Sonoma County clerk candidates raise thousands in first contested race in 12 years

The bulk of the fundraising reported so far has come from two candidates: Deva Marie Proto and Ray Leonard.|

The three candidates running to become Sonoma County’s next clerk-recorder-assessor and elections chief have been busy raising and spending thousands of dollars as they compete for one of the only contested countywide offices in the June 5 election.

Deva Marie Proto, the county’s chief deputy clerk-recorder, so far has amassed the most money, with more than $47,500 in contributions, according to the most recent campaign finance records filed with the county.

Not far behind is Ray Leonard, the department’s administrative services manager, whose campaign has reported contributions totaling more than $43,200. The campaign of Rod Marusic, who works as an assessment process specialist in the department, has received less than $15,000.

Proto, Leonard and Marusic together represent the first contested race for the office in 12 years.

To avoid a November runoff, one of the candidates would need to receive more than 50 percent of the votes. Proto said she’s not counting on that to happen and is running as if the campaign will continue beyond June 5.

“There’s always a possibility, but I don’t like to plan on an easy path,” Proto said. “I’m not going to make any assumptions about what the voters want.”

At the end of the last filing period, Proto had the most money left to spend, with more than $25,500 in cash remaining. Leonard had more than $4,600, but he loaned himself an additional $10,000 after the filing period closed. Marusic had nearly $6,700 to spend.

Leonard spent the most money this year, reporting more than $28,000 in expenses, much of it for a campaign consultant and another who does graphics and printing for him. Proto, who has been in the race longer, spent nearly $21,000 last year and this year, much of it on events, campaign materials, technology and a consultant firm.

Marusic’s billed expenditures totaled about $8,800, the majority of it coming from the registrar of voters office for his filing fee and other election-related items.

“We’re in full campaign mode now and just going as hard as we can,” Leonard said.

Proto loaned her campaign $20,000 and raised more than $27,500 from others. Her notable contributors include Bill Rousseau, the current clerk-recorder-assessor and registrar of voters, as well as the Sonoma County Alliance business group.

Leonard, meanwhile, raised nearly $13,250 from contributors, including Clover Stornetta CEO and president Dante Benedetti; Gary Heck, the president of F. Korbel & Bros., and Anthony Geraldi, the general operations manager for Sonoma County Airport Express. Leonard also loaned $30,000 to his campaign.

Marusic raised less than $4,500 from individual contributors, including a few county employees, and loaned $10,500 to his campaign.

“It’s my first campaign, so I have nothing to compare it to,” Marusic said of the race in general. “I didn’t do any polls to see where we are. I’m just happy to be part of the process.”

The last time the office was contested was 2006, when Janice Atkinson beat Rousseau in the June primary with 53.5 percent of the vote. Atkinson ran unopposed four years later, but she retired before the end of her second term.

While Atkinson preferred Leonard to succeed her, the Board of Supervisors instead chose Rousseau, who completed the rest of Atkinson’s term. Rousseau then ran unopposed in 2014 and decided he wouldn’t run again this year.

Atkinson is supporting Leonard in this year’s race, while Rousseau endorsed Proto.

Leonard said “it’s been a long race” already and he has learned a lot as a first-time candidate, though he has been involved in the elections process in other capacities for some 14 years.

“Now I get to see it from the outside looking in. It’s like a roller coaster,” Leonard said. “I have a new appreciation, that’s for sure, for what a candidate has to go through.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

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