Donnelly, Derry lag behind
April 19, 2012 5:18 PM
By SAM PEARSON, Staff Writer

Despite the advantages of incumbency, challengers are raking in more funds than the candidates they oppose in two High Desert races.

Both Big Bear Lake Mayor Bill Jahn, who is seeking to defeat Assemblyman Tim Donnelly in the new 33rd Assembly District, and James Ramos, who stepped down from his post as Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Monday and continues to campaign against incumbent 3rd District Supervisor Neil Derry, have significant cash advantages over their rivals.

Jahn and Ramos have both tapped their personal funds for their campaigns. Ramos loaned his campaign $50,000 shortly after entering the race in June 2011, then kicked in another $50,000 in December. Jahn, meanwhile, has lent $140,000 since entering the race in February.

Jahn now has nearly $73,000 more cash than Donnelly’s campaign, according to Secretary of State records.

Donnelly’s campaign manager, Asher Burke, said Donnelly’s drop in fundraising was a result of his campaign to repeal the Dream Act, which distracted him from his reelection campaign.

Burke said Donnelly planned to ramp up fundraising efforts in the month and a half until the primary election.

Donnelly “put his entire life on hold” for the repeal measure, Burke said.

In the first quarter of 2012, Ramos raised $20,466 more than Derry.

Derry, reached by phone, said he was not worried.

“My opponent can spend as much money as he wants,” Derry said. “It’s not going to make much of a difference.”

Derry said that despite Ramos’ wealth, the race would likely be less pricey than when he was first elected four years ago.

“There’s less money out there today to raise because the economy’s in the toilet,” Derry said. “The building industry’s almost nonexistent today and it’s been a tough time for a lot of businesspeople — unless you own a casino.”

Ramos spokesperson Andre Levesque said the campaign’s endorsements, not just fundraising, reflected that sentiment in the district had turned against Derry.

“It’s no secret that Neil Derry has a troubled record on the Board of Supervisors,” Levesque said.

Jahn’s largest donation came from Jay Obernolte, Big Bear Lake Mayor Pro Tem and head of Farsight Studios, a Big Bear Lake-based video game development company, who gave the legal maximum of $3,900. Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, also kicked in $2,000 from his 2010 campaign fund. Cook is running to represent the High Desert in the 8th Congressional District.

Jahn could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The newly redrawn 3rd Supervisorial District includes Barstow and sprawls to the southeast to include Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, Yucaipa, Highland, Redlands, Loma Linda, parts of Grand Terrace and Colton, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

The 33rd Assembly District includes Barstow, the Victor Valley and the High Desert.

By the numbers

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly
Contributions received in 2012: $32,800
Cash on hand: $26,621.76

Big Bear Lake Mayor Bill Jahn
Contributions received in 2012: $41,459
Cash on hand: $99,338.33 (loaned campaign $140,000)

Former San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairman James Ramos
Contributions received in 2012: $64,633
Cash on hand: $435,281.57 (loaned campaign $100,000)

Supervisor Neil Derry
Contributions received in 2012: $44,167
Cash on hand: $101,448.54