Former Obama Administration official James Gore powered past his chief rivals seeking the 4th District Sonoma County supervisor seat, raising more than $83,000 in contributions since Jan. 1.

His nearest competitor, Windsor Town Councilwoman Deb Fudge, pulled in just over $44,000 in the same period.

"I'm pleased to see the broad base of financial support I've received since the start of the campaign," Gore said in a written statement.

The Sonoma County native served three years in Washington D.C. in the Department of Agriculture before returning to the area and jumping into the supervisorial race.

Since the start of the campaign last year, Gore has edged Fudge by about $24,000 in fundraising -- a cumulative total of more than $105,000 for Gore and more than $81,000 for Fudge. But Gore has been spending money at a greater clip, leaving him with nearly $35,000 in cash on hand as of March 17, but Fudge has more than $39,000 left in cash.

Fudge said the disparity in fundraising was not a concern for her.

"I am raising what I need to get my message out," she said.

She noted that Gore had been backed by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and the North Bay Association of Realtors, both endorsements known to bring strong fundraising in their wake.

"I'm not taking for granted that other candidates have access to deep pockets ... this is exactly what I expected," she said.

The report for former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, who had a strong fundraising performance last year, was not available by Monday afternoon, but he said he had raised in excess of $20,000, well behind his rivals.

"I expected Gore to have big money interests behind him. That doesn't surprise me," he said. "We're doing what we want to do. We want to use money wisely."

Gore rejected the criticism from the other candidates.

"They're going after the same funding. They're going after the same people ... to turn around and say that's bad support, I think that is a misrepresentation of it," he said.

The reports of two other candidates, pension activist Ken Churchill and part-time teacher Keith Rhinehart, were not available Monday afternoon, but neither man was expected to show much in the bank.

Churchill joined the race late, filing just before the March 5 deadline, leaving him little time to raise money before the campaign finance reporting deadline, March 17. Rhinehart has said he doesn't intend to raise or spend more than $5,000 on the entire campaign, preferring a vigorous one-on-one campaign of knocking on doors.

In the last reporting period, through the end of 2013, Foppiano, who had been out of electoral politics for nearly two decades, surprised his rivals by raising more than $37,000, leading the pack. Fudge followed with just less than $37,000 and Gore drew just more than $22,000.

The surge in fundraising comes as the campaign is heating up to replace Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is seeking election to the state Senate seat being vacated by Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans.

The candidates say they have been walking precincts and attending events. Gore was the first one to make a visual impression, putting up large signs along Highway 101 last week.

Fudge said she plans to roll out her signs this weekend in Healdsburg and on county roads, though she is somewhat constrained by the limits in her base of Windsor, where candidates may only post signs within 45 days on an election.

The primary is June 3. If no candidate earns more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election in November.

While Gore trumpeted his strong performance in fundraising, he said that was not sufficient to win. Like the other candidates, he emphasized grassroots efforts.

"To get out the vote and get people excited, money isn't the way to do that," he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or sean.scully@pressdemocrat.com.)