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Campaign cash rush is on for Santa Rosa candidates


<i><b>Editor's note:</b> This story has been changed to reflect total campaign fundraising to date, including funds raised prior to 2012 by candidates Julie Combs, Erin Carlstrom, Gary Wysocky and Caroline Ba?elos. </i>

Campaign cash has surged into the coffers of Santa Rosa's City Council candidates over the past three months, a sign that the seven-way race for four seats is heating up.

The candidates have raised approximately $207,000 overall in their campaigns, with nearly $100,000 of that from July to September, as interest groups and individuals began to focus their attention and support on a field of candidates that began as nine until two recently dropped out.

Neighborhood activist Julie Combs has raised $56,106 overall, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city.

That includes two personal loans totaling $24,000, including a recent $15,000 loan she said she made to ensure her campaign was well funded in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Combs said she expects to repay herself as individual donors begin paying closer attention to the race and make contributions.

"I nervously went into my retirement fund to carry the campaign until the notoriously late donors turn out, and I have good confidence that they will," Combs said.

In terms of total donations received, attorney Erin Carlstrom is out in front, with $41,088 to date.

Both Combs and Carlstrom began their campaigns last year as the relative newcomers to city politics sought to boost their name recognition.

Carlstrom raised $43,588 overall, when her $2,500 loan made to her campaign last year is considered.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares raised less than Combs and Carlstrom overall, with $25,149, but nearly all of it came from donors in the last three months.

"I feel like I have some strong support out there," Olivares said.

Combs received money from unions, including $250 from the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education of the North Bay; political groups, including the Progressive Democrats Sonoma County PAC, which gave $200; and neighborhood organizations, including the Santa Rosa Manufactured Homeowners Association, which gave $250.

Individual contributors include $500 from Jedd Parker, an executive at Petaluma's fast-growing solar energy technology firm Enphase, and $120 from Guy Connor, husband of former state Sen. Pat Wiggins.

Combs said she is proud of how many people have donated $20 and even $5 and said it shows her strong grass-roots support.

"I don't have lots of wealthy friends," she said.

Carlstrom raised the least of the seven candidates, with $6,974 during July to September.

Political groups backing her during the period include the North Bay Labor Council, $250. Businesses and individuals supporting her include Marin Holistic Solutions of Corte Madera, $500; Micheline Justman, client program coordinator for the North Bay Regional Center, which supports people with developmental disabilities, $500; and attorney John Mackie, $100.

Olivares' public safety background gave him a financial bump as three police groups and a firefighter group rounded up contributions totaling $1,750. Those groups did not back Olivares in 2008, he noted.

Other political groups backing Olivares included the North Bay Leadership Council and California Real Estate Political Action Committee, both of which gave $500. Individual donations included $500 from Louis Ratto, president of Ratto Group of Companies, and Andrew and Monica Rowley, partners in Sports City, with $500 each.

Hans Dippel has raised the third most money to date, with $23,050. Interest groups backing him with the maximum $500 donation include the Sonoma County Alliance, Santa Rosa Police Management Association and North Bay Association of Realtors.

He also is backed by Connie Codding, executive vice president of Codding Enterprises, who gave $200, and some members of the wine industry, including $100 from James Macphail of Healdsburg's Macphail Wines.

Dippel said he is pleased that he's received donations from more than 200people so far.

Councilman Gary Wysocky has raised $19,359 and noted he hasn't had to loan his campaign a dime.

"What I'm proudest of is that my money comes from all corners of our community," Wysocky said.

Groups backing the certified public accountant include the North Bay Labor Council and North Bay Association of Realtors, both which contributed $250 during the July-to-September period.

Business owners supporting him include Lawrence Amaturo of Nissan of Santa Rosa, Rich Coombs of Airport Business Center and Bill Friedman of Friedman's Home Improvement, all of whom gave $500. He's also backed by leaders of liberal activist groups, including Marty Bennett, co-founder of the Living Wage Coalition, and Anne Seeley, a co-chairwoman of Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, both of whom gave $100.

Omelette Express Owner Don Taylor, who entered the race late, managed to raise his entire $15,218 during the past three months, including a $5,000 personal loan. Political groups backing Taylor include the California Real Estate Political Action Committee, North Bay Leadership Council and Santa Rosa Police Management Association, all of which gave $500 each.

Business and individual donors include Keith and Brenda Christopherson, owners of Christopherson Homes, $100 each, and Peter Suk, a local businessman who has worked with Taylor on the Santa Rosa Sister City Committee to build ties with Jeju City in South Korea, $200.

Social worker Caroline Ba?elos has raised $17,407 to date. Donations include $500 from Anthony Geraldi, manager of Sonoma County Airport Express; Betsy Timm, media director for Catholic Charities, $20; Martha Valencia, owner of Immigration and Income Tax Services, $100; and Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, $100.

For the two candidates who dropped out of the race, landscape architect Mike Cook raised $11,211 but asphalt plant operator Shaan Vandenburg's filing had yet to be received by the city Monday.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. OnTwitter @citybeater.