Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007 | Mark Hanson formally declared his intention to run against county Supervisor Dianne Jacob a week ago. Already, he admits he has little chance of winning.

Hanson, a Lakeside resident, said he has raised $5,000 to date. Jacob has a campaign treasury of $301,000. She has reaped more this year from her campaign account’s interest than Hanson has raised from supporters.

“I’m not naive to the fact that she’s certainly the front-runner,” Hanson said.

Is he holding out hope that he can win?

“Not necessarily,” he said.

So it goes with the three county supervisors who are running for reelection next June: Jacob, Greg Cox and Pam Slater-Price. They have little competition and a lot of money. Combined, the three have $895,000 in the bank. Their opponents have filed no campaign donations with the county registrar. It is still early, though. Would-be challengers have until March 7 to declare their candidacies.

While some involved in San Diego politics speculate about whether any well-known candidates will emerge in the coming months, one thing is certain: If they do run, they’ll face an uphill battle.

With significant campaign funding already on hand, the supervisors have an added advantage against prospective opponents. They’re incumbents, they have name recognition and they are well-funded.

Board Stiff, Part II

  • The Issue: Though no high-profile opponents have declared their candidacy for the 2008 Board of Supervisors’ race, the three incumbent supervisors have raised nearly $1 million.
  • What It Means: The treasuries have been accumulated from previous races in which the supervisors faced little or no competition.
  • The Bigger Picture: Carrying funds over from previous campaigns gives supervisors an instant advantage — on top of those they already enjoy such as name recognition and incumbency.

“Certainly if [an opponent] were to see a $403,000 war chest with all expenses paid, that would certainly give you pause,” said John Weil, a spokesman for Slater-Price. Her campaign emphasized that point last week with a press release trumpeting her campaign war chest. She was the only supervisor to send out such a notice.

Slater-Price has led the way in spending and fundraising this year — despite having no opponents. She spent $24,000 on her campaign fundraising, an effort that netted $179,000 between January and June. With money left over from previous campaigns, she has $400,000 on hand if any opposition arises. Weil said she’d also earned another $11,000 in the last month.

Jacob, who has raised $76,000 this year, has $301,000 on hand — nearly 60 times more than Hanson.

Cox has only raised $250, but still has $191,000 from previous fundraising efforts. Cox, who has two opponents, unemployed imaging technician Howard Johnson and retired real estate broker Petra Barajas, said he plans to begin raising campaign funding in September.

The supervisors, who have all served together since 1995, said they can’t assume they’ll run unopposed. Fundraising — with or without opponents — is an important tool to reach constituents, they said.

“It’s important to me to be able to communicate to the voters of the second district not only what we’ve accomplished but what we’re planning to do for the future,” Jacob said. “The only way you can do that is to have money to get the word out to people.”

The supervisors’ coffers have benefited from a lack of opposition in previous elections. The trio had no serious challengers in 2004 and cruised to reelection, allowing them to hold onto money raised then.

The money works to their advantage. It’s expensive for opponents to canvass districts that often represent about as much sprawling territory as congressional seats. With many voters unfamiliar with the 17,000-employee county government, the race for supervisor can be lost amid more high-profile races.

Though it may seem unimportant to raise money for a campaign without opponents, some say it makes sense for donors to give. Contributors have the assurance of knowing they’re supporting a candidate who will win — and who can help them out while in office.

“Part of it is, frankly, that there’s a sense among people who follow county government that they’ve done a good job and they’re going to get reelected,” said Tom Shepard, a political consultant who has represented all five supervisors. “That’s a powerful motivation for a contribution.”

The donations, which are limited to $500 a person, give everyone from developers to arts groups audiences with the supervisors at fundraising events.

“They raise a lot of money whether they have a challenger or not because so many people come to them for support or money,” said Art Castanares, a local political consultant. “It doesn’t depend on whether they have competition or not.”

The races have not always been non-contentious. Larry Remer, a political consultant, said elections were tougher and tighter in the 1970s when growth was primarily occurring in the county’s unincorporated areas. The Board of Supervisors had a higher profile then, Remer said, until those unincorporated places became cities such as Poway and Santee. The trend has pushed controversies about growth into city elections, Remer said.

“None of them are vulnerable,” Remer said. “They’re incumbents, they haven’t done anything wrong in the eyes of the public, they’re not being held accountable for any governmental mess. And they’re well-ensconced.”

Don’t tell that to Petra Barajas, who earned 17 percent of the vote when running against Cox in 2004. The retired real estate broker has unsuccessfully run four times for Chula Vista mayor, once for the House of Representatives and once for the state Assembly. She has not raised any funds yet, though she said she planned to use leftover campaign fliers from a previous race. Both she and Howard Johnson, an unemployed imaging technician who lives in southern San Diego and who once worked for San Diego County, said they wanted to offer voters another choice besides the incumbent Cox.

“We all have to participate in the government, in the legacy our forefathers left us,” Barajas said. “A government for the people, by the people and of the people.”

Johnson said he had few issues he wanted to raise, but felt encouraged that he’d earned 45,000 votes running last year against County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk Greg Smith. (Smith won with 88 percent of the votes.)

“They all vote the same and bring up the same issues and everything goes just like they want it to go,” Johnson said. “I want to throw a rock in there. We need change.”

Please contact Rob Davis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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