With the time before Election Day now being measured in hours, incumbent Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido holds a slight fundraising advantage over Councilman David Benavides, another indicator that while Pulido remains the favorite in his quest for a 10th term, he is locked in his most competitive race yet.
A political action committee (PAC) supporting Pulido has outraised another PAC supporting Benavides, among other city candidates and a ballot measure, by $46,550. Meanwhile, Pulido’s candidate-controlled campaign has only slightly outraised Benavides’ candidate-controlled campaign.
One reason for Pulido’s normally powerful fundraising advantage being blunted this year is that some traditional Pulido backers — including the Orange County Democratic Party and the Orange County Labor Federation — are instead supporting Benavides. For example, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association reported late Friday spending $935.47 on a robocall supporting Benavides.
But more significantly, Benavides has benefited form two large donations — one by a local developer — into a PAC called Stand Up for Santa Ana Coalition that is supporting Benavides, council candidate Roman Reyna and Measure GG, which if approved would place a cap of four successive two-year terms on the mayor’s seat.
The PACs are forbidden by law to coordinate with candidates, but they aren’t subject to the same local contribution limits as candidate-controlled campaigns.
The PAC supporting Pulido — Taxpayers for Experienced Leadership for Santa Ana, a Committee Miguel Pulido for Mayor 2012 — has raised at least $167,250, according to the filings.
Meanwhile, the filings show that a PAC supporting Benavides — Stand Up for Santa Ana Coalition — has raised at least $120,700 with a $47,000 donation coming from a Los Angeles-based entity or individual called “Cowboy” and $45,000 coming from 301 Project LLC, a partnership headed by developer Ryan Ogulnick. Voice of OC could not determine who controls the Cowboy entity.
The PAC has sent negative mailers opposing Pulido, including one referring to a party at the mayor’s house that led to a police report of a rape allegation. The mailer features an image of a car packed with beer-brandishing youth and says that Pulido is “not in control.”
Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Anthony Bertagna has said the rape allegation is “unfounded.”
Ogulnick is also CEO of Vineyards Development Corp., the developer of a 278-unit high-end apartment project in south Santa Ana known as The Met at South Coast. Pulido favored a high-rise instead of The Met’s three, five-story buildings.
Pulido also clashed with an Ogulnick-controlled entity seeking to purchase a property at 1901 E. First St. for development. The sale had faced interference from Pulido, who had tried to persude the bank into selling the property to developer Mike Harrah, according to sources familiar with the situation. The property wound up sold to an entity controlled by Lyon Homes, according to sources.
Ogulnick said he is funding the PAC because he wants to see a pro-business atmosphere at City Hall, which Ogulnick and others say has a reputation for being mired in red tape.
Although he didn’t name Pulido, Ogulnick said that the council has only six members who call “balls and strikes” fairly. And he insinuated that some calls are done for “self-serving” benefit, an anti-Pulido theme trumpeted by the Benavides campaign.
“Sometimes politicians use their seat to promote their own agenda,” Ogulnick said. “I’m looking for politicians who are looking to do good for the community.”
The PACs’ campaign disclosure forms show that some entities have contributed to PACs backing Benavides and Pulido. Lyon Homes has contributed at least $10,000 to the PAC supporting Benavides and $20,000 to the PAC promoting Pulido. CARE Ambulance has also contributed cash to both committees.
The financial backers of the PAC supporting Pulido include high-profile contributors Don Crevier, former owner of Crevier BMW; Cordoba Corp., which was awarded the city’s streetcar project contract; and tech-boom billionaire Henry Nicholas.