10:00 PM PST on Tuesday, February 2, 2010
By JIM MILLER, DUANE W. GANG and BEN GOAD
The Press-Enterprise

Most candidates for Inland local, legislative and congressional seats headed into the election year with well-fortified campaign treasuries, new filings show.

Campaign-finance reports due this week show that Inland candidates raised more than $2.2 million during the final months of 2009 for ballots in the spring and fall.

Riverside County is home to the 37th state Senate District, where there will be a special April 13 primary election to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of former Sen. John Benoit.

Benoit, now a member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, will have to defend his seat in June. That ballot also will include a pair of competitive Inland legislative primaries.

And in November, Democrats could take aim at a pair of GOP-held Inland congressional seats.

County supervisors

Three seats on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors are up for election in June, and already candidates have piled up hundreds of thousands in campaign cash.

Benoit is seeking election to the board for the first time after being appointed in November to succeed the late Supervisor Roy Wilson.

Wilson resigned from the board Aug. 21, the same day he made a $200,000 loan to Benoit for a possible run for supervisor, the new campaign finance records show. Wilson died Aug. 26.

In addition to the loan, Benoit, who is facing a challenge from former Palm Springs Police Chief Gary Jeandron, raised $127,723 last year and ended 2009 with $288,023 in cash on hand, records show.

Jeandron announced his candidacy in January and did not file an end-of-year report.

Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione also face re-election in June. Ashley raised $125,420 in the last six months of 2009 and ended the year with $167,261 in the bank.

Tavaglione raised $123,955 from July 1 through Dec. 31 and ended the year with $421,458 cash on hand, records show. Challenger Herb Higgins of Norco reported raising no money in 2009.

In San Bernardino County, two supervisors face re-election in June.

Supervisor Paul Biane raised $127,049 in the last six months of 2009 for a total of $235,427 for the year. He ended the year with $384,896 cash on hand, dwarfing two possible challengers who have formed campaign committees.

Dennis Labadie of Crestline raised $3,514 last year and had $3,228 in cash, while Scott Markovich of Crestline reported no fundraising activity.

Supervisor Gary Ovitt had not filed his campaign finance report as of Tuesday afternoon. No other candidate has formed campaign committees to run against him so far.

Assembly and Senate

Russ Bogh, of Beaumont, and Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, a longtime Redlands resident who recently moved to Hemet, are running for the Republican nomination in the GOP-leaning 37th state Senate District.

As of Dec. 31, Emmerson’s campaign accounts had about $230,000 on hand. Bogh, who got into the race in early December, had $17,000 on hand. Both have since raised a lot more.

Democrat Justin Blake of Rancho Mirage, a school trustee, raised $6,950, with $5,154 cash on hand. The other Democrat in the race, Arthur Guerrero, has not filed electronically.

The region also has two significant legislative primary races shaping up.

In the 63rd Assembly District, six candidates are vying for the Republican nomination. Five of the candidates — Pat Gilbreath, of Redlands; Acquanetta Warren, of Fontana; Mike Morrell, of Upland; Don Kurth, of Rancho Cucamonga; and Paul Chabot, of Rancho Cucamonga — each raised tens of thousands of dollars during the last six months of the year.

In the 36th state Senate District, which includes part of Riverside County, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone raised $99,000 from July through December.

His probable opponent in the GOP primary, Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, had $243,000 on hand.

Congressional races

At the federal level, the region’s incumbents continued to outpace their challengers in a pair of key races.

Reps. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, and Ken Calvert, R-Corona, were each targeted by Democrats after their districts went for President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2008. Both lawmakers have stepped up fundraising efforts in response.

Bono Mack raked in more than $270,000 in the final quarter of last year, according to federal campaign finance figures made public this week. That brings her 2009 fundraising total to more than $935,000, well beyond the roughly $651,000 she took in during the first year of the last election cycle.

Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, a Democrat, brought in more than $150,000 in the last quarter, bringing his 2009 total to over $563,000.

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