William Ostrander, Republican financial adviser Matt Kokkonen and independent Atascadero engineer Steve Isakson. Montecito Democrat Benjamin Lucas and Morro Bay statistician and independent candidate John Uebersax did not file financial statements.

According to FEC guidelines, individuals are allowed to donate up to $2,700 to a federal candidate’s primary election and an additional $2,700 to the same candidate’s general election. A political action committee supporting multiple candidates may give up to $5,000 per election to a candidate’s election.


Since entering the race, Carbajal, 51, has raised nearly $1.7 million in total and spent $684,198, leaving a sizable balance leading up to the June 7 primary and beyond to the Nov. 8 general election.

He began the first quarter of 2016 with a commanding fundraising lead over his opponents, with more than $970,000 cash. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, Carbajal raised an additional $313,884 and spent $284,131, leaving him with just over $1 million on hand.

His donors include actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, San Luis Obispo City Council members John Ashbaugh and Carlyn Christianson, prominent Santa Barbara businessmen Mario and David Borgatello, former state Sen. and Assemblyman Jack O’Connell, California Home Builders CEO Shawn Evenhaim, Santa Ynez poet Daniel Gerber, former San Luis Obispo County Counsel Warren Jensen, PG&E spokesman Tom Jones, former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Jim Patterson, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), screenwriter and producer Peter Seaman and Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza.

He also received large amounts of money from public- and private-sector unions, as well as various Democratic Party political action committees. He’s also received donations from the PACs of San Luis Obispo County Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, and current U.S. Reps. Lois Capps and Nancy Pelosi.

A recent TV ad running throughout the district was released two weeks ago, and expenses for the commercial’s production will be in the next disclosure, campaign spokeswoman Tess Whittlesey said.


The fundraising efforts of Fareed, 28, are nearly as impressive, with a total of $1,034,216 in fundraising and $306,418 spent. The second-highest fundraiser and spender during the past quarter, Fareed began the period with $767,265 on hand. Through March, Fareed raised $182,928 and spent $222,395, entering April with a comfortable $727,797 to continue the campaign season.

Fareed’s supporters include small-business owners, real estate brokers and retirees, as well as ranchers and owners of several agricultural and dairy companies. Notable contributors include Santa Maria City Councilwoman Etta Waterfield and political action committees supporting Republicans including Peace Through Strength PAC, E-PAC and What a Country! PAC, which promotes immigration reform. Fareed spent $37,245 on a TV commercial currently airing throughout the district.


Since Jan. 1, 2015, Achadjian has raised $667,185 (including a $30,000 loan to himself) and spent a total $226,630. He began the past quarter with $257,084, raising $247,756 and spending $104,285, leaving just over $400,000 on hand.

Achadjian, 64, is raising money from a variety of donors from the agriculture, real estate, construction and financial services industries, as well as the legal community. Contributors include Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham and Councilwoman Mary Ann Reiss, Central Coast Taxpayers Association president and current state Assembly candidate Jordan Cunningham, San Luis Obispo real estate developer Felton Ferrini, San Luis Obispo Mortgage House division president Roxanne Carr, prominent SLO County businessman Doug Filipponi and San Luis Obispo attorneys Ziyad Naccasha and Tim Carmel.

He also raised money from the political action committees for the National Propane Gas Association, the California Independent Petroleum Association, the Petroleum Marketers Association and the National Association of Homebuilders. Achadjian did not film a TV ad during the period but did spend more than $17,000 to conduct polling.


Since entering the race, Schneider, 45, has raised a total of $577,042 and spent $335,579. She began the past quarter with $246,947 and raised $96,858. She spent $102,230 and entered April with $241,575.

A significant portion of Schneider’s donors include public employees, health care providers and educators. Big names include Pismo Beach City Councilwoman Sheila Blake, “That ’70s Show” TV producer Marcy Carsey, Santa Barbara Museum of Art Director Larry Feinberg, documentary filmmaker Paul Mariano and human-rights activist Victoria Riskin.

Schneider did not have any contributions from political action committees during the quarter, and her largest single expenditure was $10,000 to a campaign consulting firm.


Ostrander, 56, whose central issue is campaign finance reform, raised far less than the top-four candidates. Since entering the race, he’s taken in $45,234, including nearly $13,000 in personal loans to himself. He began the quarter with just $303 in the bank but raised $23,566 and spent $22,755, leaving Ostrander with $1,113 on hand. That amount represents a busier fundraising period for Ostrander than previous quarters.

Most of his donations thus far have come from SLO County farmers, tradesmen and educators. Notable donors include “I Heart Huckabees” actress Kamala Lopez, as well as his co-star from 1983’s “Christine,” actor and filmmaker Keith Gordon.


Kokkonen, 70, entered the quarter with no money in the bank but has since raised a total of $212,945 — nearly all of it his own money ($210,500 in personal loans and $2,445 from contributors) — and spent $15,598. Kokkonen’s four campaign contributors are listed as retired and “unknown.”


Isakson, 63, also began the quarter with no money and has since financed his campaign himself with $45,020 in personal loans. He’s spent $13,015, leaving him with $32,004 at the start of April.

No statement

Candidates who have not raised or spent at least $5,000 are not required to file disclosure statements. Neither Lucas nor Uebersax reached that threshold last quarter, though Uebersax, 62, said he spent about $3,600. Lucas, 53, said Friday that he spent just under the $5,000 minimum but recently wrapped a TV commercial and purchased print ads for about $40,000 that will reflect in next quarter’s report.

The next filing deadline is July 15.